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Skateboards, art, memes: Student pastimes and reflections during a pandemic

Stuck at home, Duke students are taking the time to learn new skills and develop new passions. First-year Karam Oubari said that he has used his extended homestay to teach himself how to ride a RipStik skateboard. 

“I just wanted to have something fun to do outside [during the quarantine], and this seemed like something fun and easy to pick up,” Oubari said. “With perseverance and passion, anything is possible.”

Social distancing and remote learning have given some students newfound free time, encouraging them to explore new hobbies or reflect on the recent changes in their lives. 

Senior Elise Brown, who is staying in an apartment near campus, has started creating artwork to fill the time. At Duke, she enjoyed painting in the Arts Annex, which is no longer an option due to the closure of campus and a Durham stay-at-home order, but she’s since made painting elsewhere part of her quarantine routine. 

“When I take breaks from schoolwork, I try to [paint],” Brown said. “It’s a nice way to take a break from work for a bit—to throw on some headphones, put on a podcast and paint away. I’ve had to get more creative with what I do in my leisure time, since meeting up with friends is no longer an option.”

Others have turned to making memes as a hobby during the pandemic.

Senior Cade McCurdy, who is still living on campus, created and shared a series of memes on the Duke Memes for Gothicc Teens Facebook group. McCurdy related the current state of student life to sports personality Stephen A. Smith, finding that Smith’s dramatic reactions and hot takes made him a great source of content. 

“Stephen A. memes have a huge following on Twitter... it was a format familiar to me that might be new to a lot of people, plus as you can see from the end results, he’s quite versatile and has a ton of great memorable moments,” McCurdy said. “I put them in the Facebook group because I figured if I was in need of distraction, other people would as well, so might as well share my creations. Plus I’ve had some well-received memes in the past and it’s a nice dopamine rush when people like your content.”

Quarantining has also made time for reflection. 

McCurdy said that he realized it is important for people, especially younger Duke students, to not take life for granted. 

“I’m really crushed. I’m bad at saying goodbyes,” McCurdy said. “Don’t wait until senior year to have fun, make friends and make memories. I know at Duke, the motto is ‘Work as hard as possible as often as possible,’ but make sure you make time to enjoy yourself because this [situation] shows you never know when it might all come to an end and you’ve missed your opportunity.”

Brown shared similar advice with students who still have time on campus. 

“Find the time to try a new hobby while you’re on campus,” she said. “Maybe you’ll like going to the [Rubenstein Arts Center] to practice some new dance routines, or maybe you’ll enjoy playing video games in the video game room in Edens. Also, try going to events on campus that might be outside of your immediate area of study... you never know what you’ll learn or who you’ll meet!”


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