December thoughts: Hybrid classes and the COVID-19 surge

It's been a chaotic semester. The most chaotic I've ever been in.
I've had a lot of ups and downs, mental breakdowns and revolutionary realizations, and fighting through the gusts and rains of a hurricane that is adulthood and college life. Despite the hardships, and the trials and tribulations that this semester has given me, it has taught me a lot of important lessons on life and living in the big city. It is both a blessing and a curse to move out and start a new life on my own. Since it's the end of the semester and almost the end of the year, I wanted to share some thoughts about this December... although I've come to realize, after finishing writing this and going through for edits, it's thoughts about this year in general. So please enjoy my 2021 rant.


COLLEGE LIFE


My college experience in the first semester back in-person has been an up and down, bittersweet journey. One of the policies that my university has implemented is regular PCR resting to remain access to campus. Although this is a precaution that my school took to keep us safe, I found it extremely inconvenient - I missed my first week of classes since I wasn't able to get my PCR results submitted on time. According to students, this proved to be a recurring problem and affected the college experience for many, including myself. Out of all the student friends and coworkers in New York City that I know of as of yet, my university is perhaps the only one to have required testing protocols in the city.

It was nice to be able to be present in class, to meet and talk to people almost felt normal. Mask mandates made it hard to hear people in discussions or to identify who I'm talking with (this applies to any social environment in general). Despite some classes supposedly being in-person, there were times when professors moved the class to Zoom - either due to an illness, traveling, or they simply didn't submit their negative test results in time.

Overall, it was a normal-ish first semester back in-person. The protocols are understandable. I get it. It shows the university is taking initiative to protect the students, staff, and faculty amidst the pandemic. It's not an entirely perfect system but hey, at least they're doing their best.

THE COVID-19 SURGE


As some of you may have already known, there has been an uptick of positive COVID-19 cases. Thanks to the Omicron variant, New York and New Jersey have fallen victim as the fastest growing states of cases, dominating the cities and taking over the people I know and care about with this new variant.

My recent college experience from being back on campus is already tricky enough, but to see another wave with a new and concerning variant scares the living skin out of me. My life has been chaotic and is about to become even more chaotic. As a message to my readers amidst this slowly evolving virus-filled apocalypse, I'm asking you all to think twice about going out and about and to wear masks, wash your hands, and keep a safe distance from people. Many, many people have been affected, with over 21,000 positive cases in New York City in just one day.

As a fellow New Yorker, I have come to know the density and small space of the city - it is inevitable to be shoulder to shoulder with people, especially on the subway and other public transit. It's winter. It's flu season. It's getting colder and colder, the wind hollowing through the skyscrapers and fire-escape-covered apartments sharpening the piercing low temperatures. New York City became the centre of the pandemic in the first wave of the coronavirus. Let's not let that happen again.

MY PLANT PHASE BEGINS


Part of my self-care routine has included taking care of plants. Since moving to New York City, I always wanted to get a cat to keep me company. But after an incident with my sister's cat last year and witnessing the costs she went through of taking care of her animal, I thought that maybe that wasn't a wise idea. So I started getting plants.

Thanks to my roommate, I became interested in biophilic design which is when you implement nature in your indoor spaces as a way to harness the connection between nature and human. Since I live in a small apartment that lacks windows and space, hanging around my apartment can feel dull or empty. By adding plants to my space, it helps to brighten up my space and to have a routine of taking care of something is a form of self-care.

Science has said it's beneficial for your health, improving your happiness, productivity, focus, and helps in reducing stress. I've started growing my collection and getting a series of varied plants, from calatheas and montserras, to lithops (or "living stone"), aglaonemas, and orchids (although my orchid got root rot so I may have to throw it away 😢). I highly recommend adding plants to your space, especially if you live in an urban area - New York can get pretty depressing, especially in the winter where people tend to get seasonal depression. You just have to know and learn how to take care of them!

If you're interested in a post specifically about biophilic design or plant care, or want me to start a series on the blog, then comment down below!

CHRISTMAS PLANS


Christmas Holidays are perhaps one of the most chaotic times of the year. My family and I are dispersed all over the world and the States, which makes it difficult to get everyone together for Christmas. There were times when I spent Christmas in New Jersey with my extended family, my sisters and parents at home. Or when my sister spent Christmas with her husband's family and it was just my parents, my sister, and I. It's always different every year, but it's especially difficult with COVID-19, where my cousin is unable to come home due to their roommates being affected.

No matter what your plans are for this Christmas and New Years, I just hope everyone spends it responsibly and safely. Please don't forget that we're still in a pandemic, with a virus that's constantly evolving and affecting everyone.

This has been a strange and interesting year for everyone. However, I hope you all make the most of the last few weeks until we enter 2022. Happy Holidays!

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