wolfpack jean jacket

Courtesy of Rebecca Osborne

Imagine going vegan in the midst of a global pandemic. Nicole Van Buren, a fourth-year studying environmental science, did just that. In March 2020, Van Buren made the decision to switch from a vegetarian diet to a vegan one, choosing to abstain from all animal-derived products.

Van Buren has since recreated many of NC State Dining’s vegan dishes, including its tantalizing chocolate cake. She has been able to share many of her favorite recipes with her friends and classmates via virtual potlucks and Zoom dinner parties.

“The final result, when you share it with someone, they say, ‘Oh my gosh, this is amazing! I have never had something this good!’” Van Buren said. “And then you get to say, ‘and it’s vegan!’ It always blows their minds.”

In one particularly zany incident, Van Buren even shared her chocolate cake with a squirrel that saw the cake through a window and could not resist the temptation. Luckily, the squirrel — and most of the cake — escaped the encounter unscathed.

Van Buren outlined her plans for continuing to experiment with vegan cuisine.

“I really enjoy, not making mistakes, obviously, but messing up a dish and then trying it again,” Van Buren said. “I really like improving on recipes.”

This is a common theme across campus: the start of new hobbies, not veganism. In fact, throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, many students at NC State have either reverted back to old hobbies or cultivated new ones. For many students, the isolation associated with this pandemic has afforded them the opportunity to try new and interesting hobbies, from the culinary arts to painting.

Emma Heard, a fourth-year studying accounting, took up running after the closure of Carmichael Gymnasium and her local gym. Prior to that, she preferred other activities, such as weightlifting. However, Heard now finds running to be an easy way to safely reconnect with friends and family. She credits those relationships as being the reason she runs.

“I would always have a friend come run with me,” Heard said. “We would run together and we would talk. It was really reassuring.”

As the co-president for NC State’s women’s club basketball team, she hopes to implement her new running drills during their practices.

As for running itself, “it’s definitely more approachable,” Heard said

While some students have developed their culinary skills or established new fitness goals, others have discovered a passion for the arts. Rebecca Osborne, a third-year studying psychology, prefers painting.

“It gets me away from the craziness of COVID and being in quarantine,” Osborne said. “It puts me in my own little bubble where that is all that I focus on.”

Now, as campus life returns to normal, Osborne has found new opportunities to showcase her work. This spring, Osborne used her hobby to fundraise for the Kappa Alpha Theta sorority’s philanthropy event, Stars and Kites. As an annual fundraiser, Stars and Kites benefits the Friends of Wake County Guardian ad Litem and Court Appointed Special Advocates.

Stars and Kites features a silent auction with items from numerous community sponsors and donors available for bid. Osborne donated one of her projects, a painted jean jacket, to the auction. It was a big hit, and Osborne has received many requests from friends and family for her personalized jackets.

This is not Osborne’s first new hobby of the pandemic, either.

“I tried painting. I tried coloring, drawing. Everything that you can possibly think of. Scrapbooking — I did it all.” Osborne said.

These three students have perfectly modeled the “Think and Do” mentality by finding new hobbies to keep them busy during the pandemic. When asked if they plan to continue with their hobbies, each one responded with a resounding “definitely!”