A College Senior Describes Her Experience of Quarantine on Campus

In 2020 life unexpectedly changed for everyone, and normal, daily life was put on pause. We all began to feel anxious and uneasy about the world as we stayed put in our homes in quarantine during the spring, unsure of how life would proceed.

Summer came around and society pressed play again as states loosened Covid restrictions. With August and September quickly approaching we all wondered what the future of American education would hold. Would colleges open? For how long?

As a 21-year-old, I hoped that I would be allowed to return to Syracuse University to finish my senior year. I hoped that my school experience would look something like it normally did.

I was able to return to school; nervous, apprehensive, and uneasy, I packed my bags one final time and went back to school. Surprisingly, things at Syracuse seemed to be going pretty well. Simultaneously, horror stories surfaced on the internet about schools being shut down right off the bat due to students being irresponsible.

S. I. Newhouse School of Public Communication Syracuse University. (Photo by DASonnenfeld)

Large gatherings turned into smaller ones

However, the culture at Syracuse was different. Saturday nights spent at fraternity parties quickly turned into movie nights. It was the new normal.

But things didn’t stay like that forever in my social circle. As 21-year-olds, we felt slightly invincible and began to expand our boundaries a little bit. We started going out to dinner more often and going to bars in the local area. Being at a school with a small. number of cases gave us a false sense of security.

After probably a little too much socializing around Halloween weekend, cases were not only on the rise on campus but in Central New York. It seemed like it would be a miracle if I survived the semester without catching the virus.

So when a close friend of mine got a phone call from the university that she had tested positive, it wasn’t an “if” I would get one too; it was “when.” The “when” came the next morning after we had completed another round of rapid tests. Within an hour, seven of my housemates and I were moved into isolation on South Campus (where the Coronavirus housing is).

Isolation brought home the reality of Covid

Once isolation began, the realities of Covid-19 became real. I had ten days ahead of me alone in an apartment. The next day, we went through another round of testing at Health Services on campus. We walked into a room that felt like a post-apocalyptic science lab with nurses and staff geared in full on hazmat suits sitting at lab tables, sampling thousands of test tubes filled with spit samples.

One by one, we were called in to take a rapid nasal swab test, and then we were brought to a chair where we faced the wall until a nurse came over to deliver the results. In a strange turn of events, my test came back negative, while the rest of my friends’ came back positive again. Confusing, right?

I had one positive test and one negative test, so they took a third sample, and two days later, I found out that that too, had came back negative. I had somehow managed to dodge the bullet despite my roommate testing positive and despite sharing drinks the previous night with other friends who had tested positive. Although it’s still unclear whether or not I had the virus and was just completely asymptomatic, I had to quarantine for ten days.

A snowy Syracuse University in 2016.

Quarantine was like deja vu all over again, every day

Quarantine was the epitome of a broken record. Wake up, go to class, wait for the noon lunch knock, go to class, take a nap, wait for the 6 pm dinner knock, and then go to bed. Obviously, with lots of time to chill.

No matter how close my friends felt in the apartments next door, I was very lonely. I looked forward to seeing classmates and my professors on Zoom because it was at least some human interaction. But it wasn’t an endless supply of entertainment.

After just about three days, FaceTime conversations with friends and family got repetitive, and my mother no longer wanted to hear me complain. Screen time on my phone increased, along with the number of TikTok dances I attempted to memorize. By day 10, I couldn’t wait to run free and finally touch some Syracuse snow. 

Quarantine taught me some life lessons

My experience in strict quarantine, taught me some valuable lessons. I now have a much better understanding of my role as an individual in society.

The excitement and the freedom of returning to college and escaping six long months of living under the roof of my parents got the best of me. The idea that we are in a pandemic still sometimes slid right out of my mind. It was natural that I wanted to normalize a senior year college experience somewhat; unfortunately, 2020 is not the year for that.

Quarantine taught me the value of acting for the greater good. To protect ourselves, our communities, and our nation as a whole, it is imperative that we think about the domino effect that Covid has on the world around us. It goes beyond wearing a mask, social distancing, and regularly washing your hands. It’s about being a decent human being. 

As 2020 starts to come to a close FINALLY, I know what my New Year’s Resolution will be. Be more responsible, accountable, and selfless. Young people need to take Covid seriously.

Without a doubt, I can tell you that even if you don’t get sick, even a 10-day quarantine can takes a toll.

Stay safe and wear a mask. 

More To Read:

Four Things I’ve Learned About College During Covid

About Izzy Tabs

Izzy Tabs is a rising senior from North Caldwell, NJ studying Broadcast and Digital Journalism with a minor in Sport Management at Syracuse University. While on campus, Izzy is involved with many student media organizations such as her school’s student run television station Citrus TV and she is also an online editor and writer for the sports department at WAER Radio Station-an NPR affiliate. Izzy hopes to one day pursue a career in sports journalism and documentary filmmaking.

Read more posts by Izzy

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