A ray of hope falls through like sunshine after a storm as the final years are called back on a voluntary basis after about one and a half years. Other batches are looking forward to an opening in phases and their opportunity to make this decision. For some, it is exciting to be able to imagine living on campus again. For others, it increases anxiety about having to go back in the middle of the chaos their worlds have become now. On the surface, it may seem like an obvious choice to make after all the complaints made in favour of opening college again. But there are a million factors involved in this transition back to the normal that once was, yet might never be again. There needs to be a new normal established for creating a balance between these multiple realities.

After a very personal brush with death and disease that nobody expected all around them, the most crucial reason for not going back would still be the coronavirus. It is extremely convenient to battle with the uncertainties related to the virus at home and not in a public environment far away where decisions aren’t in your control and neither are the people around you. Following COVID protocol, maintaining a clean and sanitised environment around yourself, eating healthy and staying free from other diseases that could make you vulnerable to COVID are just some of the essential habits that will be the cause of worry for a lot of people.

Campus will not be the campus it was without the experiences that made it a wholesome experience. The new restrictions, though necessary, make life tough to lead. The mess food became bearable because it was not mess food everyday but a blend of outings, order-ins and night canteen along with it. The hostels were tolerable because there were breaks where sitting on the beach and then going to the cafe was a possibility that did not depend on the time of the day. Seniors would be present to guide you, juniors would be present to discuss and laugh your troubles with. What is college, if not the experiences that make it special?

There have been new life decisions that were taken in accordance with the new lifestyles. Students have taken up extra courses, online courses on any and every thing they wished to learn at their own pace, internships that could not be managed without the comfort of their home lives, applications needed to be made for higher studies which were convenient in college earlier because of the multiple people present to guide you but now being on campus does not aid to them in any way, and any other activities they’ve associated with that would require to be paused or stopped for coming back. These are major life decisions as well, because family members rely on the students for their switch to online activities like a younger brother in one family would need the elder’s help to navigate the new school life or a parent would need to leave their job if the child that helps them through their work activities is not present. 

Facilities in the hostel are another cause of worry. The quarantine will require all essential items that are already present in the old rooms; buckets, mugs and dustbins for example. These are items that are basic requirements but buying them again for a week is like burning momey. Making all such items ready to use immediately might also be difficult as they could require cleaning for usage. 

Mental health affected by the sudden change in life again is also inevitable and not something that can be calculated or predicted beforehand. This asks for the healthcare to be prepared with mental health specialists for tackling any anxiety or other similar situations that might occur. Additionally, the healthcare center will need to be completely prepared for any and all outbreak scenarios with medicines and professionals. This is another hurdle in attaining the ideal environment for students.

The dates allowed for traveling must have been finalised with some important details in mind but they narrow down the available options for a bunch of students who need to travel overseas or would need to rely on somebody else for their travel. Feasibility of travel also decreases when the fear of being stranded far away from home comes into view, in the case of a possible outbreak or any other health problem. 

The students look up to the administration for helping them and guiding them in the best way possible as they take this important step in their future journeys. However these apprehensions and doubts of students are covered to great depth in the next series of articles, written by the Student Council – Return to Campus.