Connecting with Tigers in the Time of COVID

Oct. 20, 2020

Photo of Diana Dayoub ’21 and Polina Zhilkina ’22
Diana Dayoub ’21 at right, with Polina Zhilkina ’22 Photo by Noel Valero ’82

From the Instagram of Diana Dayoub ’21:

March, after almost all Princeton students were sent home because of the pandemic, I stayed on campus because neither the current Administration’s Muslim travel ban nor the pandemic travel restrictions were helping my return to my family in Syria. On a beautiful spring day as campus was blooming, I crossed Polina on a walk and said hi shyly. I had seen her once before at a Princeton gathering for students from the United World College (@uwc_io), an international high school we both attended, she in the Netherlands and I in Armenia. In June, I invited Polina for Syrian coffee on the porch of the 2 Dickinson co-op. Being from Russia, she also had to remain on campus, given the unpromising prospects of returning home due to the pandemic. Polina arrived, cautious of this unexpected invitation, and sipped the coffee I had made her. What followed was a two-hour conversation about the pandemic, our families and so much more. I didn't realize at the time that that was the beginning of friendship that would alleviate the stress of a lonely summer. On a July night on one of the benches at Poe Field, Polina told me that it’s a strange world we live in that brought her from a small Russian town and me from a little suburb outside Damascus to #PrincetonU. This summer, we had every reason to radiate frustration, but I’m proud that we chose to enjoy long walks, speak at length in Italian (a language we both learned at Princeton) about how Princeton changed our lives, take pleasure in every morning coffee we sipped and treat ourselves on Saturday mornings after a long week of work to fresh chocolate croissants from @swcoffee. What my friendship with Polina has taught me is that we might be in the middle of a global pandemic, our futures uncertain, our loved ones far away, but it’s only ever good to enjoy the little moments we have because it’s all we own. This semester, we’re flatmates. Polina makes tea when I’m stressed, I cook majadara (a traditional Syrian dish), and we get chocolate croissants every Saturday." — Diana Dayoub ’21 (@dianadyob)