Last year, I wrote a column titled “20 Things to be Thankful for in 2020: Cornell Edition” to encourage Cornellians to be thankful in spite of the struggles of the pandemic. Rereading that article is just a glimpse into how drastically our lives were changed by the start of the 2020 pandemic.
Almost two years since our campus shut down in March 2020, we have begun to live with our “new normal.” While we’re back in Ithaca and campus feels a lot more normal than it did last year, we are still knee-deep in the pandemic. As you return to campus from Thanksgiving break, here are a few 2021 Cornellian-specific things that you can be thankful for.
- In Person Classes:
I’m sure you saw this one coming. I cannot describe how great it feels to finally be back in-person. Before this semester, I hadn’t taken an in-person class since March 2020. It feels almost nostalgic to sit in classes, meet my professors, share notes and discuss lectures with the person sitting next to me and pick lecturers’ brains during office hours. I met my advisor in-person for the first time this semester, after working with her weekly for the past year.
- In Person Graduation:
2021 featured not one (but two!) in-person Cornell graduations. In a few weeks there will be another! And as a shameless member of the class of 2022 I have my fingers crossed that there will be another in-person graduation this May. Congratulations to everyone who got a real in-person graduation this year. There’s no doubt that getting a Cornell degree is hard work and I am glad you were celebrated.
- Traveling off Campus:
Thank goodness for this one because I needed this holiday break. If it makes you a little jealous, it was at least 90 degrees in California this week while it snowed in Ithaca. Unlike last year, this year, students are studying abroad, taking weekend trips to New York City, visiting family at home and visiting different cities for job interviews.
- A Particularly Warm Winter:
Speaking of the 90s in California, it has been pretty warm in Ithaca this year too. This was the first year since moving to Ithaca in Fall 2018 where I didn’t spend my November birthday in the snow.
Did anyone else miss sports games last year? I’ll admit that I still don’t completely understand how a football game works, but I do enjoy a good tailgate. This year, athletes are back doing what they do best and loyal Cornell fans are dressing up in their favorite “Big Red” gear.
- Visitors on Campus:
A year without visitors taught us that Cornell is much more than students, faculty and staff. This year, we have seen alumni, parents, siblings and guest speakers back on campus. I’ve even seen an on-campus wedding party taking pictures on Libe Slope and the Arts Quad. Welcome back to everyone who makes this Cornell.
- In Person Meetings
I never thought it would be so therapeutic to book a room and sign people up on Campus Groups. It might sound a little nerdy, but I missed my e-board and g-body meetings. In addition to preparing us “for the real world,” clubs and extracurriculars at Cornell are the places where we create community and bond with our friends. That was not the same over Zoom.
- Virtual Meetings
While I am happy for in-person meetings (see above), the pandemic did teach us that some meetings really don’t need to be in-person. Better yet, some meetings can (and should be!) emails.
- The Full Dining Experience
There’s nothing like sitting in a dining hall with your friends to debrief a stressful day or strategize your weekend plans. Distanced seating and to-go boxes robbed us of a year of dinner-time conversations. It feels good to sit in dining halls for hours again with good friends and yummy self-serve food.
- Morrison Hall and Ganędagǫ Hall
Okay, I have to admit that I’m just a tad bit jealous of the first-year students living in the brand new dorms. When I arrived on campus in the fall, I spent 15 minutes on Facetime showing my parents the exterior of both buildings. In addition to being beautiful and having incredible facilities, there is no denying the cultural significance in the naming of both buildings.
- Open Gym Sessions
I get my energy from being at the gym, which made last year particularly difficult. Out of all the restrictions that we’ve seen lifted throughout the pandemic, getting rid of the gym reservations is at the top of my list. This year, we can go to the gym as often as we please for as long as we want.
- Low COVID-19 Cases and Mandatory Vaccination:
As I write this column, 97% of our campus is fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and we are in “Green: New Normal.” If that isn’t something to be thankful for, I don’t know what is.
- Essential Workers:
This is a repeat from last year, but still as applicable as ever. Thank you (thank you!) to the essential workers who have helped keep this campus afloat throughout the pandemic. Thank you to our maintenance staff, dining staff, testing center staff and all other essential workers – our campus wouldn’t be the same without you.
- The New Community Response Team
2021 launched Cornell’s new Community Response Team with four new staff members acting to support our campus community. If you haven’t interacted with them yet, you should!
- No 8 a.m. Classes:
Well, this one obviously doesn’t apply to everyone, but if you were able to finagle your class schedule to be just perfect – good for you! I know I did. No Friday classes and no 8 a.m. classes, means that I have an extra day to myself and enough time to get work done and go to the gym every morning.
- No Reservations for the Library:
I’ll admit, as organized as I think I am, I was not organized enough to book library sessions ahead of time last year. So, I ended up doing a lot of my studying in my room and in Zeus (which had open seating). Being able to walk into the library and grab a first-come-first-serve table with my friends is an unsung-hero of 2021.
- No Room Capacities:
It feels good to be in groups again (obviously following mask mandates!). Some of my favorite parts of college are late night conversations in friends’ dorm rooms and department talks in large lecture halls. I am beyond thankful to see friends in large groups again this year.
- First-year Orientation:
As someone with a little brother in the class of 2024, I know how much of a bummer it was for them to miss orientation and a lot of other traditional first-year milestones. Although a little different than past years, the class of 2025 is getting a “more normal” first year.
- Formal Events:
I have worn a lot of sweatpants and hoodies throughout the pandemic. So much so that my wardrobe is almost unrecognizable compared to the way that it looked two years ago. That being said, it has been fun to dress up again this year for dinners, receptions, date nights and on-campus shows.
- No Coffee Shop Time Limits:
Like I said, I am not great with library reservations. My ideal study spots on campus are the different coffee shops and cafes. Without the 20 minute – 1 hour time limits on indoor seating that we had last year, I can once again milk my iced vanilla latte into a 7 hour cram session in Libe cafe.
- Good Friends:
This is another repeat from last year. But I thought I would end this article off the same way. There’s no way that I would’ve gotten through such a stressful year without some incredible friends beside me. Looking back as a senior, I realize that the friendships I’ve made here are ones that I will have for the rest of my life.
Anuli Ononye is a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at [email protected]. Womansplaining runs every other Monday this semester.