Rose Bergmann
For the QC

A ripoff Cards Against Humanity game, dogs, cheesy high school memories, sharing art,  food, and laughter — this is just a glimpse of what the Friday, Jan. 22 Zoom event offered to students isolated from campus due to COVID-19.

Walking around the buildings on Whittier’s campus, waving to acquaintances and project partners, shouting hello to teammates and friends, and running up to give your buddies a hug every school day before 2020 were simple luxuries that no one ever expected to lose. The social college campus experience is one we all signed up for and now long to see again. As a dangerous virus threatens the world and our campus, how do we revive this authentic, unique interaction with the current college environment?

Students of WCtheRock and the CARE team are off to an effective start. Third-years Alyssa Armstrong and Grace Martin hosted the hour-long hangout session, originally intended as a space for students to decompress and come together during the week of the presidential inauguration. This event delivered that support system and more. While the turnout was small, the gathering over Zoom made for both a personal and casual setting to chat and get to know each other. Both hosts were welcoming and inclusive, and made sure to open the space for each person to introduce themselves fully and comfortably. They were laid back about the small attendance, which allowed for more organic conversation, mishap, and fun. Instead of potentially inducing stress by asking about everyone’s feelings about the political transition of power and recent events, Armstrong offered an escape by preparing virtual games for us to play together. After scrolling through the array of options on backyard.com, we all agreed on Wordplay, which is (if you’re familiar), a knockoff, yet better-written Cards Against Humanity.

Quickly into the hangout, with the comedic relief from poking fun at current politics through finish-the-sentence-style card play, we all seemed to feel comfortable with each other — even those like me, who had not known anyone prior to joining. Before I knew it, we were sharing pictures of our art and high school memories, showing our dogs on camera, giving anecdotes of embarrassing stories, and laughing as if we had been friends for a lifetime. Despite going into the Zoom call feeling anxious, I left feeling rejuvenated after doing hours of school work, and carried this residue of laughter with me throughout the rest of the day. Since quarantine started, many of us have not been in either a virtual or face-to-face school setting that is full of such joy, relief, and fresh company.

As a transfer student who came to Whittier only months before the pandemic hit  the U.S., I can empathize with fellow transfer students and first-years that never got the chance to participate in the social scene of Whittier College. Even students of Whittier before COVID-19 are now separated from their friends who live out of state or even the next town over. On top of this, we are separated from the emotional and community support that would normally be offered on campus during the political unrest we have witnessed this past year. For these reasons, it is now more important than ever to continue these Zoom settings, reminiscent of a pre-COVID kickback, to foster that feeling of community and the company of like-minded people, instead of our stress dwelling on us in isolation.

WCtheRock and the CARE team have listened to the demands of their peers for safe spaces to cultivate political discussion as well as easy-going banter to generate authentic interactions through virtual platforms. While similar events are yet to be scheduled, there is a need for platforms such as this to continue uplifting the Whittier College community. With more intimate and open student-run meetings such as this, we are reminded of the genuine, good people in our community who render our hope for the state of the world while we sit in our rooms feeling detached and helpless to it all.

Stay tuned for future events by visiting Whittier College Engage.

Feature image: Courtesy of WCtheRock

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In collaboration by Quaker Campus staff members.

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