I always saw the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) as a daunting exam; nevertheless, the fact that so many students would be taking it with me physically gave me some sense of moral support, even if that support was coming from strangers.

I never expected studying for this exam to take such a different turn with the pandemic hitting during my first semester of studying; suddenly, I no longer had the presence of random students trying their best at a beast of an exam, the library corner that I had claimed specifically for MCAT studying, or the friends that I needed to tell me that I could do whatever I set my mind to. Yes, the pandemic shifted the way I had planned to study for this test, but not for a moment did I think that a virus, invisible to the naked eye, could take my focus away from the end goal. In retrospect, our dreams may often take a different path than we initially planned, but we can still arrive where we want.

As a college student, school is so much more than the exams I take and the grades I work towards; it's about people, the walk from biology class to the Activity Center, the spontaneous conversations with professors, and above all, the joy it gives to simply be a recipient of a good education. Even during exams, amongst all the contagious fret and worry that seemed to run through the lecture hall, knowing that friends and strangers were around me, taking the test with me in proximity, had a sort of calming relief as I began my test.

Since the beginning of the Fall semester, I have been studying for the MCAT, a medical school admissions exam. Like many others taking entrance exams, wearing a mask for seven hours was not quite the experience I had imagined. I knew that studying for this test was going to be challenging due to the sheer amount of information that had to be learned, but I hadn’t taken into account the challenge that Covid-19 would bring; I hadn’t fully appreciated what it meant to sit in the library with my friends, cramming for a class. Although I knew my friends across state borders were studying for the exam as well, I couldn’t help but feel a certain demotivation that came along with not seeing them and feeling their energy as we struggled and persevered as a group.

Although my test is now complete, it reminded me of what it means to be in the presence of those who make you feel like while every day may be a struggle, we are always victorious at the end. Covid has been hard for many; as a student, I thought that the convenience of simply having my bedroom as my office would make life so much easier; while that is true to some degree, for me, people matter; the conversations on campus matter; spontaneous moments with professors matter and Covid has somewhat altered that reality, replacing it with a new one.

As humans, we have always adjusted and evolved; in fact, the current pandemic is a testament to that very idea. While every day seems to be prey to the routine of yesterday, it is in fact our ability as a species to continue dreaming, pursuing, and reaching that makes us such a unique community.

Too often during the pandemic I have heard many talk about returning to “normalcy” or going back to the “way things were.” While it may seem like the life we have post-Covid will be a return of our old lives and habits, I believe that we are actually heading into a fresh start, a chance to step into a new way of living.

We all learn something every day and that knowledge makes each day quite different than the previous one; perhaps our very evolution is being put to the test during this pandemic. Can we rise from a strange, unnatural event that has shifted our thinking, our mindset, and our emotions? Can we truly dream during a time when the very institutions that facilitate learning have been diminished to a mere screen? I think we can; as a Jamat, as a community, as a global village, I think we will grow from this time and rise to a better version of ourselves that has learned, that has evolved, that has changed for the better.  I know we will. People will always be a part of our lives, because we need each other to survive, to innovate, to create.

This one moment in time may have slightly changed how we interact and how much, but one thing that will remain constant as we evolve is our everlasting need for each other.