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    - photo by Narsis Holmes

In the spring of 2020, I was studying abroad in Spain and having the time of my life. Like many other young adults, I thought I was invincible, and nothing could get in my way. Then along came COVID, and I realized I was wrong. After a hurried evacuation out of Spain, I was able to ride out the worst of the pandemic with my family at my childhood home in San Antonio. What I learned from my time in isolation is how much I took for granted the little things in life. I missed aimlessly walking through Target with my friends and going to the movies. I even missed going shopping at Walmart and H-E-B without feeling like I was in the middle of the apocalypse. 

More than anything, the pandemic made me realize how much I needed human interaction.

Up until last year, being a student meant I was constantly around people. COVID showed me how important real interaction with classmates and teachers is. As an architecture student, there’s something truly special about staying up all night with your classmates while working on a project. Normally, the studio is energized with students bouncing ideas off one another and lifting each other up when they fall down. Late-night studio is something unique to behold, but it’s completely different when you are the only student around. 

My first late night of studio in quarantine was an unrecognizable experience. The silence seemed to eat away at any creativity I had. I missed the constant noise of people playing their music and joking around. I had to learn how to adjust to my new studio surroundings. I played music and podcasts, or FaceTimed with friends to help fill the emptiness. Eventually, it worked: I was able to finish out the semester with relatively successful projects. It wasn’t the semester I had imagined, but at least it was over.

But even though I was able to adjust to the new realities of COVID, I still longed for the day things would return to normal. As my final semester of undergrad approached, I realized “normal” was still a long way away. My last semester of college was completely different than what I had imagined it to be. Throughout my time at Texas Tech, I had enjoyed every day of college, from learning about architecture to playing in the marching band, to just hanging out with my friends. I always thought that my senior year would be even better than the previous ones. I imagined performing at halftime again, having my ring ceremony, taking class photos, doing one last great road trip with my friends, and having my massive family come to Lubbock to celebrate my graduation. Instead, most of my senior year was spent in my apartment, watching movies with the three roommates in my “bubble.” Although I didn’t have the senior year I imagined, I was still grateful for the people I had around me.

As the last semester came to an end, I was starting the process of preparing for life after Texas Tech. Many times, I asked myself if it was worth it to go to grad school in the fall of 2021. At that point, it seemed like COVID was going to be in our lives forever and that life would never go back to anything resembling what it had been before. I didn’t know if I could take two more years of solitude studio. 

Then things began to change. The world slowly started opening up again; people began to get vaccinated; and both hospitalization and death rates began to decline. Although we’re still not back to normal, things are better.

As I prepare to head off to graduate school at The University of Texas at Austin, I have time to reflect on everything that’s happened since March of 2020. COVID has shown me the importance of human interaction. Yes, we’re strong enough to muddle through anything for a little while, but if the last 18 months have shown me anything, it’s that, as important as architecture may be, the spaces I design will be meaningless unless there are people in them. 

Narsis Holmes graduated from Texas Tech this past spring with a Bachelor of Science in architecture. After a summer working at Lake|Flato Architects, she will begin her graduate work at UT Austin in the fall. Holmes played clarinet in the Texas Tech Goin’ Band from Raiderland.

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