By Monalee Gibbs
Are you familiar with the childhood jingle “apart, together, apart, together…? I thought about the pandemic, and it came to mind.
How I visualized my academic sojourn in Geneva were days, and nights, filled with interesting research and projects with my peers, discussing theories, and struggling to stay abreast of the latest publications being churned out by our professors and other learned scholars. Graduate school was to be a rebirth, as the ‘world, my oyster’.
All this happened…more or less.
So, what is my grouse? Well, not a grouse, but an odd feeling of loss. You see, I expected the “more or less” to have happened within feet of the students, professors, and teaching assistants in my cohort. After all, studies say diversity performs better; being able to tap someone on the shoulder, make eye contact to confirm my perception of words leaving the lips of their author or to be so close to someone talking about their research I can almost reach out and touch their enthusiasm. I am of the ilk where we “thrive on the other”, so I am genuinely interested in learning about other people. To compound this Alice in Wonderland-esque predicament, I allowed myself to be lured and, drawing on the idea presented by a classmate, I have been compiling a writing dictionary, not a typology, but a collection of what I consider impressive words and expressions.
I relished the idea of wanting more and more of academia. Returning to “the books” after twelve years in the professional world, I was like a ‘kid in a candy store’. Each class was more intriguing than the last. I waved my white flag; with zero resistance I consumed, became, and manifested the oxymoronic, sometimes monotonic but never mundane logic reflected in the pages.
In a brand-new building with several other classmates, the permutations were infinite. The socializing endeavours we did very well – random get togethers, trips to other parts of the country, weekend dinners. But the pandemic became too much too soon, and it seemed minding for much of anything school related, except the digital screens – cum – watering hole, wasn’t going to be the MO. Logging on to Zoom or Webex was the plat du jour for which even then there wasn’t a constant appetite. I was happy where I was, but being apart together undercut the component I was most looking forward to, and I mourned this loss.
The flip side is how ‘time affluent’ I have become. No, time has not been a cunning fox. Not for me. Despite copious amounts of reading, analyzing, and writing I have had enough time. Enough time to be “curious about outside”, enough time to contemplate “post-pandemic” existence, enough time to re-imagine my life, giving myself over to Director Salles’ call to “new beginnings”. Summer is properly upon us, and time fades through the hourglass, as Fall creepingly approaches. Still, time is not my master but a symbol of my newfound status.
“And your loss?”, you may ask. Well, with my elevated status, time is at my behest, and I now bask in what it means to be time affluent!
How have our friendships, our classes, our family time been? Aside from wearing masks and social distancing, how did we really live the pandemic this past year? “Glimpses of Covid life” is a collection of the Graduate Institute’s students’ experiences and feelings during the pandemic and their personal and individual recollections of these historic times, as mind our community, while mining it, as a source of collective protection and support.
Monalee Gibbs is a MA candidate focusing on Power and Conflict, and has a keen interest in Government and Comparative Politics. She is a Jamaican Foreign Service Officer currently on sabbatical and has undertaken diplomatic postings to Cuba and Venezuela. LinkedIn Facebook
Photos by Monalee Gibbs