As the coronavirus outbreak gripped the world in early 2020, University of Houston archivist Mary Manning launched a project to capture student perspectives of the pandemic. UH Students Respond to Covid-19 seeks to preserve personal stories, both artistic and documentary, from UH students relating to their experiences of this challenging time.
“The UH student contributors have shared with me how much it has meant to them to express what has been going on in their hearts and minds,” Manning said. “It is essential to preserve the photos, audio and video files, journal entries, and creative writing for researchers studying the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on college students, and just as important that these students’ children, and their children’s children, will find their family member’s story in the archives and understand what life was like for them as a UH student during the pandemic.”
The digital exhibit featuring student submissions is set to launch this summer.
“I took these photos to remember,” said Chandler Skinner, a senior music education major who is graduating in May. “There will be a time in my life when the “new normal” is a distant memory in my mind, but the pandemic is shaping what the future will look like for both my life and the world as a whole. I want to remember the deep, panging isolation and the bombardment of signage; I want to be able to express to others how that felt through my photos. The preservation of images from this time is vital for future generations to understand why the world is the way that it is.
“Isolation is the primary theme that appears in my submitted works, and I think that’s fairly reflective of how most people would define their experience right now. I captured the Moores School of Music in the weeks leading up to the start of the fall semester at a time when the building would normally be full of sound. My photos show the changes made to the environment while the building is empty.”
Xinyue Wu, a junior health major, submitted an animated video about the process of a family member receiving healthcare during the pandemic.
“When the pause button is pressed in our lives, everything becomes special and difficult,” said Wu. “Recording this experience will become an unforgettable and special memory in my life. During the pandemic, I experienced the painful and sad things of my grandfather’s death, my mother’s illness, and my grandma’s heart bypass surgery. Because of the pandemic, I couldn’t go to see my grandfather, nor could I take care of my grandma. I could only stay at home, attend class every day, watch the news, and pray that our country could reopen as soon as possible. I miss my family very much. If I have the opportunity, I will definitely choose to spend more time with them.”
“I have been writing poetry since I was sixteen, and write about everything,” said Samantha Portele, a freshman majoring in psychology. “When the pandemic began, I was under the impression it would be gone within a couple weeks or so. No one could have predicted what was to come. I felt it was important to document those moments where I felt both infinite and defeated. My poem stands to represent the uncertainty that was to come, but looking back 2020 helped me in a lot of ways I can forever be grateful for.”
A poem I wrote during quarantine (4/10/2020):
we all sat there in silence because we all knew,
we all knew this would be the last time for a long time. things seemed to be getting worse,
more social distancing, more isolation orders,
yet all we wanted to do was to sit up on the hill.
it was quiet, it was dark,
no words were spoken for in our hearts we knew this would be the last time we could do this freely,
this pandemic has stripped away every last ounce of normalcy in an already saddened world. the very essence of living is something that we must wait to be allowed to do.
it is horrible and demeaning and it makes you wonder,
what is really going on?
Something about that night felt melancholic, Maybe it was the words that went unspoken,
The sway of the grass as it danced underneath the moonlight, Or maybe it was the gentle breeze passing through,
almost as if it were a peace offering from the moon,
Letting us know it was right here with us, In hopes of calming our delirious minds.
none of this feels real,
we all just want normalcy back, “Do your part!”
“Stop the spread!”
when will the truth come to light?
so many questions going softly into the night, yet all we could do was sit and wonder, nothing left to do but to succumb under,
oh, how I would give anything to be on the hill again.