This is part of a series called Postcards From Here, in which Harvard undergraduates talk about the changes brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.
Jaidyn Probst ’23
Hometown: Redwood Falls, Minn.
Concentration: Cognitive Neuroscience and Evolutionary Psychology
The sounds of the city
“I miss the atmosphere of campus a lot. I am from a small rural area in Minnesota and always liked the atmosphere of a bigger city. In my first year, I lived in Canaday, so I heard the fire station all the time, and at first it was odd coming back home and sleeping without the constant sirens. Obviously, I miss my roommates and friends the most, and not being able to schedule a last-minute breakfast at Berg or walk to classes together.”
Taking care of community
“Luckily, my parents were able to stay employed this whole time as my mom is a teacher and my dad works for the county highway department. Around the time we were sent home from campus, my grandparents were in Arizona for the winter, which caused a moment of panic, but they were able to get home safely and have been healthy since. There is a concern surrounding their health, as well as the health of elders in my community in general, because there are definitely people not taking this pandemic seriously. I am from the Lower Sioux Indian community, so collectively we are worried about our members becoming sick because the coronavirus is disproportionately affecting minorities.”
“My closest friends and I talk every day but I keep in touch with the rest of my friends relatively often as well. I have been having lots of video calls and Netflix party sessions with two of my best friends. We created a group playlist on Spotify and a group Pinterest board as a way to look forward to activities after the pandemic has subsided.”
A calm mind and body
“I have been baking a lot and practicing yoga, and have been trying to read books for enjoyment rather than part of a curriculum. I am a member of the Minnesota Young Women’s Cabinet and the National Young Women’s Advisory Council, both remote jobs that keep me busy for a few hours a month, and I am taking two summer courses: ‘Abnormal Psychology’ and ‘Sociology of Law.’ I have also been spending time at the lake and being with family on the weekends.”
Enjoying the outdoors
“The most visible sign of change I have noticed is the mask-wearing and the distance people are keeping in the grocery store and public spaces. I also have noticed that people are getting outside way more often and walking their pets or riding bikes and I enjoy seeing people out.”
Maarten de Vries ’21
Hometown: Elten, Germany
Friends, food, and FaceTime
“I most miss the Currier dining hall and its lovely staff. It’s easy to take for granted when you’re at School, but it’s amazing to sit down and have a meal with your friends at any time. I call my roommate every week, and sometimes we do a group FaceTime with a couple of my blockmates. My girlfriend is also at Harvard, and we’ve been consistently calling every day, which helps a lot.”
Home game winner
“I’m fortunate that my parents are able to work from home. I have a sister who works as a fashion model, but that industry has grinded to a halt. My younger sister is 10 years old and now that her school has closed, I’ve gotten to play a lot of board games at home with her. I think she’s happy about it — it’s like a long vacation.”
Humanity shines through
“My most visible sign of change is my hair, which has grown long! All joking aside, schools, restaurants, and stores are all closed, although that has started to change now. Wearing a face mask in public has become mandatory, and lots of people continue to get tested for the virus. Interestingly, I live right on the border with the Netherlands, and the cheaper gas stations in Germany are full of Dutch cars despite all travel restrictions. On the positive side, people seem to understand the common humanity of this pandemic and are more willing to lend a helping hand, despite all the uncertainty and stress.”
Luke Walker ’22
Hometown: Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago
Missing Quad life
“I happily got used to waking up in my spacious single every morning and looking out onto the Quad lawn. I miss being able to ride my bike to anywhere in Cambridge within minutes. I also frequented the gyms and libraries across campus regularly and it was there that I grounded my mental and physical wellness. I’m also a Harvard/Berklee dual degree student and I miss the abundance of performances that happened every day, the profound moments during ensemble rehearsals, and the private lessons I got from some of the best musicians in the world.
“The delicious food that my mom cooks at home saves me from missing HUDS food too much but I do miss the dining halls and random encounters I would have across campus on my way to and from classes.”
Maintaining mentorship over Zoom
“Apart from meeting with my blockmates over Zoom every other week to play board games, I have weekly meetings with different friend groups from faith organizations on campus to encourage each other and stay connected.
“Back on campus I volunteered at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Massachusetts Bay and I got to spend an hour each week with a young boy from Cambridge and be a ‘big brother.’ This has been such an edifying experience for me that when our time together was cut short after campus was vacated, I decided to set up weekly Zoom meetings with him to keep our mentoring relationship going.”
Finding strength at home
“Because of the outbreak, work has been slow for most of my family. My sister lost her job, my mom’s work completely stopped during the lockdown, and my aunt has been stressed about not getting enough work to support her family. This year my Granny turned 90 and her health and safety have constantly been at the back of our minds since the first case of COVID-19 appeared in Trinidad.
“Anybody who has ever lived in or visited Trinidad knows that we are a very active and social people. Under normal circumstances, there are huge parties all year round, and the clubs, bars, and beaches are always full. All of this stopped shortly after we recorded our first case of COVID-19 and the prime minister put the country under lockdown. Since then, Trinidad has been quieter than ever and I never got used to that. Thankfully, our response to the virus has been remarkable and praised by many because we were able to evade the tragic effects that it has had on other countries.
“The archbishop of Port of Spain really rose to the occasion and became a strong leader of our community when we needed him most. Amazingly, he was able to mobilize the church to take care of poor citizens at a scale that I had never seen before. I hope this concern for the least fortunate among us continues long after this virus is behind us.”
Answering the call to help
“I was lucky to get a job as a research assistant through the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Foundation over the summer, helping a Ph.D. candidate at HKS [Harvard Kennedy School] with his research into education policy in India. I really enjoy this job and it keeps me busy, but since being home, I’ve had a deep desire to volunteer my time to different projects that inspire me. I’ve edited videos for a local NGO that teaches values to young kids through storytelling, helped Guyanese students prepare for their national exams through the Caribbean Education Project, and volunteered at my church to help distribute food to people adversely affected by the coronavirus. I also took part in an online steelpan competition in which my quartet had to learn 10 songs in two weeks, and am keeping fit by training with my local judo club over Zoom and going on hikes with my brother and friends.”
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