Column: Loud from the margins: Even virtually, your privilege is my disadvantage

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Yamelin Jaquez

I am aware that the 2020 pandemic has been more than some months off from work, school and social interaction. In fact, it has taught us lessons about so many things that have always been true, but we are now just making sense of them.

Personally, this pandemic has shown me how privileged my world is at Lehigh. Don’t get me wrong — being a young, Dominican woman from North Philadelphia, I’m still pushed to the margins, no matter what situation I am in. However, quarantine at home during those months back in the spring made me understand just how much I cannot excel during virtual courses.

For people like me (low-income students from the city), whether we want to acknowledge it or not, we use Lehigh as our escape. It is our safe place and for some, our only option. 

When I lived on-campus, it was an advantage to be in an air-conditioned dorm. I was carefree and didn’t worry about going hungry because the dining halls were always full of food. If I was running late to class and needed to print something, I knew I could go to the library and do so. 

Back home, these things are not guaranteed.   

Although I mention these physical things, there is more that takes a toll on me mentally. 

At home, I do not have various places to study in peace and quiet. The sounds of sirens and loud music make that very hard. I do not have as much green space as I do on Lehigh’s front lawn. It might seem comedic but connecting to nature helps us humans much more than we think. 

Instead, I live in a very condensed neighborhood. In fact, many of my peers live in apartments and similar situations I face. It is hard to hear lectures while having so many distracting sounds from the environment.

The only time I could sort of “concentrate” on what I was doing was at night, but the fact that I had to be up early for class drained me. 

It was not just school that worried me — the numbers of COVID-19 infections in my city kept growing and every day on the news, I had to sit there and watch how my people were being affected by it. Not only that, but it was hard to see how people would invalidate the Black Lives Matter movement. We were expected to continue going to class like my brothers and sisters were not being murdered in the streets at the hands of the police. 

I know I am not the only person that experienced these things last semester and some might still experience this. See, as low-income students, for this fall semester, we had no choice but to either pay more and live off-campus, or stay at home and experience some of the things I mentioned above.

Although I made the decision to move into my off-campus home, it was not an easy one. I knew that being at home was going to be more damaging for my mental stability.  

But what about those that couldn’t? My peers that did not have the opportunity to move off-campus and get away? I think they are truly resilient because they are probably working harder than ever to make it past.

So to those that might not sympathize, just understand that you are the lucky bunch that did not have to go through these things now or in the spring. It is unfortunate, but people like me have learned to push through difficulties. We dream that at the end of the tunnel, after all our struggles, we gain more than what we started with. 

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