College Success

College & COVID-19: Sweet Small Things

You have survived every single one of your worst days, Tolulope. Do not forget that.

This has become my mantra during the past month while myself and many other international students in the US are facing the reality of being in a lockdown situation in a country that is not your own. I have tried so many times, and failed many more times, to describe what the feeling that accompanies this reality is. This feeling is in the very small moments. It creeps upon you when you least expect it. Sometimes it comes in the morning, that brief moment when you have just woken up. You feel just like you are at home and waking up in your own bed. You are not.

Sometimes it comes during Zoom conversations with friends when they ask you where you are staying. You tell them that you are grateful to be staying with a family that feels like home, and that embraces you as their own. Just as your words register to them, you can hear the deep sigh, the concerned looks, and the follow up questions. Are you okay? Do you miss home?  Yes. Yes, you do.

Other times the feeling visits you late at night, in your dreams. It fills your mind with vivid scenes from home. Not quite jarring enough to wake you up, not quite subtle enough to keep you asleep. Perhaps I should call it homesickness. But I think it feels different from that. I do not actively long for home because I know that it is best that I remain here. But these moments visit me nonetheless, and every single time they show me that home desires that I long for it.

You have survived every single one of your worst days, Tolulope. Don’t you dare forget that.

It would be so easy to let this feeling and these moments overcome me. At first, they almost did. However, the day that I started a gratitude journal and chose to create space in my life every single day to notice the sweet small things that I am grateful for, was the day that I truly began to notice how many moments in my life are filled with so much color. This is how I stay on top of everything else.

These sweet small things come in many different forms, and there is no escaping them once you begin to notice them.

They are in the hour-long Zoom parties I have with my friends.

They are in the lines of poetry that I read.

They are in the supportive emails that my professors have sent.

They are in the papers I have to write for class, how each one of my assignments is a product of everything that I have felt and tried not to feel during this time.

How everything I complete is a triumph.

They are in the virtual hugs.

They are in the Netflix series I always said I would get to, and finally did.

How am I getting through quarantine? How am I focused on my studies?

Friends, the answer is in the sweet small things. The moment I began to notice them is the moment that I realized that my life is already filled with enough color to fill this home, so much so that even the outside peers through the window and longs to come inside and join me.

My name is Tolulope Olasewere and I am a sophomore from Lagos, Nigeria studying Government and Philosophy at Harvard University. I am currently at home and sharing all my sweet small things with my best friend and her family in Minnesota.

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