Columns, Coronavirus, Opinion

Culture Shock: Coronavirus is uprooting college students’ lives

I left Boston on March 7 thinking I would be back a week later. My family planned a quick road trip for my spring break, so I packed about a week’s worth of clothes to keep my suitcase light. I have never regretted underpacking so much in my life.

At the start of Boston University’s spring break, I hadn’t heard much about schools closing. So the thought of not returning to campus for a significant period of time never really crossed my mind. But once I got home, several schools in Boston, such as Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Tufts University, started cancelling classes for the rest of the semester.

I quickly realized that the chances of me going back to Boston were very slim. It was heartbreaking for me, but my parents didn’t really understand. They didn’t understand that my entire life just got ripped out from under me.

Thousands of students nationwide — like myself — go to school out of state, and we do that for a reason. I am from Texas and I chose to move to Massachusetts for school because I wanted to experience something new. I did not want to come back to Texas for a large portion of my freshman year.

When I am in Boston, I have freedom. I have my own space, my own routine and my own life. That’s the point of college. You are officially ready to move on from your hometown and start a life of your own. 

I was not mentally prepared to move back in with my parents.

I do feel more comfortable at home, where I know I am in a safe and clean environment with my family. College campuses are filled with students and large social gatherings, so it is hard to ensure general cleanliness. But home isn’t a place where everyone feels safe. It can actually be a place that many students are trying to stay away from.

College is an escape from the realities of our hometowns, and it offers many students a sense of stability they might not receive at home. Whether that is guaranteed housing, food or a friend, college has become a safe place for students worldwide.

A mass exodus of college students from their universities is disruptful for their success as students. Sitting in your living room taking an online class through Zoom is drastically different from sitting in a lecture hall surrounded by fellow students. 

Sure, college has its distractions, but those don’t compare to family problems, lack of financial resources and anxiety from uncertainty. 

My house does not have a library or designated quiet rooms for studying. I don’t have my required readings, notebooks or even pencils because I didn’t think to pack them for spring break. I know many of my peers are in the same situation.

In order to have productive learning, I’ve told myself that I should go to the library or a coffee shop to get out of the house. But that defeats the purpose of me going home to try and stop the spread of the virus anyways. I feel like I’m just trapped with no viable option for a productive, exciting rest of the semester.

I completely understand the cancellation of in-person classes and restrictions on campus housing. These are logical ways to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, and I respect BU for making these difficult decisions. However, I wish they would’ve given a definitive cancellation for the rest of the semester — Massachusetts is now in a state of emergency. So, the likelihood of resuming in-person classes is low.

I also recognize that I am not alone in feeling out of control right now. Most of America probably does not enjoy the pandemic we are facing, social distancing or fighting people at the grocery store for toilet paper. 

However, I think college students are getting hit especially hard right now. There are so many questions about the rest of our education. Seniors are wondering if they will be able to walk the stage in May to get the diploma that they have worked so hard for. 

Students who live far from their university are wondering when they should move out and where they can store their things. Students who depend on work-study are wondering how they will support themselves for the foreseeable future. These situations are among other students facing a range of difficulties.

So, please give college students some slack as we make this transition home.

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