If the Covid pandemic were a movie, we’re not at the happy ending quite yet but the point where the protagonist has the epiphany of how to solve the problem and takes action. In reality, my version of that looks the same as it has all year: staying indoors and working from the comfort of my own home, except now we’re getting the vaccine and hoping better days are shortly ahead.
The Portland State University community dealt with remote learning and work for the 2020–2021 school year, and despite challenges and sacrifices, students and faculty were able to resume classes nearly seamlessly as staff worked vigorously to support this transition. However, the PSU administration has announced that Fall 2021 is our highly-anticipated return to in-person learning. For many of us, this is the news we’ve been waiting for since the shutdowns began, and we’re now thrilled to return to campus learning. But this pandemic has not only resulted in health and economic tragedy, it’s also taken a mental toll and these feelings might not be evenly felt.
I provide my perspective as both a staff member and a student at PSU. I live in Southern California and have spent the past year working and learning remotely at my family home. I applied to the Master of Real Estate Development last winter expecting to start a new life in Portland, only to move back home for an unforeseeable future as my plans quickly fell apart. I’ve been able to sustain my academic and work responsibilities from my childhood bedroom, but I miss the human interactions of my pre-pandemic life. I miss the simple joys of sitting next to classmates, having side conversations, connecting with professors in-person and having an organic conversation. Zoom has allowed us to continue our academic pursuits but for me, there’s no replacement for speaking with another human being face-to-face.
Like a lot of people, I’ve gotten used to the convenience of remote work and learning. I’ve been able to balance more responsibilities because of the instant transition between work and school. I don’t know if I can sustain as many commitments post-covid if I’m walking, biking, driving in between locations rather than switching tabs. Beyond my capacity, I don’t know if I’ll even want to. It’s been easy to bury myself in work during Covid because I have so few alternatives for occupying my day. I hope the post-pandemic world will come with changing priorities, and we’ll all learn to put our mental health and happiness above the pressure to be as productive as possible for as many hours as possible.
This may not be as joyous and easy of a transition as my mind makes it out to be. For many people, walking into a crowded room will still bring the instinctive fear that we’ve had instilled for over a year. Sitting in a classroom may not have the same casual, communal feeling if we’re all still apprehensive about the pandemic truly being over. We’re all human beings who have endured prolonged individual and collective tragedy and loss, and that trauma will not disappear overnight. People are going to need resources of support in order to ease out of quarantine and transition back into a new way of life.
This summer, I’ll be moving to Portland for the first time in my life, after visiting only once. I started vaguely considering this move years ago, and the delay has only further motivated me to enjoy everything Portland has to offer. The combination of a thriving city surrounded by natural beauty is something I’ve wanted for my entire life. The more I learn about Portland, the more I see the variety of hobbies and lifestyles people can enjoy. With outdoor activities, a vibrant music scene and business opportunities, Portland seems to have everything I could want in a city. For the spots I’m most excited to see, check out:
- Hiking the Columbia River Gorge, a deep canyon of the Columbia River that’s also home to gorgeous waterfalls, epic vistas and seemingly endless options for outdoor recreation.
- Seeing a concert at the historic Revolution Hall, a former high school repurposed as a concert venue.
- Joining the City Club of Portland, a civic organization focused on community service, public affairs and leadership development.
The business opportunities I’ve made in the Portland community before even stepping foot in the city have already given me a new job, network and future opportunities that will only grow when I arrive in-person. Portland is the city I’ve dreamed of for a long time, and I’m elated to carry out the plan I made and put on hold for over a year. I expect the move and return to in-person classes to come with a lot of mixed emotions and unexpected challenges. But the Portland community is where I want to experience my next chapter of personal and professional growth, and I’m excited to do so with all of you.
Rick Brody is a Masters in Real Estate Development Candidate and Marketing Assistant at the Portland State University’s School of Business