Expectations are a fascinating concept. We tend to form opinions about an occurrence before getting first-hand experience. To an extent, it is what keeps us hopeful. The outbreak of COVID-19 shattered many expectations. People lost jobs, couldn’t attend important events, and even missed out on transformational opportunities. As a fresher, I assumed what I was missing out on couldn’t be too bad. After all, it was only college’s first year, and there were more to come!
After a few months of postponing, online classes began. We made WhatsApp groups and held video calls. I tried to bond with my fellow batchmates by all means possible. We scrolled through the campus’ pictures online. The online orientation had gripped most of us. However, we knew that our expectations wouldn’t be met soon, so we succumbed to the situation. Classes took their natural course, with online interactions, club activities, and group studies. Subconsciously, we made peace with the circumstances, but mental unrest persisted. I wanted to visit the campus, meet my friends, explore the town of Manipal, and partake in college activities as myself— rather than a virtual representation of me.
Fortunately, our dissatisfaction paralleled the college’s efforts to call us to campus. The notice arrived, and we packed our bags to leave as soon as possible. The day I reached, I realised what my mind was truly anticipating. Thankfully, I had developed a few bonds online; hence it bypassed the initial hesitation to interact personally.
The airport was where I met one of my peers. Packed with the crowd flooding to Manipal, the Mumbai airport had noticeable commotion. All flights boarding to Mangalore were full of excited students and their hopeful parents. A flight and a cab ride later, we were finally in Manipal. My excitement to see the campus overtook me as I left my bags in the hotel room and rushed out to get an auto. Evidently, they were well aware of all the routes and spots of the campus.
I came to Academic Block-3 to finish my registration process. Immediately, I was met by a friend of mine, with whom I finished the process. I was grateful for developing a few bonds online, as it bypassed the initial hesitation of physical interaction. After an enthusiastic conversation, we decided to meet the rest of our group and explore the premises together. It struck us when we were walking to Kamath Circle—the aura of a new journey—we could imagine spending years on this campus. I finally realised what my mind was truly anticipating. We explored the KC shops before sitting down and talking. Before we knew it, we were back in our hotel rooms, dozing off with a gleam of anticipation for this new life.
Over the first few days, some stayed at the hotel while others in the hostel. We hardly met until our parents left, but when they did, we recognised true college life. Messes were packed. One could see the students rushing to and from classes through Temple Run from the boys’ hostel blocks in the mornings and evenings. The crowds at KC in the evenings were most apparent.
We realised that hostels were as convenient as they could get. Complementing all outlets available on campus (from an ATM to a salon), hostels offered laundry service almost daily. Rooms were cleaned every alternate day. The only issue was the spotting of insects now and then, but an insect spray did the job. The Air-Conditioners were highly effective, enough for my friends from non-AC blocks to spend their time on my bed during the day. The caretaker resolved any problems that arose. Some could be spotted playing table Tennis in the hostel.
We realised that we had to carry our ID, Mess, and Clearance cards everywhere in a few days. As examinations were around the corner, people studied at various spots—some occupied a table at FC-2, a few headed to the library (only to end up chatting in the group study hall), while some studied in the Individual hall. Most, like me, preferred solitude or headed to a friend’s room, where we lost track of time.
Though exams were approaching, some could not resist visiting the places Manipal had to offer. They went out to Canara Mall, various beaches, and many restaurants. Knowing I had four years to experience all this, I decided to abstain until End-Sems ended. Little did I know my grades would have mattered less than my experience now.
Kamath Circle is a distinguished sight to remember—we spent most of our evenings there, either meeting others or sitting in peace that the chaos offered. One could spot people with guitars and a crowd surrounding them. Many came to collect parcels—whether it be food or clothes they ordered online. Few would plead the guard to let them in after 9 PM.
Our contact classes were held according to schedule, some in NLH and some at AB-5. The teacher coordinator gave us a campus tour, and I was amazed by the campus’ beauty all over again.. Students had adjusted well to campus life. One could see many returning from football, basketball, and Lawn Tennis practices during the evening. Some played Badminton, and some went to the gym. Most importantly—everyone was active.
As the End-Semester examination began, tension prevailed in the air. Students hardly went to the mess for breakfast (though it was the best meal of the day, besides the ice cream on Wednesdays). Lobbies of each hostel floor had students walking to and fro, either talking to their families or mugging up the course. I could spend hours studying with a friend, and it did not seem like a burden. Most of us were night owls, and FC-2 and the hostel’s night canteen were our saviours. We did not care for food anymore, as it was only one call away. Many gathered on the ground floor during the night to collect the same.
After writing our Mathematics exam, we would have been as free as birds. I could finally fulfil my anticipation of exploring the town! Little did we know that we would have to ‘escape’ campus before it got sealed due to unfortunate circumstances. The number of COVID-19 cases peaked. Though only a few cases initially came to attention, we assumed that it wouldn’t pose a significant threat. As the latter turned out to be true, the government declared our ‘land of hopes and experiences’ a ‘containment zone’.
Most have now left the campus, while some are still there. As the second wave is crushing our hopes, here we are, wondering if we should’ve left our newly-formed home in the first place.
Written by Parva Mehrotra for MTTN
Featured Image by Parva Mehrotra for MTTN