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Opinion: Even when it’s hard, students and faculty find the silver linings of quarantine

Claire Alongi

Staff writer

It can seem a little impossible to stay positive these days. The year so far has seemed to provide blow after blow (Australia on fire, worries of World War III, etc.), with COVID-19 being the biggest and baddest. The world is all but shut down, and Willamette is not an exception. The university has been holding classes online since the week before spring break, and will finish out the semester the same way. The future of the fall semester for WU, and colleges everywhere, remains uncertain.

But just because it can be hard to see the silver linings doesn’t mean they’re impossible to find. Now more than ever, it’s important to find small joys in daily activities, or to seek out things that can bring a moment of brightness to an otherwise dire situation.  

For example, senior Niki Kates started a quarantine book club. She was inspired by her time in Professor Melissa Buis Michaux’s book club at the Oregon State Penitentiary.

I love the way that a good book can bring people together regardless of the circumstances. So many members of that book club, both inside and outside prison, cherished those meetings because they were an escape from the mundane. Nothing mattered except what was going on in that room, and I think creating a space that allows you to fully immerse yourself and share that experience with others is needed now more than ever,” she said.

The quarantine book club meets about twice a month on Mondays. While it doesn’t always attract the largest crowd, Kates is still enjoying it immensely. She emphasizes that she wants it to be a stress-free time for people to connect and talk about what they’ve been reading.

In addition to the book club, Kates has also been doing a lot of personal reading for fun. And dancing.

“I'm pretty bad at [dancing], but it's really fun and something I've always wanted to get better at. Sometimes I send videos to my mom because I know she'll always hype me up,” she said.

While Kates had things to say about staying positive as a student, studio art professor Kathryn Cellerini-Moore spoke to the professor's side of things.

Before talking about what she’s doing to remain positive, she acknowledged that it can be incredibly hard sometimes.

“I sense that art students and art faculty alike are mourning the loss of the constant interaction and rich conversations that take place when people are in a room making things together. Community making simply cannot be replaced with remote learning,” she said.

But, despite setbacks, she’s continued to conduct online art classes as best as she can.

“I didn't want my students to also lose the sense of camaraderie, trust and admiration they've developed for one another by not having the option to see one another in class, even virtually. Remote learning has certainly presented many challenges, but I have been learning from my students that even a 20 minute check-in, in between project due dates and demonstrations, helps keep some semblance of our studio art making community spirit alive,” she said.

She’s decided to look on the bright side of things too, and sees remote learning as a way to share snippets of her life that students and colleagues might not normally experience.

“[Connecting with people virtually] helps me feel like I am still part of a vibrant, inquisitive community of makers even though we are physically distant. Another fun side effect of virtual learning is that I am able to broadcast from my professional studio, which is located in my home. My students and colleagues are able to see a piece of my life that they might not have otherwise. My cats regularly sleep in the background of remote learning sessions, and I think these small infusions of humor and domesticity actually help remote learning feel more personal, or less cold than it might otherwise,” she said.

Some days might be harder than others to look on the bright side. The key is to draw on the strength of friends, of art, of bad dancing, of any laugh or nice sunny day, and to store those up and remember them when it really seems the world is falling apart.

Kates had some parting words of positivity: “I don't know that I have anything particularly wise to say about the current state of affairs, but I want to just remind everyone that whatever you're doing is okay. Listen to your body, reach out for help if you need it, and if you want to talk books every other Monday at 5 p.m., email Also good luck on finalsit's never been easier to avoid stepping on the seal!”

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