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Being a College Student During COVID-19
By Danielle Arze
Amidst the chaos and terror of the spreading virus, COVID-19, one aspect of my life has changed more than I thought possible. When I chose my school, I never once thought there’d be a day where mass emails would be sent multiple times a day, keeping us updated on a pandemic that would send us packing up and heading home.
Being a student during the coronavirus outbreak has been a wild ride, a terrifying one. When spring break started for Virginia Commonwealth University on March 6th, we were expected back on March 15th. Eventually, we get word of another school in Virginia closing, UVA. They decided to do online classes for the rest of the semester and extend their spring break. I remember in the group chat with my friends arguing that our school should do the same, but we figured it was mostly a wish more than anything. Barely two days later, we received an email from the dean announcing spring break was extended a week and classes are being taught online for the ‘foreseeable future’ (what does that even mean?). Immediately, there was a buzz of questions, as there were no confirmed cases in Richmond. As good as an extra week off seemed, there was something ominous about the whole affair. If there’s one thing I’ve known in my time as a career student, it’s that schools don’t close unless they absolutely have to. Watching hundreds of schools across the country shut down and move online is terrifying; it means they’re preparing for something bad. Students are used to having to fight their administrators for a snow day and now they’re voluntarily asking us to stay home? I never thought I’d say a school cancellation would give me anxiety.
I don’t agree with spreading unnecessary fear and panic. Personally, I’ve been trying to look at the good out of all of this. For instance, because school dorms closed, leaving thousands of students suddenly displaced, U-Haul has opened their storage units for 30 days, free to students who have a valid student ID. These are the highlights I like to focus on, which show our community can come together and truly be kind to one another. However, it doesn’t do much to quell the sinking feeling in my stomach that schools don’t close unless something major happens. So, as much as we’d like to pretend this is something that will pass quickly and won’t touch us, we need to be prepared.
I’m lucky enough to live in an apartment off-campus where I currently am, hunkering down and returning to my natural introvert ways. There are many students who are not so lucky, some who have to scramble for a plane ticket, risk infection, go back to homes they might not want to be at, etc. Universities provide a sense of safety and independence for a lot of us; classes give us normalcy and familiarity, and to have that taken away is scary. Halfway through the semester, professors must switch to online classes. It’s a huge change for everyone, one that I expect will come with a lot of trial and error.
There is uncertainty regarding the future: what happens over the summer? How long will this last? The lack of control we as students have right now with being shuffled around paired with the expectation of adaptation is a huge and difficult change.
Still, in true Gen-Z form, we cope with humor as a generation. Memes have sprouted up giving us the ability to giggle and chuckle amidst the chaos. Because if anything, my generation damn well knows how to cope with a crisis.
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