Finding the Familiar in the Unfamiliar – Salome Ambokadze ’23

After almost a year of being away from Vassar, I knew coming back to campus for the spring semester would not be easy. Homesickness, jet lag, cold weather, dorm life, and most importantly, Covid safety rules- I was mentally preparing myself for these before departing. I felt like, as a sophomore, already knew the usual drill: “it’ll just take me a week or two to adjust, then I’ll be fine”. But upon arriving, I soon realized that certain things I could simply never foresee. Never in a million years would I have imagined what it feels like to finally see your friends after a year of separation and not being able to hug them, seeing the testing site in AULA where we used to host so many wonderful events, having to watch every single step while getting food in the Deece, seeing the deserted parlor and MPRs of my house, social-distancing banners instead of benches in the college center… It was bittersweet returning to campus: I was grateful to have had the chance to come back, but I couldn’t let go of that distant memory of college life from the freshmen year. My most recent reference of campus was right before the spring break of 2020: warm weather, an on-campus event almost every other day, weekend trips to the city, coffee from krafted cup. It was a stark difference. And the snow storm on the day of my arrival did not make it easier! 

Fast forward a little bit: apparently it did actually take me a week or two to adjust! There is a silver lining to everything. Six feet (2 meters for me and the rest of the world) apart or not, I did finally see my friends! I enjoy my daily sunset lake walks just as much, and the Deece chocolate chip cookies are as good as ever (and coffee is as bad as ever). After a semester of seeing my favorite OIS lounge through the zoom screen, I got to spend some time there as well, with the lights on (finally!!). At the end of the day, Vassar is still Vassar, cause Vassar is its people. I’m grateful that I’m healthy and safe, grateful that I’m able to pod with my friends, grateful for the professors who are risking their health every day just to teach us in person. I don’t think I had this much gratitude last year. Every single time I walk into an in-person class it strikes me what a huge privilege that is. It is a privilege to be able to safely travel to the US, or travel at all during these times, to be on a campus where you’re not scared for your health, to be able to live in a dorm, to be able to eat with your pod members and so much more. Having to walk all the way to the bridge for a lab used to be something I dreaded, but now I cherish every second I spend there to learn. I had to get used to the unfamiliar, which made me even more grateful for the familiar. 

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