Light at end of the tunnel for impossibly long year

The Protect Purdue initiative and its student ambassadors helped keep the University safe while students were on campus this academic year.
Colin Rhodes

After what seems like an impossibly long year, we can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. Vaccines are available to students on campus and nearly everyone elsewhere. But just because you have rolled up your sleeves does not mean it is time to pull down the mask quite yet.

The last year has been rough. There is no other way to put it. Our entire way of life was flipped on its head overnight and has not recovered fully. School went online, we were separated from friends and family alike, and we began hoarding toilet paper. In all seriousness, many people have been adversely affected by the pandemic, and the return to a sense of normalcy is imperative. We’re safely working our way back here on campus, thanks in part to Purdue University’s Protect Purdue initiative and the many people working hard under it, including the student ambassadors that are all helping to pave the way forward. 

When we got sent home last spring, I did not enjoy it. I loved being on campus with my friends and having so much to do. Going home to watch blurry lectures was not the Purdue I had grown accustomed to my first two years. I was glad to come back in the fall and was surprised with the success we had on campus. Under the Protect Purdue Pledge, we were able to unite and keep Purdue open. Seeing some classmates blatantly disobeying the pledge was irritating, to say the least. I knew that a few mistakes could quickly ruin it for everyone. I wanted to help ensure we could have another safe semester, so I joined the Boiler Ambassadors.

The focus of the Boiler Ambassadors is to serve as a sounding board for the Protect Purdue program by upholding and promoting the Protect Purdue Pledge on and off campus. We implement socially safe events for Boilermakers and provide general outreach to Purdue students, both current and prospective, to keep everyone connected by providing insight into current college life. Most recently, we have been holding giveaways and fun virtual challenges. We meet weekly in subteams to plan various things. For instance, I am on the community subteam, so we brainstorm ways to continue outreach to the community. I have worked on several projects, including the Greyhouse giveaway that was running on our Instagram page a couple of weeks ago and an upcoming scavenger hunt in late April. We also do physical outreach, setting up tables where we give away Protect Purdue items and hanging posters, etc. The entire Boiler Ambassadors team meets monthly to discuss each subteam and any major future changes in the program and on campus.

I am happy to report the success of these programs. Again, we have been able to stay on campus this semester. Speaking with several of my friends here, I know they are happy to be here as well. Being from Michigan, I know many people that go to schools that did not have the same level of response as Purdue. They are still at home, working virtually, meanwhile our campus is vibrant with students relaxing in hammocks, groups touring, meeting with clubs and enjoying the spring weather. College just is not the same if you’re stuck alone with the relentless onslaught of assignments and exams. We need time to be with friends and work on the dozens of projects. Whether you’re in Purdue Orbital, Purdue Space Program or one of the thousand other clubs on campus, being with each other is certainly something we cherish more now than ever. Thanks to the Protect Purdue program, we have been able to enjoy this.    

Looking back at the past year, it is nice to see these lights in the dark. We all eventually will be thankful that the 8-5 job model is shifting, thanks to remote work. With the advances in online lecturing, we now have hybrid learning lectures I am grateful for, as they are more organized and widely available, especially for re-watching. We were forced to adapt and refine our time management skills, and that can greatly reduce the stress experienced over the semester. Most importantly, we all developed a greater appreciation for being in each other’s presence to work together and support each other.

The work is not done yet. People are still affected by COVID-19, and cases are rising again in some states and countries. We need to remember one vaccination dose does not mean we are invincible. We cannot forget about the second booster dose. Even then, we still have a couple of weeks before it reaches maximum effectiveness. It has been over a year, what’s another couple of weeks?

We are so close to the end of this year-long struggle. Graduation will be in person in May. Boarding passes and season tickets are on sale for the fall. Purdue’s plan is for a ‘normal’ year next year.  It is easy to see how all the changes we have implemented are still paying off and that many lives have been saved because of the changes we have all made in our lives — that means a lot.

We will never forget this time in our lives. Hopefully, we will take what we’ve learned and everything we now can appreciate more than ever and use these valuable lessons to make everyone’s lives better — together.

Colin Rhodes, Boiler Ambassador, junior, School of Aeronautics and Astronautics

The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Purdue University or the School of Aeronautics and Astronautics.