Being a College Student during a Pandemic

March 6, the Friday before my spring break began, I worked from noon to around 5, got a pizza for dinner, and took the bus to town for a fun night out. Little did I know that would be my last shift, last time dining in, or having any late night fun in my college town before the pandemic tightened its grip on what was my normal.

Once I was home for spring break, I was just happy to be home and finally have a break from my five classes and work. I read some of the news about COVID-19 and how it was affecting mainly older people and didn’t think too much of it at first. I thought most people were overreacting about its seriousness and closing businesses was a sign of that overreaction.

As the days of my break ticked by, the news grew worse and worse, and more measures were being taken to curb the spread. The growing emphasis on staying at home and limiting the size of crowds, regardless of age, had me reconsidering my doubt about the magnitude of the COVID-19. Now I was scared, unsure what this meant returning to my campus where crowding was inevitable.

As news poured in about college campuses either extending spring break or transitioning classes online, I wondered what actions my college would take. Each day from the living room couch, which was now where I did everything, I’d check my email for any news on what I could expect to go back to –in person classes, cancelled classes, or all online.

The break was extended another week, but online classes continued as usual, as I constantly checked for updates on the fate of classes to follow policies limiting large gatherings and social distancing.

Finally, an email was sent out at the end of the second week of break that all classes would be moved online. I was relieved at the news, thinking I would have more time on my hands to take in the changes with online classes and moving back home.

Still, I decided to go back to my dorm when classes went online because I wanted to make the most of my room and get my money’s worth before leaving. I had the whole room to myself with no one to distract me. It was great, until the loneliness crept in.

Sometimes it was way too quiet. There was nothing to do. Nothing was open where I could just sit and spend time. Most of my time was spent alone in my dorm studying or walking around campus. 

Classes seemed more intense than before, consuming most of my days. My professors found the pandemic as an opportunity to add on extra assignments that weren’t in the syllabi including discussion posts, equipment, and other requirements. 

The transition to online was not a smooth one. It grew rougher after moving completely out of my dorm to back home with my mom.

New routine. New stressors. New responsibilities. Slow internet. It was as if everything fell in on me at once. Now not only was I worried about a pandemic, I was worried about near daily deadlines for assignments and the reliability of my internet connection for Zoom calls. 

Waking up early grew harder since I didn’t have to be in a certain class everyday, except for Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Routine was also hard to keep up since everything was virtual and so many assignments heightened my stress.

The professors were relentless, all the while preaching how understanding they would be in this difficult time and offering readings and viewings we could do in our nonexistent free time. Not having time for much else outside of sleep and new assignments and Zoom calls, my stress and anxiety worsened. 

One day, I couldn’t help but breakdown completely, feeling I didn’t have the motivation left to keep going because I had no time for self-care or adjusting to a life spent inside. I was worried about the future, if there’d be one, after the pandemic resolved.

As for colleges reopening in the fall, I have mixed feelings. Part of me misses campus life and in-person events. Another part of me knows it’s too soon to resume in-person classes, especially large lectures, on the same scale as before the quarantine. 

Hopefully, for the health safety of staff and students, my university will limit physical social contact for classes and keep courses online until a vaccine is available for the virus. Whatever we can do to slow the spread of new infections we should do.

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