By: Simon Proulx
On a hike with my friends down to Wreck Beach near UBC, November 2020
Things are looking up across Canada these days. With vaccinations getting into the arms of more and more individuals, and with society gradually opening up again, it seems like we are nearing a world that might resemble the life we left behind in March of 2020.
In its wake, the pandemic altered, postponed, or outright cancelled crucial milestones for many individuals. In-person activities were scaled back or scrapped altogether as we scrambled to adapt to largely virtual environments. I began a new chapter of my life amid this chaos; a degree in clarinet performance at the University of British Columbia, far away from the sun soaked prairies and frigid winters of my native Winnipeg.
It was not easy. During this past year, I have been privileged enough to have amazing experiences and I have continued to learn and grow as a musician and a human. But there were also times when I perceived things to be unfair, convoluted, or cruel.
Because this was a valuable learning experience for me and something that I think many students who attended university this past year can relate to, I have decided to share my personal experience from the end of high school all the way through to the end of my first year at university for people to learn what starting a university degree during a pandemic was like.
My experience, like that of every individual who attended an educational institution this past year, is unique. It was a tumultuous year, but I was afforded many opportunities and I am extremely fortunate that my family and friends were spared from the worst effects of the pandemic. I know of many who have experienced hardship, heartbreak, and trauma that eclipse the worst I had to go through.
I have written this series in four parts, each corresponding to different time periods during the year. The first is a look into the beginnings of the pandemic, when I was finishing my senior year of high school. The second part follows my first semester which I attended in Vancouver. The third part brings me back to Winnipeg to finish off the second semester remotely due to the worsening COVID situation last winter. Lastly, the fourth part is a reflection on what I have learned throughout my year, what next year will look like at UBC, and what my hopes are for the future.