April 9, 2020

Did you change your spring break plans because of the virus? From what to what?

I was supposed to go to Chicago for a few days to visit my sister and then to Pittsburgh to see my best friend. I flew into Chicago, and within 3 days of being there, the city closed all restaurants. At that point, I was predicting the university would close for the rest of the semester. I was afraid I was gong to be stuck an airplane ride away from all my stuff in Austin, and worried that airlines would cancel flights. I shortened my trip in Chicago, cancelled plans I had made to do some research at St. Mary’s in Southbend, and instead of flying to Pittsburgh, flew back to Austin to prepare for the coming news.

How did you feel when you were informed the remainder of the semester would be held online?

It was an expected announcement since so many other universities had already switched. I was with my roommate at the time, and we both just sat in shock as we processed it. I thought of all my senior friends who would be missing so many things. I thought of goodbyes I didn’t get to say. My roommate had planned one of the biggest events on campus that was scheduled to happen in a few weeks – and I saw her realize that her months of planning were for nothing. In a way, it was a relief to finally know what was happening, but it didn’t come without sorrow and stress too.

Where will you be living while courses are held online? Is this a change from usual?

I was living in an on campus apartment. St. Ed’s gave us 2 weeks to move out – which is more than most universities I’ve heard. Within a few days, I toured multiple apartments and applied for a new lease off campus. At this point, I had research I was planning to do over the summer in Austin, so it made sense to move and stay in the hopes that I would be able to still conduct my research. However, this process was extremely stressful. All of a sudden, the people who would normally help me move things like furniture were not around. I had to figure out how to set up utilities and internet in a new place, while packing, and trying to prepare for online classes.

What has been your experience with moving classes online? What’s good? What’s not so good?

Having online classes is a very interesting experience. It requires a lot of self-discipline. Some days, I will do work all day long. Other days, I’ll watch TV all day. Most of my teachers have assignments due at the end of the week, or at least give you a few days to work on them. I only have one class that meets on zoom. I enjoy being able to make my own schedule, but it’s really hard to not see other people. I miss walking between my classes so I try to take a break or two everyday to walk outside or take a bike ride. I really miss seeing my professors each day too and the conversations that you get to have in a classroom setting. It’s not the same over zoom, or I don’t even have the opportunity to discuss things because my professors just post lectures. Overall, I know my professors are trying so I try to be patient. Some of them, like Dr. CB, are really good about posting lectures on time and making do-able assignments that hold me accountable. For other classes, I feel like I’m doing busy work. And other professors post lectures late and are so behind on grading, it’s hard to know what’s happening. So there’s a whole spread of experiences – each class is different. I also miss my “school friends” – people that I only see in classes, but we chat twice a week. It’s easy to call up your closest friends, but it’s harder to keep in touch with those people you just casually know.

How has the virus (and the precautions taken to prevent it spreading) impacted your daily life?

A lot! Obviously school and work are now online. I also can’t babysit which I normally do, and families I babysit for have experienced job loss, so I’m not sure how it will work out this summer for a family I was supposed to nanny for. I also try to only go out for groceries every 10 or so days. It’s weird to not go walk in parks or if I do, you have to constantly remember to keep your distance from people. I really miss seeing my friends and giving them hugs! Distance is hard!

How worried are you about getting the virus?

I’m not too worried about getting the virus. I have been really careful about washing my hands constantly and have been doing the normal precautions of drinking a lot of water and trying to boost my immune system. I hope if I got it, I would be okay. You hear stories on both ends of the spectrum about young people. I have a friend who was sick for about 5 days with all the symptoms. She didn’t get tested so she won’t know for sure if she had it or just was sick, but she never got too sick and bounced back without needing medical attention. But then you hear stories of young people with no preexisting conditions who are now on ventilators and it’s hard to not be scared. But, you have to go get groceries. You have to keep living, even in a distant world. There’s not really a way to completely eliminate any possibility of getting it. Even if you order your groceries online, someone else is touching your things before you do.

Do you know anyone who has gotten COVID-19?

Like I said, I know someone who probably had it but her local hospital wouldn’t give her the test. I think it’s only a matter of time before someone I know tests positive.

Are you staying in? What are you doing to pass the time?

Yes! I only leave for walks around the neighborhood or campus since I am close by! Or, I go take a bike ride on a quiet path. My classes keep me pretty busy, but I also am busy trying to do programming for campus ministry. I still lead bible study on Monday nights, try to plan activities through social media, and just wrapped up a Lenten book club. I also have read some books I have been meaning to get to, am finally sleeping enough, and watching a lot of shows on Netflix or Hulu with my roommate. I try to call or FaceTime someone almost every day, and I try to text and check in with other students I know.

Are you going out? Where do you go and what is it like?

I have only really gone to the grocery store, and it wasn’t too crazy. I managed to avoid the days that stores were really picked over. People are friendly. I think they are smiling more now because everyone is scared. When I walk and pass people, they always say hello now. That was not as common before. I think people are desperate for any kind or amount of social interaction. There are X’s on the floor by the check out so that people keep their distance while checking out. A lot of people complain about young people living in a “removed” world and being addicted to social media or having no social skills. Now, people are mad no one will separate or we aren’t content through online communication. I think that’s very ironic. All of a sudden now that we have to be apart, everyone wants to be together.

I also have flown multiple times out of necessity. I’ll include some pictures from the airports – they are just completely empty. They’re trying to save money so they don’t even have all the lights on inside. Almost all the restaurants inside the airports are closed. I only had 8 people on a flight that should have had a few hundred. I also uploaded pictures or videos of what online community looks like or how I’ve tried to pray during this – often things that I share on my social media. And I even included 2 screenshots of texts that are really telling of the times. One if a friend who clearly wants to be present but it’s so hard so she tried to still extend a hand. The other is my group of freshmen from freshmen escape explaining their quarantine experience to me, it about broke my heart. (Please do not include these in the internet publications as they have people other than myself in them!)

What is giving you hope and/or strength right now?

It’s Holy Week right now and as a Catholic it’s really hard to not be able to go to Church during this time. But, I’m finding hope in the resurrection. It’s easy to believe in salvation when everything is going right, but now is when your faith really matters. I asked the students at bible study this on Monday and got a lot of blank stares over zoom. It’s not easy to have a lot of hope right now – so many experiences and opportunities are cancelled, and so many people are sick. But, I think to make it through we have to be hopeful (and realistic) about it ending. I’m hopeful we’ll be back in the fall for my senior year – but I really don’t know if we will be. I’m also finding a lot of strength in my friends and family. They are reminding me to be steadfast and calm.

Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about what you’re feeling or experiencing right now?

I spend triple the amount of time worrying about others as I do worrying about myself. I had to file 2 student of concern forms this semester, and I think about those students constantly. I worry if they are getting the support they need or if they are safe in their homes. I worry about my senior friends who aren’t getting closure to their time at St. Ed’s. I try not to think about my own losses, the fact that I was supposed to go to France to do research this summer. Or even, that I might not be able to do my on campus research this summer. I was supposed to take the GRE in May but testing centers are closed. And it’s not just academic or professional losses. My cousin postponed his wedding. I know friends who aren’t celebrating turning 21. I was supposed to be a confirmation sponsor for 2 people this spring and both have been cancelled or moved. Graduations are postponed or cancelled. I even just had planned on one more weekend when I could have brunch with my friends that won’t happen because this was their last semester. There is a lot of loss. And, no one’s is too big or too small to be valid. I hope this brings people together after and brings an appreciation of the little things.