Quarantining at Cornell, Kim (’20) adjusts to college life

It was 6:30 a.m. at the airport when I watched my last San Diego sunrise before I flew out to Ithaca to start my freshman year at Cornell. Little did I know that the clear, cotton candy colored skies would soon be replaced with thunder and lightning when I arrived.

Lugging my two oversized suitcases, one with broken wheels, a bulging duffle bag, and my overstuffed backpack, I finally arrived at my dorm on the Cornell campus in the midst of a thunderstorm at 10 p.m. Finally closing the dorm door with a bang, I looked at the empty room and realized that this would be my lonely home for the next two weeks: I was stuck in quarantine. 

At that moment, I was nothing but overwhelmed at my situation. There I stood, still drenched from the rain and exhausted from traveling all day. I was already homesick and wanted to just lie down and sleep. But then a plethora of tasks shot through my mind. I needed to wipe down the room, I needed to take a shower, I needed to brush my teeth, and I really needed to set up the bed. The list went on. Exhausted, I somehow managed to shower and flopped down on my bed, deciding to deal with all my move-in duties later. 

As the days passed, I slowly began to unpack my luggage and organize those living essentials that I needed to survive. I knew being alone and stuck inside for two weeks was going to be tough, especially since I can’t stand sitting around the house. 

With little else to do, I decided to pick up a new hobby: meditating. Every morning I would wake up to see  beams of light coming through my window. I would look out and see the newly built dorms, resembling the beautiful “Second-Empire” architectural style. Filled with gratitude and awe, I began my mornings with a 10-minute guided meditation. 

After clearing my mind, I was always on the same mission after: get food. As someone who loves food and frequently finds new places to eat at, I was always  motivated to take my five-minute daily walk outside to the food tents where I picked up all three meals for the day in my reusable Big Red Cornell bag. I would walk back into my room and eagerly open up the three lunch boxes to see what my meals were for the day: cold sandwiches, apples, and lots of water. 

Planning things to do throughout the day opened the doors for me to focus on myself and my priorities. For my well-being, I would try to keep busy in the mornings by reading books, watching YouTube, and trying to work out using a towel as my yoga mat. The first half of every day passed quickly, and it was easy to prevent myself from getting bored. 

But it was always the afternoon and nights that kept me awake and thinking. After I’d shower and was all snuggled up and ready for bed, it was usually only 8 p.m. It was too early for me to sleep, but it was also too late for me to complete any other tasks I hadn’t already done earlier. 

Many nights I laid in bed, scrolling through my computer, thinking of stuff to do and pass time. Outside my window I could see groups of friends eating dinner and playing frisbee. As their chatter carried through my window into my silent room, I desperately wished I could be outside with them, socializing and making new friends. 

The only social interaction I ever got was running into people in the hallway or bathroom, which rarely happened. I would eagerly take this as an opportunity to meet someone new and talk to something other than my phone screen. But once these types of 20 min. interactions passed, I was back again in my room, alone and questioning if this was really all worth it. 

It was during these moments that the “what ifs” began to fill my mind. What if I had stayed home? Then I wouldn’t have to feel this lonely and isolated. If I wasn’t able to make any new friends, I would spend the semester in my own social quarantine. 

As the thoughts started flowing in, I realized that my solution to fill this empty void was FaceTime. I would call my friends and talk to them for hours, with them updating me on their lives while I enjoyed their presence. It felt like home again. 

During my two weeks in quarantine, I learned to be grateful for the small things by adapting a positive perspective towards anything that occurred to me that day. It was the small things like waking up to the sound of squirrels or having a red, juicy apple for breakfast that kept me present in the moment and pushed me through the two weeks until I was free to officially start my college experience.