Holding onto that “spark”

By Kihei Staruch-Paikai, English Major & ACH Clear Pathways/Community Writing Center Intern

When students near the end of their undergraduate education, they often experience a mix of emotions. There’s this odd sense of feeling like you’ve just run a marathon and someone, somewhere is expecting you to run five more. Do you know what I mean? It’s the end, yet only the beginning (as cliché as it sounds). While I still have the rest of this semester to complete, I’m taking it in stride, relishing in the little moments. 

If someone were to have asked me in previous years, “what do you think your last semester at college is going to look like?” I definitely would not have anticipated that it’d be amidst a global pandemic. Yet, here we are.

It’s an incredibly strange time, especially for academics. Not only has it been strange, but lonely, as well. With not being able to visit each other in person as often as we once were, the time of the coronavirus has proven to be quite the test. To preface, I’m extremely privileged, in that both myself and my family are well. Many are afflicted with an unjust and much greater suffering than I could ever come to understand.

With that being said, I, like other students, am finding it difficult to motivate myself, nurture creativity, and hold onto that “spark” in academics. Most days, I hardly leave my room. Having elected to take my courses online, I’m happy with my decision to do so…overall. I do take comfort in the fact that if I were asymptomatic, I’m not infecting my peers or other Duquesne faculty. I also didn’t want to risk anything, especially with this being my last semester and all. Despite all its pros, the cons weigh heavily in everyday life. My schedule nowadays is very cut and dry. At least, it was until my internship with ACH Clear Pathways began. While it has only been a week, I’ve already noticed a significant change.

ACH’s students are incredibly warm, enthusiastic, and bright. It’s amazing to see how, in just this short amount of time, their creativity, their imagination, and their energy have had such a positive influence on my work life. Days spent inside seem less dreary, and more colorful. The relationship I’ve built with coursework during the time of the pandemic is slowly beginning to restore. For me, it’s precisely that child-like wonder and fun that’s been lacking. Earlier in March, school became something that I “just need to get through.” I carried this mentality with me throughout the summer and the first weeks of the semester. Having now gained a new perspective, I’m beyond excited to continue working with such brilliant and inspirational young minds. I look forward to helping these students in their writing and creative projects. Not only that, but I also look forward to the laughs we’ll share and the joys we will bring one another. From experience, I know just how important it is to cling to each other for support (whether it be academic or personal). Though these sessions are conducted virtually, this, by no means, diminishes their value. The impact that ACH students have since had on me is nothing short of magic. I hope that in some way, I can reciprocate this feeling. That is my ultimate goal of the semester. I want to walk away from this internship knowing that I’ve left students in full recognition of their potential, their creative talents, and their exceptional genius. I believe that my fellow interns and I agree that while the coronavirus has given us new challenges to face, it has also given us a unique opportunity to encourage and support one another in the community, making this “reconnection” to the outside world all the more precious and rewarding.

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