COVID looks orange to me
The Nostalgia of SU's COVID Generation
In late March, I sat in the back of a history lecture with over 100 students. In the midst of a lecture on the rise of communism in modern China, the professor caught my attention with a sudden change of academic gears. In a stunning lecture pivot, he began to speak candidly about his presence on social media. He said he had recently seen videos from people our age about feeling nostalgic for the COVID-19 lockdowns of 2020 and 2021.
“Do you miss the COVID-19 lockdowns?” the professor asked.
The class groaned, laughed and rolled their eyes. But I, a senior graduating in May, found myself surprised to answer “yes”.
Nostalgia for COVID-19 lockdowns began as a social media trend after the rules and regulations of COVID America began to loosen up in 2022. If you search “Lockdown Nostalgia” on TikTok, you are bombarded with hundreds of videos romanticizing the traumatic time. But for the graduating class of 2023, lockdown nostalgia means more than simply feeling nostalgic for COVID walks and socially distant Zoom hangouts. For the class of 2023, lockdown nostalgia means a longing to restart the four years we have spent together at Syracuse University.
In a study about nostalgia’s triggers and functions, researchers found that nostalgic feelings are usually evoked when remembering events that were disappointing, but eventually were mitigated by subsequent success. In other words, nostalgia has become a coping mechanism when remembering difficult times. People can cope with these memories by looking back at them through the lens of personal growth. After months spent inside and apart, even something as tedious as going to class felt like a win.
Being a college student during the pandemic was nothing short of bizarre, and many students can’t help but see it as a disappointing time to be entering the “best four years of their lives.” Colleges across the country were shut down for the majority of 2020, while some schools like SU opened for in-person, hybrid learning in Fall 2020. For the class of 2023, the pandemic dictated our college experience from the beginning to the end. COVID rules and regulations stayed in place through the majority of our junior year, and for some, into senior year.
Syracuse University established a strict code of conduct when it came to handling COVID-19 on campus. Students who decided to return to campus committed to the Stay Safe Pledge, agreeing to a list of rules put in place to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. The rules included things like masks in any public spaces, opening dorms to residents only and no gatherings of groups larger than 25.
But as graduation inches closer, many students find themselves reminiscing on four unconventional years spent on campus. While talking about past stories from her time as a student at SU, senior retail management and marketing major Kira O’Donnell – who still must wear a mask to her women and gender studies classes, – says she sometimes longs for those strange days.