The Pandemic Papers: Adara LePage

Adara LePage

This essay is part of a series of reflections by UTM visual studies students about the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. The essay collection will be donated to Heritage Mississauga where it will become part of the city’s official historical record of everyday life during the global health crisis. Read the full series here >

In this entry, third-year visual culture and communications student Adara LePage writes about adjusting to remote learning while in quarantine and the inability to escape pandemic news.

I live in Ontario during the university school year, but I was born in raised in Winnipeg and go back there for the summer. I had initially planned to visit Winnipeg for a few months in the early summer, but the announcements of quarantines and closures required a change of plans. Once UTM had officially stopped in-person classes, my mom booked me a flight back home for April 5. Less than a week later, she rescheduled it for March 20.

I was one of two people in the security line at Pearson International Airport, and I had a row of seats to myself on the plane. My dad picked me up from the Richardson Airport in Winnipeg that night. I hadn’t seen him since Christmas Day, but we made sure to keep six feet of distance between us. We went straight home, and I haven’t left the house since. Today is my last day of my self-imposed two-week quarantine, which has consisted mainly of school, playing the piano, and physically distanced family time. As happy as I am to be home, I feel guilty that I am able to hide in a city with relatively few cases while many of my friends and classmates remain in Ontario, which currently has thousands of COVID-19 cases.

Because I wasn’t scheduled to take any exams this semester regardless of the pandemic, I am probably feeling the impact of school less than others. That said, I found myself having to finish multiple assignments per class with no space to study and no scheduled time with which to complete them.

I responded to this dilemma by trying to prioritize my assignments based on when they were due and how long it would take to complete them. Further complicating my school routine was the presence of my sister, who chose to follow her high school schedule minute by minute. This approach seemed to work for her, but I was hesitant to pick it up myself because the nature of university courses and class times is very different from that of high school. Seeing her flourish academically during the quarantine often makes me question my own approach to school, and I’ve had to remind myself that different things work for different people.

The at-home university experience has made me appreciate the value of in-class instruction and interaction with peers and professors. It is obviously possible to learn and complete assignments at home, but it’s much less fun—and much more lonely—without other people by your side.

Since the pandemic has reached a fever pitch, I have found media to be an odd dichotomy of depressing and escapist. The pandemic is an unavoidable topic in news media and radio, for good reason, but it has also seeped into aspects of formerly carefree media. I was playing free Spotify this week and noticed that all of the ads were public service announcements about quarantining in Manitoba. Likewise, the advertisements on television apps like Global and CTV are saturated with information about the pandemic. As important as it is to be informed during a time like this, it is difficult to engage with escapist media when reminders of the apocalyptic state outside are still constant.

Something else I’ve noticed with regards to advertising since the quarantine is the way that certain businesses are using ads to bolster community spirit. A television ad for DoorDash, for example, features business owners still hard at work during the pandemic with a reminder that restaurants are open for delivery. As self-serving as that may be on the part of the company, it made me feel better to see that life has not completely stopped during this new age, and that there is still some sense of community left in the world despite our inability to physically interact with one another.

It is unclear how much longer this quarantine will continue, but it is almost certain that humanity will have to continue to adapt. While the challenge of at-home education is almost over, at least for university students, it has taught me how to appreciate the collaborative learning environment that the university experience provides.