Logging Off For Now: One student shares why she plans on taking a gap year before continuing her education.

Like many college seniors, the most frequent question I have been asked over this past year is, “what are your plans after graduation?” As innocuous as the intent may be, this question is often loaded with anxiety-inducing expectations and assumptions. Just as going to undergrad has become a seemingly required next step for most high school seniors, so has the prospect of attending grad school become increasingly expected of most college seniors.

Of course there are logistical reasons for attending graduate school immediately out of college, especially if someone is working towards a job that requires a higher level of education. Students who are focusing in specialized fields often want to get their schooling done as quickly as possible so they can begin working in their
desired field as soon as they can. Other students genuinely love school and want nothing more than to continue their journey. These are both great reasons to continue on after undergrad into higher learning, and the choice to go straight into graduate programs is ultimately up to the individual.

Though I love school and do anticipate receiving a higher degree at some point, I am excited to take a gap year (or two!) before I continue on to grad school.

Most college students have been in school since pre-k. For a senior in college, that’s around eighteen years of schooling with summer and winter vacations as the only break time in between the otherwise monotony of being a full time student.

When I did the math, I realized that for most of my cognizant life, I have been chained to the schooling system. While I am grateful for the opportunities that my education has provided me, I have fallen ill to the burnout many students experience as a result of being in an organized educational process for so long. I know that I am in desperate need of a break.

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, these past two scholastic years have looked different than ever before. Though things are slowly returning to a kind of normalcy, I am not confident that schools will be completely back to normal at the start of the fall term. I want to make sure that when I return to school, the inconveniences and hardships COVID has created will not plague my academic endeavors anymore.

Although I do anticipate going back to school at some point in the near future, I am excited to take the next year or two to figure out just who I am outside the four walls of a classroom- for most of my life it’s all I’ve ever known. I am excited to read because I want to and not because I have to for some class. I am excited to write about things I’m interested in with no deadlines or due dates. More than anything, though, I am excited to see how my education has formed me, not just as a student, but as a person.

I should hope that the purpose of my education was not to keep me bound to the confines of the classroom forever. I hope instead that my education has equipped
me with the proper tools to be a student forever, not just of the classroom but of the world around me.

I can’t wait to begin this next chapter of my life. I hope to catch up on some much needed rest, read more fiction, travel, and work on some non-school related projects I’ve had to place on the backburner for a while now. And then, when the time is right, I will reenter the classroom to continue what has never really stopped: my education.

To Infinity and Beyond: How space colonization may be happening sooner than we could have imagined.

The human race has only ever inhabited planet earth. For much of human history, astronomy, outer space, and the universe at large has been an object of wonder and marvel. We have always discovered much of what we know about our world by studying that which is physically beyond our human
capacity to reach.

In the late 1950s however, everything changed. The Soviet Union launched Sputnik, the first ever man-made satellite to be placed in earth’s orbit, and thus began what is commonly referred to as the “Space Race”. In December of 1969, Apollo 8 was launched, and the first three humans in the entirety of human history left earth’s orbit.

Our fascination with space has taken on many forms. What was once a spiritual and religious interest has progressively shifted to become a utility of weaponization and competition. Within the last few decades there has been serious talk of colonizing space.

Many astrophysicists, astronomers, and space expansionists have come to the conclusion that space colonization is not as much a far fetched fantasy as it is a necessity. We must find a way to sustain human life outside of earth, or else humanity risks extinction. Of course evacuating earth to save the human species is inevitable within the next billion years as the sun will
eventually make the earth inhabitable, but the idea that perhaps within our life time, human beings will begin living outside of earth’s orbit seems crazy to imagine.

The conflicts that will arise with space colonization are what make its prospects so distant and seemingly unimaginable. The way scientists phrase it now, it seems as though this will be an event that will connect all of humanity together in an effort to strive towards one grand, unifying cause: the continuation and salvation of the human species. The problem with this is how we have dealt with space exploration in the past.

Our exploration efforts have always been framed as a kind of competition. Between the Space Race of the 20th century and the newest addition of the Space Force to the United States military as of 2019, it seems as though we have been preparing for space colonization in a disjointed and competitive way. If the scientists are correct in their assumptions about the necessity of space colonization, the leaders of our global community must find peace and some kind of common ground in order for our endeavors to ever be successful.

The more concerning problem that will arise from space colonization is the problem of our own humanity. What comes into question is the existential reality of human life on earth, the only kind of life we have ever known. Our human condition has been tethered to earth for all of human history, so if and when we begin to colonize planets other than earth, it seems like the very fabric of our humanity will be affected.

I don’t know that space colonization is going to be the great unifying endeavor that scientists are optimistically hoping it will be. I do hope that if and when humans begin to live outside earth’s orbit, some semblance of our humanity will remain intact as we embark on this new, extraterrestrial endeavor.

Sources: Healthline, CNN

Consider Pet Ethics: It’s the “leashed” we can do.

Owning pets is normalized in many cultures and has been for centuries. Pets are beloved members of our families; we name them, we give them special toys and treats, and we love them as one of our own. The debate on the ethics of owning pets is rarely broached in conversation, but seems to be a worthy  topic of further contemplation.

The argument for the domestication of animals as pets has multiple dimensions. Domesticating animals is ultimately a good thing because the alternatives could be far worse. As pets, animals are treated, cared for, and loved in a way that animals in factory farms, animals testing labs, circuses, and zoos are not. Their quality of life is so improved that it seems wrong to leave them to suffer. The other argument for pet ownership is a recognition of the seemingly symbiotic relationship between pet and owner. The owner cares for and loves the pet, and likewise, the pet show affection and love for its owner in return. Many animal owners have found solace, companionship, and love in their pet. The playing field seems level. We love our pets, and our pets love us.

However, in reality, this can never actually be the case, at least not by definition. The assumption that there exists a symbiotic relationship between pets and their owners is problematic just by nature of the words we use to describe the dynamic itself. One is called owner, the other is not. This implies that no matter the level of seeming equality we think exists between the two members of the relationship, ultimately one, the human, owns the other, the pet. Thus a hierarchy of power is inherent to the relationship.

As much as we try to elevate animals to members of our families by rescuing and naming them, including them in Christmas cards, and loving them fiercely, we do not ever treat them as such simply by virtue of the relationship between the two. We cannot treat them as equals, true equals, because they are not. Not only do we buy and sell them, but we also breed them, and this is all to make the animal dependent on the human.

This is why the animals rights activism group PETA is opposed to pet ownership. The power dynamic that exists within the relationship creates an inherently unfair disadvantage for the pets. Even when we are taking care of our pets, we have control over basically all aspects of their lives. As humans, we decide what food they will eat and when, we choose where they will live, and we dictate commands that they must learn and obey.

What is fundamentally wrong with the assumption that the relationship between pets and their owners is symbiotic is that, by definition, it never can be. As humans, we have created a structure of power and control that the animals are unable to escape.

This all seems rather bleak, but by no means am I telling you to get rid of your pets. I am aware that for the most part, people take good care of their pets, they treat them with dignity and respect, and do truly love them. There is, however, something we as a human species can do to better understand the relationship we have to our pets, and thus make the concept of pet ownership more ethical: we can recognize and admit to the power dynamic that inherently exists instead of trying to pretend that it doesn’t.

At the end of the day, most pet enthusiasts are right; owning pets in a safe, loving, and caring environment is a far more ethical way to treat animals than leaving them at the hands of abusers, large factory farms, or as testing specimens. If we can admit to the existing hierarchy of power that we ourselves have created as we continue to treat our pets with love and care, there is no reason to eradicate the domestication of animals.

Sources: treehugger.com

An Extended Family Easter: Opinions editor Sofia Na describes her family’s Eastern tradition.

For the second year in a row, Easter will look a lot different than it usually does. Despite the changes COVID-19 has brought on, I hold on to hope that next year my family will be able to carry out all the traditions we usually do.

My family has always made a big deal out of Easter. For us, celebrating Easter is just as big as celebrating Christmas. There are a few traditions we have just in our immediate family, and we also have extended family traditions that have been around since before I was born.

Every year on Easter Sunday, my family goes to church for a celebratory breakfast and an early morning service. When we get back, we have an easter egg hunt with hard boiled eggs that we decorate ourselves. After that, we open our Easter baskets, eat more chocolate than we probably should, and spend the rest of the day just hanging out together.

The extended family Easter traditions have been around since my before my parents were even born. My grandfather, his sister, and both of their spouses began celebrating Easter together when they first got married. What started as just a four-person dinner has now evolved into an almost 40-person family gathering. I am one of thirteen grandchildren, and I have thirteen second cousins and almost 20 aunts and uncles combined. Every year, both families gather together for one big Easter dinner. It’s a huge group, but there’s always so much love and food to go around. It’s one of my favorite days of the year.

Of course Easter will look a little different this year, but my family is excited to celebrate Christ’s resurrection nonetheless. We can’t wait to bring back all the traditions next year!

Practicing Gratitude: Eastern’s professors have shown their dedication and support in a most uplifting way.

For whatever reason, the novelty of living on campus during the pandemic has worn off. Many students were excited to return to residence living at the start of the fall semester, but now we are in the midst of our second on-campus COVID-19 semester this spring and many resident students have voiced an overwhelmingly weary response to the almost daily question, “how are you doing?”

The excitement and optimism that comes with being a new college student has worn off for many freshmen, a COVID-19 affected semester has pretty much been the norm for sophomores, juniors are growing tired and the road of academics ahead seems long and draining, and most seniors are just ready to be finished. This all time low of energy and morale has manifested itself in a rather dismal way on campus.

This semester has proven to be more challenging than most, and yet, there has been an outpouring of love, support, and understanding from many of the professors here at Eastern. I count myself fortunate to have been able to learn under such caring professors, and although things have not been easy, I am ever grateful for the ways in which my professors have shown unwavering support for their students during this incredibly difficult semester.

Where the administration has faltered in adequately assessing and supporting student’s needs, particularly regarding mental health, professors have been ever present and able to provide more individualized and personal care for us. In doing so, they have made this semester bearable. From being flexible with deadlines to lightening the reading load during the week that would have been spring break, my professors have gone above and beyond to ensure that we are taking care of ourselves and our mental health.

Beyond extensions and flexibility, my professors have been great about communicating with me on a personal level. They ask me how I am and they really mean it. They are willing to meet with me, either via zoom or in person to just talk about life. I have had some truly meaningful conversations with professors, even some with whom I am not currently in class, in which I am reminded that we, both professors and students, are not machines. We are human beings who are meant to be in community with each other, who are allowed to struggle, and who are capable of so much, despite the setbacks we have faced over this past year.

It is so easy to get wrapped up in our own heads and think that we are facing this monster of a semester by ourselves. But in speaking with professors, I am comforted in knowing that with all their extra years of wisdom and experience, they can still relate to us on a very human level. More than anything else, I have an immense amount of gratitude for the professors under which I have had the privilege of learning.

As a senior, I have already begun reflecting on my time here at Eastern. What stands out to me more than anything is the quality of care I have received not just academically, but also personally. As challenging as this last academic year has been for me, I take comfort in knowing that I am not alone. Through it all, my professors have been a bright light of peace, understanding, and genuine care for their students.

Done With Doane: A student shares her experience in Eastern’s on-campus quarantine facility.

The ongoing Coronavirus pandemic has transformed the 2020-2021 academic year into one like no other. Between new on-campus visitation policies, zoom and hybrid classes, and required face masks and social distancing, this year has been a challenge to say the least. While most students have been trying their best to just stay safe, healthy and focused on school, the policies and rules set up to protect students’ health and wellness have done anything but.

I was sent into quarantine on the first day of classes this semester. What I had hoped would be an exciting and memorable last first day of classes of my undergraduate career quickly turned into a pandemonium of confusion, frustration, and fear.

I was neither in contact with someone who had Covid nor was I infected myself, and yet I was told that I would need to either go home or quarantine in Doane for the next two weeks. The health center called me as soon as I finished my class. I was completely thrown off guard, and yet, I was told that I would need to decide my plan of action immediately.

Although I did not know why I had been contact traced as I had received a negative COVID-19 test not three days prior, I was unable to ask the health center any questions. They called me right as their office was closing, which meant I had only a brief window of time to call my parents and figure out what I was going to do for the next two weeks.

I ended up deciding to quarantine on campus, not wanting to potentially infect my family with anything. Although last semester students who were contact traced were allowed to quarantine in their dorms, that was not the case this semester. Despite living in an on-campus apartment with a private entrance and exit, I was not permitted to quarantine there. I was initially confused about this seemingly illogical rule, but, as I was unfamiliar with the quarantine process to begin with, I eventually made my way to Doane. I was not prepared for the next few days that would await me.

When my roommate and I arrived at Doane, we were let in by public safety. We soon found out that there was absolutely no adult supervision, health care professional or otherwise. We were completely and utterly alone. We were given a room number but no instructions on how to find it. We wandered about aimlessly until another quarantined student showed us the way.

We arrived at our room and found trash on the floor, supposedly left over from the students who had stayed in this room previously. This meant the room had not been properly sanitized prior to our stay.

As my roommate and I set out to find cleaning products, we stumbled upon the communal bathroom with no sink dividers or plexiglass to be found.I found this interesting because everywhere else on campus there are dividers up in-between sinks to prevent potential contamination and infection. Here, in the quarantine building where it would make sense to have heightened precautionary measures in place, it seemed as though no extra safety measures had been taken to ensure our safety.

We explored a bit more around the building and found that on the ground floor, almost all the windows were broken. This meant that anyone from the outside could potentially enter the building. This made us feel incredibly unsafe. Additionally, we were not given a key to our room which only locked from the inside. What was already going to be a stressful two week situation was now beginning to feel incredibly unsafe.

After staying in Doane for two nights, my roommate and I decided that we felt so unsafe that we would be better off at home. We left shortly after and completed the remainder of our quarantine at our respective houses. I encourage any students who are placed in Doane to quarantine to seek an alternative plan of action if possible.

I find it incredibly difficult to imagine that an institution of higher education would not extend health center hours, provide adequate and safe housing for potentially infected students, and seek to provide as much supportive guidance and care as possible while operating during a global pandemic. And yet, my experience here has unfortunately turned something I once found hard to imagine into something I witnessed first hand.

Who Should Take Offense?: Insight into the complexities of anti-Asian racism in America.

There has been a recent spike in the news regarding anti-Asian racism, primarily as a result of the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic. While tensions have surely been heightened during the last year, racism against Asians in America has existed for much of our nation’s history. And yet, what we see now is a spike in awareness that ought to make us all seriously consider how and why racism exists in America against the Asian community. I hesitate to use the phrase, “Asian community”, because it potentially generalizes an entire continent to fit a single narrative. While the topic of anti-Asian racism is incredibly important, it is often accompanied by a host of complex biases and resonates monolithically with many who encounter the phrases “Asian racism” or “Asian-American”.

Like other racial issues, the problems with anti-Asian racism are multi-dimensional. The first step in understanding the racism that exists for the Asian community in the United States is to acknowledge who is included in this overgeneralized term.

The term “Asian” instinctually denotes an image of east Asian for many people. Korea, Japan, and China are the main countries people think about when they encounter the word; south, central, west, and southeast Asians are rarely taken into consideration. Because of this, the recent anti-Asian racism to which people have been referring has centered around COVID related hate crimes, as phrases like “Kung-Flu” and “the Chinese virus” circulate the media. There have been almost 3,000 documented reports of coronavirus-related attacks since March of 2020. When these stories are brought to our attention, they are the stories that paint the narrative of anti-Asian racism.

While this is true to an extent, there seems to be a larger problem that many activists are unwilling to address. The claim is that we should all be more attuned to the anti-Asian racism that exists in our nation. However, as a society we have refused to acknowledge that anti-Asian racism does not just occur for those whose resemblance is shared with east Asians. While the spike in hate crimes against Asian Americans has surely risen as a result of the coronavirus, so has our society’s inability to broaden its conception of the Asian American experience.

I have been asked on multiple occasions if I was offended by former President Trump’s use of the phrase “the Chinese virus”. While the phrase itself is offensive, as a South Korean, I have no reason to take any personal offense. Unfortunately, this kind of reasoning is often ill-received, and many are shocked and disappointed by my response. One of my best friends is Indian, and no one has ever asked her if she was offended by the phrase. Here we see the rift in our society’s understanding of anti-Asian racism. I should take offense because I look Chinese, and when I don’t take offense, I am accused of internalizing racism. This is clearly a problem.

We must deconstruct our preconceived notions of what anti-Asian racism is before we can begin to address the injustices that occur as its result. Singularly categorizing an entire continent into a universal experience is a sure way to defend the supremacy of the majority by feigning inclusivity and recognition of whatever classification of “minority” suits the situation at hand. While addressing the recent spike in anti-Asian racism as a result of the coronavirus is important, it is equally important to resist condensing the Asian or Asian American community to just Chinese or even east Asian. To use blanket terms like “Asian” or “Asian American” without
considering the entirety of the Asian community is to perpetuate an inaccurate conception of what it actually means to be Asian.

Sources: PBS

Vaccination Site Opens At KOP Mall: Montgomery County sets up a COVID-19 vaccination site at the mall.

As COVID-19 vaccines are becoming increasingly more available to the general public, Mountain Productions, a Pennsylvania-based staging company, is anticipating a flood of vaccine availability within the next few weeks and has begun to set up a massive vaccination site in King of Prussia to facilitate Montgomery County’s vaccine distribution. Although the company traditionally uses their equipment to set up large stage productions for music festivals and other events of that nature, Mountain Productions has had to readjust their business strategy in order to remain afloat during the pandemic. Over the past year, they have done this by constructing various testing and vaccination sites across 12 states.

This vaccination site is located just outside the King of Prussia Mall, in the parking lot of the former Babies R Us. The two main structures being built are sized at 30 feet by 140 feet, and are each designed to accommodate a 10-lane carport. They are also in the process of constructing more carports which will provide an additional four lanes to facilitate extra drive-through testing and vaccinations. Additionally, multiple shipping containers have been set up in order to safely store the vaccines. Assuming it receives an adequate number of doses from the state, the pop-up site will be able to administer around 3,000 vaccines a day. The drive-through method will allow for a safer, and more efficient vaccination process.

15 to Know is a locally based COVID-19 testing company who is sponsoring the facility. Although they have not received the official clearances or supplies from the Pennsylvania Department of Health, the rapid-testing company is optimistic that soon, the King of Prussia site will be able to open at full capacity for both testing and vaccination needs in the Montgomery County area.

Currently, there are two vaccination sites in Montgomery County: one is located at Montgomery County Community College Blue Bell, and the other is at Norristown Area High School’s gymnasium. Each site can administer around 1,000 vaccines per day. The Pennsylvania State Department has not confirmed that the King of Prussia testing site will be available for drive-through vaccinations, as only community clinics have been given the clearances to administer the vaccine at this time. However, Mountain Productions CEO Ricky Rose remains hopeful that as the federal government allocates more doses, the King of Prussia site will be fully equipped to handle the flux of vaccines.

While both 15 to Know and Mountain Productions have taken the preliminary steps to secure a safe and efficient vaccination site for Montgomery County residents, both companies are aware that right now, it is still a waiting game. With so much uncertainty regarding dosage availability from state to state, there is no guarantee that their site will be utilized for vaccinations. Until their site is approved, it will be continued to be used as a testing site, but the expectation is that soon, they will be able to dually administer tests and vaccinations once large-scale vaccination clinics are permitted to operate in the Montgomery County area.

Sources: The Philadelphia Inquirer, FOX 29 Philadelphia.

Smoking or Non? A closer look at the COVID-19 vaccine availability list.

As the COVID-19 vaccine is becoming increasingly more available to vulnerable and essential members of our communities, there has been some dispute over who should and should not be included on the prioritized vaccine availability list.

States like Pennsylvania and Delaware have expanded the availability list to include “Persons aged 65 and older” as well as, “Persons aged 16-
64 who have at least one of the following chronic medical conditions that poses high-risk for severe COVID-19”. The list of chronic medical conditions includes cancer, kidney disease, diabetes, and various heart conditions, among others. One qualification that is included on this list of “chronic medical conditions” has sparked particular interest in my immediate circles: smoking.

The compromised health state of a habitual smoker is most definitely something state officials need to factor in when trying to allocate COVID vaccine resources, and it is evident that they have done so, as they have been included on the priority vaccine availability list.

The issue arises with the ethics of it. One of my family members who is a smoker has voiced an ethical concern regarding his access to the vaccine. He sees smoking as a choice, and though it can and often does morph into an addiction for most, it should not be considered as a reason to be prioritized for the vaccine, especially when illnesses like cancer and various other uncontrollable health conditions
are being placed on the same list. He has opted out of getting the vaccine at this point in order to ensure that the elderly, and more vulnerable population has access to the proper resources first, and is hoping to eventually get vaccinated with the rest of the general
public.

Something positive to come out of the pandemic at large is that many smokers are quitting due to the added health risks it poses as a result of the nature of the coronavirus. If this is the case, then perhaps adding smokers to the priority access vaccine list has encouraged individuals who are addicted to smoking to quit.

Most health experts will tell you to get vaccinated if you can, but ultimately the decision up to the individual. Until it becomes more readily available to the larger population, we can only hope that those most vulnerable of our society, smoking or non, are given proper access to the COVID-19 vaccine.

The Art of Journaling: An insight into reflective writing.

Journaling can look different for everybody. Some people like to bullet journal to stay organized, some prefer a short, daily entry, and others are utterly overwhelmed by the prospect.

I have been an avid journaler for around three years now. What once started as a failed discipline attempt in high school has evolved into one of the most important things in my life. But it didn’t always come easily.

I used to make myself journal as nothing more than a habit. I would usually go strong for a few months, but soon I would get too busy and forget about it altogether. This resulted in my accumulating around 15 half-empty journals.

What I discovered about myself was that journaling wouldn’t work for me if it was something I made myself do. Discipline was not what I needed out of it- I had to go deeper. It was only when I began journaling in college that I realized how big of an impact it could really have on my life.

I stopped taking the process so seriously, and in turn, I was able to actually sustain the habit. I approached journaling as a necessity, not an ultimatum. I started writing because I needed space to unpack all the thoughts in my head I couldn’t quite articulate out loud. After that first entry, I was basically unstoppable.

I am now five journals in, and every one has saved my life in a deeply profound way. I have a few rituals I do for every journal: I write the same three quotes on the inside cover, I write myself a letter and leave a blank page at the end of every book for future reflections, and I always have a page dedicated to prayer. Aside from those three constants, no journal ever looks the same. Sometimes it’s just pages of writing followed by random doodles, paintings, or sketches. I do magazine collaging, scrapbooking, and stick in random polaroids. Scattered throughout are receipts, concert tickets, and other little mementos that give each journal texture and life.

If you are interested in journaling, but have found it difficult to do so in the past, I encourage you to approach it as a safe space, with no guidelines and no quotas to meet. You might find, like I did, that the freer you allow yourself to write and create, the more you will appreciate its beauty.