Samantha Gentile is among the many Lehigh students facing the uncertainty of next semester. Though she was committed to study abroad in Italy next semester, the COVID-19 outbreak may set her on a different path. (Courtesy of Samantha Gentile)

Op-ed: What now?

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As the days pass by, many Lehigh students face their upcoming days with uncertainty and angst. As the Lehigh population is beginning to receive letters and hear administrators say that  fall 2020 is still up in the air, it is hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I share those same sentiments and have often heard myself repeating the same phrase over and over again: What now?

Ever since I stepped foot on Lehigh’s campus, I have had an elaborate plan. Each of my classes for the four years were meticulously picked and placed so that I could maximize my time. This plan also included an incredible year abroad in Italy —  a dream I’ve had for as long as I could remember. This upcoming August, I was ready to pack my bags and say buongiorno to the beautiful cobblestone streets of Florence. Unfortunately, that plan, like everyone else’s, is left up to fate.

What now? This is what I keep asking myself and my advisers in an effort to combat the unpredictable. But my advisers, like the rest of the world, are in the dark to the effects COVID-19 will have on the fall semester. 

I was told to sign up for classes and to contact Housing Services to secure a place to live next semester. Signing up for classes was extremely difficult for me, considering I needed four specific classes to make sure I could graduate on time and still study abroad. I needed to get an override for two classes, and even then, my spot isn’t guaranteed. My whole college plan lied in the hands of a couple of emails and a prayer. 

I am very conflicted during this time, and though I try not to be, it is hard to get a clear picture of what is going to happen. I am still signed up and ready to go to Italy and also just as ready to head back to campus in the fall. It is scary to think that there is no set plan for me, that I am just waiting for one to be decided for me. 

It’s hard to be a student right now, not knowing what is going to happen. These were supposed to be the best four years of our lives. A time where independence is found and where we get our first taste of adult life. No one would have ever thought that we would spend this time back in our childhood bedrooms, telling our parents to stop calling our name while we are in an online class. 

However, there is a sense of hope that is seen throughout the student body. There is a hope that these unusual and unprecedented days are far behind them and that things will be back to “normal” in the fall — if they can’t ever return to the old form of normalcy after an event as catastrophic as COVID-19. 

Though my problems may be heavy on my mind, I know they do not hold a candle to problems that are rampant in the world today due to the virus. I am excited and scared to see the change that this virus brings on not only our school, but the world. I truly don’t think that anything will be the same. 

If anything, this virus has taught me to be prepared for any situation, any curveball. It also has taught me that nothing can be planned perfectly, and that is the beauty of life. I know sooner or later that I will be walking the streets of Italy, hopefully in a better world than the one we see today. I also know that it is only a matter of time until Lehigh students are enjoying the walk up to class, able to be within six feet of their friends. So all I have left to ask now is: What next?

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