Stay Connected — Even When It’s Easier Not To
For Vidush Goswami ’21, going home in March 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic was not an option. He’s an international student whose parents live in Rotorua, New Zealand, and New Zealand had closed its borders.
So he, along with about 100+ other Grinnell College students, has been in continuous residence on campus ever since. We talked about what life has been like during the pandemic.
What parts of living on campus during the pandemic have you enjoyed?
Goswami: I’m super thankful for everyone in Res[idential] Life, Student Affairs, Facilities Management, Dining Services, so many other offices. They do so much, and have been doing so much, since the start to make things more accessible, equitable, and a lot more enjoyable. We notice when they put in effort. That’s been really heartwarming, knowing that people care.
And especially OISA [Office of International Student Affairs]. They’re on their toes with immigration regulations.
Personally, there’s a lot more time to yourself, in your own space. Usually for classes and extracurriculars and meals, you’re always out and about on campus. Usually, I barely spend any time in my room except for coming back at night and sleeping, but now I’m kind of here the entire time, so I have a lot more time to work on myself — be that exercise or playing the harmonica or just learning other skills. I usually don’t have time for those things. That’s been something different this year.
What about extracurricular activities? How is that different?
Goswami: I’m the secretary of ISO [International Student Organization]. We’ve been having discussions about how to do virtual events for our members, especially right now. It’s really hard across the board to get engagement. Being a part of a student organization both virtually and in person is a really rewarding part of being in college. For me, that’s something I’m passionate about, organizing events and doing something for the members.
Both of the organizations I’ve been on the cabinet for [also the South Asian Student Organization] tie in closely to my identity as a student. They’ve been my support systems, so being able to give back to them has been something I’m passionate about and makes me feel good.
Virtually we’ve hosted study breaks and meetings with our cabinet and our members.
ISO Food Bazaar is something people are always excited about, whether they’re participating or not, because they always want to eat the food. That was an interesting challenge we had — doing it virtually. We were worried about how many people would participate.
Usually, when people are on campus, ISO pays for all the ingredients, the utensils, and everything they need, and they find you a space on campus. So people just have to come up and cook and serve the food and that’s all.
But this year we obviously couldn’t do that because people are all over the world. So we relied on our members to come up with their own creations and do it on their own time at home. We emphasized to make whatever you have at home — nothing elaborate, just comfort food.
We had pretty good engagement. We had a week-long event of featuring them on social media.
Planning those events is definitely a challenge virtually. Being able to have people excited about an event coming up and especially for the first-years, who haven’t experienced student organization life and just giving them that experience and showing them what it is to be part of one. I think that’s a great part of it too.
How about tips for first-year students coming to Grinnell during the pandemic?
Goswami: As much as safety permits, engage with your immediate scurry. Hang out. Have meals. My immediate scurry and friend group have been really instrumental in my well-being, mentally and physically.
Maybe sit together and watch a movie in the lounge. Definitely stay in social contact with immediate friends.
Take advantage of any facilities on campus that are open, like going to the Bear [Athletic and Recreation Center], going to the pool. They recently opened up the Harris Center as a recreation space. They have a bunch of board games and ping pong and a massage chair.
Go out and try things. You never know. You may find something cool to do.
Don’t skip meals. We have to walk to the Dining Hall, and when it’s cold and snowy in the winter, it’s more of a challenge to trek all the way. Getting out of your room is important because you get to see other people, even if it’s with masks on and standing apart.