In an effort to eliminate the spread of the COVID-19, the college decided to transition to online classes. Since then, students have been challenged to consciously decide whether they should travel home or stay on campus, a decision that will ultimately affect their academic lives for the rest of the semester.
Because of the rapid spread of this virus, President Ditzler issued the following message to students on Friday:
If you still are uncertain whether to stay or go, now is the time to have a conversation with your family or the people you rely on most to determine what course is best for you. But, again, if there is a way for you to get home safely and continue with your studies, please give that option careful consideration.
Prior to the college’s announcement on Monday that all students must vacate campus, many students simply did not think going home was an option. These students do not usually have the resources or ability to safely travel, especially during this time. Consequently, they found themselves stuck on campus.
Campus still had available resources open up until the point of its closure, such as Baldwin’s dining service, the KC eat shop, and campus safety. Other buildings were closed shortly after classes went online in order to practice the concept of social distancing.
Amid much uncertainty, there was one solid option for the students who chose to stay on campus. That option was to limit themselves to sitting in their dorm rooms and enjoying the company of their classmates through Google Meet, if their professors decided to conduct classes in that manner.
Although this practice controlled the spread of the virus, it came with its own set of issues. The extreme irritability and restlessness from living in isolation or a confined indoor area for a prolonged time is known as cabin fever, something students isolated in their rooms quickly became prone to developing.
This may seem like an exaggeration, but trust me, sitting in my dorm room five days out of the week with no human contact was much more stressful than any exams I have ever taken.
Whether on campus or choosing to quarantine at home, once students run out of things to watch on Netflix, pages to color in their coloring books, or get tired of scrolling on the various social media platforms, there is nothing left to do besides sleep, unless, of course, they decide to complete their assignments.
Many students chose to leave during the first weekend of the transition to online classes. Considering this factor, coupled with Governor Gretchen Whitmer advising against social interactions, there were limited activities to do on campus almost immediately following the transition to online classes.
The Dow Center closed, and none of the fraternities were looking to have weekend parties as usual. So, it was harder than normal to find something to occupy the time.
Since the amount of students leaving was sporadic, there was a high chance that those who chose to stay on campus would soon be extremely limited. The concept of cabin fever alone would soon have been enough to convince remaining students that it was time to go home; the college’s decision to close only confirmed a fate that was coming for many students.
Julia Serlin, a first-year from Kalamazoo, Mich., was one of few students still occupying campus housing in its final days before closing residence halls.
“It really saddened me to hear my last semester ended early, and that instead of three months without seeing my friends, I have to go five months,” Serlin said.
With such an abrupt end to the social part of the semester, the group of students who likely feel the most emotions are seniors. Their sports seasons have ended, their remaining time with friends was cut short and they are unsure what the plans are regarding their graduation.
Emily Garcia, a senior from Chicago, Ill. made the difficult decision to go back home and be with her family before the college mandated that students leave.
“I’m a little upset at the fact that my last semester ended so abruptly, but I’m happy to be home where I feel the most safe,” Garcia said.
Whether states have a shelter-in-place rule or not, the whole country is experiencing this lockdown feeling. The only way to combat it is to safely stay in one’s place of residence to prevent the spread of the virus from contact.
“Even though I’m home, there isn’t much to do,” said Garcia. “I feel a little anxious thinking about the fact that we are on lock down for who knows how long.”
For many students, mainly those who work for something deemed “essential” during this time by their state government, going home means contacting their summer jobs and telling their bosses that they can expect them to begin work a little earlier. Despite the fact that different businesses are changing their methods of operation or closing day after day, some jobs are still active.
Parker Brown, a junior from Monroe, Mich., is one of the students who decided that he was going to make use of his extra unused time and go home to work.
“It sucks not being at college, but from a financial standpoint, I’m just using it as an extended summer, and I’m working until my job closes, too,” said Brown.
It is very important that we all make sure we are surrounded by loved ones during this time of uncertainty. With classes still continuing in an alternative format, additional free time may not be the reality for many students. If students have to take care of responsibilities such as going to work or helping with household needs, they need to ensure that they are being safe while doing so.