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The Penn Pandemic Diary is an outlet for Penn students and affiliates to share how the coronavirus has affected them. Credit: Chase Sutton

The coronavirus is raging across the world, upending the personal and academic lives of college students and professors. Questions of how society will recover and how the pandemic will affect academics linger.

To record the thoughts and experiences of the Penn community, Perry World House launched an initiative called the Penn Pandemic Diary to give them a platform to tell their stories during the outbreak.

The idea for the diary project was created by John Gans, Perry World House Director of Communications and Research, to help Penn students share how the coronavirus is affecting their lives, Perry World House Director Michael Horowitz said. Perry World House seeks to publish three to four diary entries per week, which can be submitted anonymously or under a byline, according to the submission form.

The first diary entry, titled "Three Ways COVID-19 Will Affect the Study of International Relations and Security," was published on March 25 by Erik Lin-Greenberg, a postdoctoral fellow at Perry World House. Ten diary entries have been published to date, covering topics such as how semesters abroad were cut short and how the pandemic is affecting poor communities.

Wharton sophomore Ali Khambati wrote a diary entry, which was published on April 2, about how he has experienced the pandemic from his native city of Dallas, Texas. He shared how despite originally opposing strict safety measures in Dallas due to the virus's limited impact, his perspectives changed over time as the coronavirus continued to spread.

"While I had always assured myself the long-term implications of this virus would be negligible, I started [to] think beyond my own personal world," Khambati wrote, calling on Americans to be conscious of those who are considered high-risk. 

Khambati said he was interested in being a part of the Penn Pandemic Diary initiative because it was an opportunity to share his voice and unique perspective during these unprecedented times.

He praised the diary project for giving a voice to people living their ordinary lives, which he said can help show how broad the implications of the virus are. He added that it is important to consider the broader global community in the context of a worldwide crisis.

Horowitz said the project is indicative of how Perry World House is maintaining its role of bringing the Penn community together even when students, faculty, and other affiliates are spread across the world.

Perry World House has taken other steps to bring the global Penn community together in addition to the diary project, Horowitz said. Perry World House has relaunched their "The World Today" event series in virtual event format and has held several other virtual events and conferences.

On April 7, Vice Provost for Global Initiatives Ezekiel Emanuel spoke at a virtual Perry World House event, titled "Are We Winning The War Against Coronavirus?" He criticized the government's shortsighted response to the coronavirus and predicted that the pandemic will last for another 18 months.

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