COVID-19 BLOG: Feeling gratitude for my second home

Skyler+Chun+sits+outside+Raynor+Memorial+Libraries+in+August+2019%2C+about+a+week+before+classes+begin.+Photo+courtesy+of+Skyler+Chun.

Skyler Chun sits outside Raynor Memorial Libraries in August 2019, about a week before classes begin. Photo courtesy of Skyler Chun.

It’s crazy how much can change in a week, let alone in an entire year.

This past August, I left everything I had ever known to attend a school 4,000 miles from home, where I had nothing but two suitcases that held my entire life. I had never seen Marquette in person before. I had never seen snow, didn’t even own a winter coat.

Of course I was nervous. So it was a pleasantly surprising feeling when, after my first full day at Marquette, all I could think about was how overwhelmingly kind everyone was.

Milwaukee and Marquette quickly became my new home away from home. But a lot has changed.

Just a few weeks ago, I remember all three of my roommates and I lying on Katie’s bed, ignoring our midterm responsibilities, eating as much cookies ‘n cream ice cream as we possibly could in one night, and complaining about how hard college was, how tired we were and how we could not wait for spring break to come.

But it came. Before we knew it, we were saying our goodbyes. My roommates went home for the week, and I went on a service trip to Oklahoma.

During that time, I was so oblivious to everything going on in the world.

My group and I had limited access to technology that week in an attempt at “living simply,” and I really started to appreciate living in the present moment. We spent our time rebuilding the tiny community of Enid, Oklahoma, reflecting on our faith and talking to people of all different backgrounds and experiences.

I took in the fresh smell of the flowers as we planted a garden, the sound of nails pounding into wood as we made a new shelf and watching the sunset as we drove through empty fields for hours.

One night, while lying in our tiny cots, our group received the notification that classes were suspended until further notice due to COVID-19. My initial reaction was fear. In those few minutes, it seemed like everything I had was suddenly taken away from me. I had no place to stay, no flight back home, and nothing but a duffel bag of paint-stained clothes and a few hardware tools.

Writing about all of this now just feels like a distant dream. But I was blessed to have friends who offered me a place to stay with them, for being able to fly back home to Hawaii and to be safe with my family, even though everything has changed.

I’ve had quite a different experience from many of my classmates, but I still share many of their feelings and frustrations. I miss face-to-face class discussions. I feel frustrated after staring at a screen for most of the day or when I have to wake up at 5 a.m. for a live lecture just because I live farther away with a time difference. It’s sometimes hard to find the motivation to work, especially when my bed is just two feet away.

How do I cope with it?

I FaceTime my friends, whether to have a study session, talk or just have some company while we do our own things. To be honest, most of our “study sessions” actually end up being dance sessions, where we jump and sing around our rooms as if we are all together again (We probably sound crazy, but it helps).

I take my family dog, Riley, for walks at sunset time — my favorite time of the day — and I find more time to try new things.

Like I said, a lot can change in a week, let alone an entire year. Now that the initial shock has faded, I’ve had a lot of time to reflect on everything that has happened, and if there’s one thing I have learned from this experience, it is to be thankful for everything that you have now.

As I type this, I am reminded of how blessed I am to have found a second home away from home this year. To have experienced snow for the first time and to have roommates who are some of my best friends. I am incredibly lucky to have three more years of college to really appreciate everything I have now.

This story was written by Skyler Chun. She can be reached at skyler.chun@marquette.edu.