March 23, 2020

TAARIQ | Do What You Can in the Present

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Let’s be honest. As students, we all hope for some calamity that could make it so that we don’t have an essay due in two days or an 8:40 a.m. statistics lab the morning after a long night. But now that the coronavirus has made this a reality, we have been shocked by how fast our situation can change. It has made us reevaluate what we really wish for. And for the more-vulnerable members of the Cornell community, COVID-19 has forced them to face dire uncertainty.

When I received the coronavirus email from the University around 5 p.m. on March 10th, I was sitting in Olin Library looking out the window preparing for my upcoming environmental law exam. I read through the email and immediately #canceled my studying. After a minute or two, my phone started buzzing with messages from my friends equally as alarmed. I packed up my belongings and dashed home to join them. We were unable to get any work done that night. Our minds could only think about one thing, yet we had barely grasped how this decision would impact us moving forward. It has been two weeks since that day, and for my family and me, uncertainty still remains. However, we’re not the type to give up easily.

Wherever Cornellians may find themselves during this crisis, it is important to remember that every obstacle can be an opportunity. This quarantine can give us the time to dedicate ourselves to something  we’ve always wanted to. It can allow our body to recover from the struggles we endure every day in Ithaca. Perhaps most importantly, quarantine is an opportunity to do absolutely nothing.

You are under no obligation to master software code, teach yourself a new language or start a business with this new time. Do whatever is in your means and interests, but try to protect your peace of mind as well. Having all this time may cause some to over indulge in things like digital and social media usage, sleep (like myself) and snacks (also like myself). We should instead use this time to build and reinforce healthy habits that can invigorate our mental and physical health. I’ve found that maintaining some kind of routine or plan for the day can help. For students finding themselves in difficult or toxic situations right now, it is even more important to protect your mental and physical health as much as you can. Staying aware of resources made available by the University can be helpful for students as well.

If you do not have Internet access at home, Spectrum is providing free internet access for a limited time amid COVID-19. Cornell has also launched its own official website to keep us up to date with University resources and updates, as well as information regarding teaching, learning and residential life. For low-income undergraduate students, the Student Access Fund may be able to provide financial assistance (contact them at [email protected]). Right now you can call Cornell Health to speak to a professional counselor, or to connect with a peer counselor through EARS. Additionally, 24/7 support is available through these local and national hotlines and text lines. Another resource is The Learning Strategies Center, which is working to ease students through the transition to online learning. The LSC website teaches  students how to learn remotely and be flexible.  If you are having a hard time finding out who to contact for support, you can visit the Professional Academic Advising Community web page for a bunch of advising resources.

Keep an eye out for any communication from the University staff, faculty and student run-organizations.

There are a lot of helpful resources to be found. But the most rewarding place to look can be your friends. Whether it’s laughs, memes, FaceTimes or a place to stay, there are many ways in which we can help each other during this time. It was amazing to see things like the student-generated spreadsheet of resources.

We must continue to take care of ourselves and the people around us by practicing social distancing and remaining respectful of our fellow human beings, regardless of where they come from. Until classes start, I’ll be at home doing what I can in the present.


Aminah Taariq is a junior in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. She can be reached at [email protected]. I Spy runs every other Tuesday this semester.