It’s the middle of summer for me, and I’m going my best to emulate my European colleagues and take my break seriously. While I’m doing some research and service during my summer break, I’m also trying to make sure that I reserve plenty of time for rest and relaxation, and so far I’m doing well. I’m especially proud that I’ve stuck to the three-day workweek that I set out for myself at the beginning of the summer.

But I can’t help but think a little bit about the fall quarter, especially now that there are indications that vaccine hesitancy combined with the delta variant of Covid-19 is pushing the end of the pandemic in the U.S. further away. At the moment all of my classes in the fall quarter are scheduled in person, but I’m starting to wonder if that will hold. Thanks to a particularly well-timed research leave and the pandemic, it’s been 20 months since I taught a class in person. In fact, I haven’t seen the inside of my office since November 2019. While there are things I’ve appreciated about the pandemic, including no commute time and virtual office and advising hours (which I plan to keep whenever I get back to the office), I want to teach in person again. I miss the energy I get from interacting in person with students, and nothing I can do in Zoom or via asynchronous interactions can recreate that.

If I’m honest though, I miss more than teaching in person. I miss bumping into my colleagues randomly in the hallways and hearing how their weekend was. I miss seeing the cashiers at the coffee shops that I used to frequent when I was downtown. I miss observing what everyone is wearing on the trains during my commute. But most of all I miss in-person conferences. Virtual conferences have allowed research to continue, for which I’m very grateful, but a virtual conference is not the same as an in-person one. Even on the best virtual platform, it’s tougher to interact with other attendees and it’s nearly impossible to capture the feeling of looking around the room and seeing people you know. And as I discovered at the 2021 ITiCSE conference thanks to their genius idea of having virtual tours of a museum, I miss getting the local flavor of the country and city hosting the conference.

Earlier this summer it made me happy to imagine that I was going to get back to most of these things. Infection rates were dropping in the U.S., and I had fun picturing myself at the office, seeing colleagues and students in person, and even picturing myself travelling for a conference next March. Part of me is still holding onto that idea, but another part of me is afraid that Americans are going to collectively blow our chance at moving past the pandemic. Let’s hope that the optimistic part is right.