Spring 2020 at Notre Dame was unlike any other in the school’s history. Every student knows where they were when how profoundly the coronavirus pandemic would change everything became clear. The transformation in student life washed over them anew with the return to campus in August, and the waves kept coming.
For Emily Wilborn ’21, it was the requirement to be vigilant. “I think it’s just remembering to be cognizant that our actions have consequences, and we do have to be careful. Remembering that, I mean, you know, everyone talks about you at that one or two times where you walk out of your room without your mask, and you realize, ‘Oh my gosh. I need to be wearing my mask.’ To have run back. That level cognizance is definitely new, but it’s becoming more common.”
What else was new was letting go of expectations for what the rest of the semester would bring. “There was a time for two weeks when we went online, and that was a very, very dramatic change after being in-person, kind of getting used to that for the first two weeks of classes and then, all the sudden, you’re online again, and then coming back two weeks after that. There was just a lot of moving pieces,” said Fiona Neylon ’21.
Even with the uncertainty, there are upsides to being forced to adapt to classes. David Swenson MSM ‘21 said, “I think there are communication skills that we’ve developed a little bit better with finding out ways to have online larger group chats and how to navigate not talking over other people. I think that’s especially important, just to remind myself to — even when you’re face-to-face with people — making sure not to talk over other people. Or, taking a second to compose whatever you’re going to say instead of just having your mouth run when, you know, all the gears aren’t working upstairs.”
Swenson added, “Sometimes it seems like your inbox is filling out more and more these days, but you do keep track of it a little bit more, so I think that’s helpful. A healthy balance is hopefully something we can strike in the future when this is mainly behind us, hopefully, sooner rather than later.”
Neylon’s advice for students taking classes at DPAC is simple: “Bring something hard to write on.” Except for a few rows in the Browning Cinema, the venues aren’t great for taking notes. “For the exam, I brought my lap desk. I was very ‘extra’ with that, but, you know, it’s just kind of going back to the whole situation of, ‘How do I adapt to make this work for me?’ So, that’s just kind of how I’ve been living my life recently, and that’s how attending some at DPAC has been. Honestly,” she said, “it’s not bad once you kind of figure out what works for you.”
Interviewed on DPAC’s terrace on a sunny day where a 50×50 tent resides, Tommy O’Brien ’23, talked about the performing art center’s pivot. “I definitely like being out here,” he said of the terrace, noting it seemed like an underutilized location. “I’m in here a lot between Glee [Club] and Gold and Blue group and a class. So, it’s nice to be able to use this space.”
As great as the great outdoors are, he longs for indoor rehearsals held in a space made for voice. “I was walking past the Penote, and I was like, ‘Oh, when I get to sing in there again, that’ll be it, that’ll be really fun.’ I’m thankful for how they’re using the spaces, although I miss using them for sure.”
Who knows when the world will officially become a post-coronavirus one? Amid ongoing concerns for public health and safety, the next normal is already here at DPAC and thriving across campus. “I’m in a documentary film class. We’ve had two or three established Notre Dame grads Zoom in and talk about films that we watched in class, which is really exciting,” said Elizabeth Horan ’21. “And it’s something that I’ve had happen in other classes where we’ll have alumni call in. But I just feel like the fact that Zoom is now so much more ingrained in an educational environment makes it a much more seamless process, and it feels almost natural as compared to before where it was just, well, this just happens to be the only way that we can talk to them.”