An Open Letter of Gratitude in the Wake of COVID-19

Mary Kaitlin Enright
April 3, 2020

Dear all students affected by the impacts of COVID-19,

I imagine many of you are in a boat similar to mine. It has been over a week and a half since I have returned from my semester abroad in Cape Town due to the coronavirus pandemic. That week and a half have been spent eating a lot of food, watching a lot of Netflix, occasionally running on a treadmill, and FaceTiming friends. 

This is all thanks to and sponsored by the things that allow for my plush enjoyment of quarantine:

                  -  a pantry full of food (thanks for grocery shopping, Mom)

                  -  my own laptop and Netflix subscription

                  -  a gym in my home

                  -  an iPhone

                  -  ...and the list goes on and on. 

Meanwhile, I complain about being bored, about the pandemic’s impact on my study abroad experience, about having to take classes online. I complain about the fact that I haven’t even started my online classes yet, because it is taking the school too long to set it all up. I do not think that I am alone in my boredom and frustration. 

Yet, on the other side of the world, the University of Cape Town is, for the first time, having to move all of its classes online, for all some 30,000 of its students. This is something for which the University did not previously have the infrastructure, and for which many of its students may not even have the resources. So, I recently received an email from the university requesting my required participation in an accessibility survey. 

The email survey that I received from the University of Cape Town asked (a variation of) the following questions:

Do you have access to a desktop computer or personal laptop, tablet, or smartphone?

Do you have access to a stable wireless connection? For how many hours a day?

For how many hours a day are you available for online learning responsibilities? 

Suddenly, it became very clear that my frustration was one of the only direct side effects of this pandemic on my education. Meanwhile, other students were facing a far worse side effect of educational inaccessibility.

Most universities in the United States do not need to send out such surveys. Most, if not all, of us have our own laptops/tablets, and smartphones, consistent and stable WiFi connections in our homes and mobile data, and have constant access to these things, and therefore, relatively indefinite availability for our online learning responsibilities. This isn’t the case for all students in the world, and it is important to be aware of it. 

Having access to an excellent education, and a robust set of resources to support it, is a privilege...and not one to be taken lightly. As we tread the waters of this difficult time, try to keep this in mind. 

Rather than complaining about the inconvenience of having to 

                        leave our colleges, 

                        go home, and 

                        take our classes online, 

try instead to consider how fortunate many of us are to 

                       have an excellent college to attend, 

                       a home to go to, and 

                       the ability to get a high-quality education from home. 

In hectic, unfamiliar, and alarming times like these, it is important to see the blessings that we have, especially ones to which we are often blind. So count yours, and support those who don’t have as many.

Together, we can get through this. So, let's be grateful while we do.

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Mary Kaitlin Enright

<p>I was born and raised in Glenview, Illinois, a suburb of the beautiful city of Chicago. When I was fifteen, I was surprised by the unexpected opportunity to move to Hong Kong, when my family was transferred there. That was the very beginning of my relationship with the travel bug, by which I have been afflicted ever since. I spent time traveling around Asia with my family throughout high school, then traveling through Europe in my first year of college while studying abroad in London. Now a Marketing student at Villanova University with minors in Creative Writing and Communication, my next stop is Cape Town, South Africa, and I am excited to share my experience with the world.</p>

2020 Spring
Home University:
Villanova University
Glenview, IL
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