I don’t need to wake up now because my first class doesn’t begin for forty minutes, but the sound of a spatula on a pan and the aroma of butter tells me that my mom has started cooking breakfast. I get out of bed.
At the dining table, my mom places a plate of rice and scrambled eggs in front of me. We have two hot sauces on the table: Crystal Hot Sauce and Tabasco. I grab the Tabasco and drown my eggs in it. I pour myself a cup of coffee, splash in a bit of soymilk, and hurry off to class.
Since Columbia University moved to virtual last fall, I’ve been living with my parents in New Orleans and participating in seminars and lectures through Zoom.
“Guten Morgen, Studenten. Wie geht es euch?” Good morning, students. How are you? The Zoom speaker box shifts to our lively German professor, and we unmute ourselves to answer. Unlike most of my classes, this discussion-based seminar in German has under 10 people in it and is very engaging. Today, we are translating and analyzing Goethe’s Faust.
After German class ends, I join an all-staff meeting with the Columbia Daily Spectator, the student newspaper at Columbia University. At this meeting, we pitch our article ideas for the week, which will go into our morning newsletter. This week, our theme is Valentine’s Day.
This is the time I make my midday peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I peel off two slices of sprouted whole wheat bread and slather one slice with chunky peanut butter—I prefer its crunchy texture over the smooth variety—and the other with strawberry and cherry jam. I cut it diagonally into two triangles and bite into the delicious combination of salty and sweet.
Introduction to Linguistics class begins. It’s a Zoom lecture, where the professor draws on a virtual whiteboard while teaching us about the wonders of morphology and syntax. Though it is not in the typical university lecture hall and most students have their cameras turned off and muted, our professor does his best to keep our attention by cracking dad jokes.
I join my class called Literature Humanities. An element of the core curriculum, a set of courses required of all undergraduates, this class involves discussing works of Western literature and philosophy from Homer’s Iliad to Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quixote. Pre-pandemic, we would have typically had our seminars in a circle around a classroom, but today we are seated in our chairs at home and type the number “1” in the Zoom chat to raise our hands.
When we are assigned separate breakout rooms, we spend only half of the time discussing the text and the other half getting to know one another. We talk about our hobbies and our weekend plans, occasionally playing conversation games such as “Would You Rather” or “Never Have I Ever” before the professor brings us back to the main room.
My Literature Humanities Zoom session finally ends, marking the end of my school day. I jump out of my chair and change into a pair of leggings and a hoodie, tie my hair back in a ponytail, and leave my house to jog on the levees next to Lake Pontchartrain.
I start my Linguistics problem set and then begin reading Dante’s Inferno for Literature Humanities.
My dad knocks on my door and proudly announces that dinner is ready. He’s cooked salmon on our patio grill with zucchini and portobello mushrooms. I help set the table and call my mom and sister over to eat. Our meal ends with freshly cut pineapple slices.
At Columbia’s “Late Night Trivia,” I’m put in a breakout room with fellow freshmen. Even though our team gets almost every question wrong, we laugh at our mistakes and exchange numbers and Instagram handles before the Zoom meeting closes.
I take a break from homework and drink a cup of black tea with my sister on the couch. This is our weekly check-in, where we can vent about the stresses of our day.
I pull myself away from the computer and crawl into bed. My mom comes into my room to tuck me in, kissing my cheek and closing my blinds so that the sunlight doesn’t wake me up too early in the morning. Believe it or not, she stays up with me every night (sometimes until 3 a.m.!) for the sole purpose of keeping me company while I study. Having her around is one of the benefits of studying from home during the pandemic!