I was unwinding from the first half of an intense semester by spending time with my friends at Panama City Beach. Word began to spread about a pandemic moving toward the United States, but nobody seemed too concerned.
I was washing my hands thoroughly and popping vitamin C gummies, and that was the extent of my precautions. I wasn’t going to let a novel virus get in the way of my Spring Break; especially since my military boyfriend flew to Florida from Texas to spend the break with me before he was due to be deployed to Bulgaria for nine months.
Was I too determined to have a regular Spring Break?
Some may say I was being stubborn, too determined to spend my vacation as it was originally planned, but I thought I had good reasons. Of course, my idea of a “relaxing” break changed drastically, as everyone’s world flipped upside down within a matter of minutes.
My beach trip turned into a chaotic mess when email after email from my university came pouring in; suddenly, I was trying to figure out if I would return to campus at all, how I would get my books and belongings, or how I would finish my classes for the semester.
Some of my friends got phone calls from family, saying they needed to return home immediately. Other friends didn’t have a home to go to because their families were already dealing with other illnesses and didn’t want to risk spreading the infection. My boyfriend wondered if he would still be deployed.
This virus is affecting all of our plans
Yes, it’s hard for students to transition from a face-to-face class to online learning. We chose to enroll on ground for a reason. Our professors are working hard to teach the curriculum but online is different and there’s a learning curve for everyone. But many adults don’t understand that this pandemic is affecting way more than just how our classes are being taught.
It’s affecting all of our plans for the rest of the spring semester. Meaningful events were cancelled. Art students no longer have their work displayed in the annual gala. Athletes who trained all year don’t get to compete. Commencement was postponed, but we don’t know for sure if seniors will walk in their cap and gown. And some of us said goodbye to friends before spring break not knowing that it would be our last goodbye—that we wouldn’t see some of our classmates ever again. We didn’t know that our lives could change so dramatically in the blink of an eye.
If we knew we wouldn’t be coming back, we would have done things differently
Had we known that we wouldn’t be returning to campus this semester, we may have gone about things a little differently when we were parting ways. I know I would’ve held onto those final memories a little tighter. This virus has taken way more from us than just “in-person classes.” It has robbed us of our full four years of college. And we can’t get that back. It has even taken the memories we had planned to make.
I had so much planned for the rest of the term: I would attend my sorority’s annual Yellow Rose Ball, start a new job on campus, and spend some of my last moments with graduating friends. All of this- cancelled in the blink of an eye.
A few months back, we complained about getting up early for an 8 AM class and would’ve loved to be able to stay in our pajamas and not be required to physically attend a lecture. Now we are all using Zoom calls and discussion boards to communicate, and it is throwing us all for a loop. We would do anything to get back in that classroom with our friends and actually watch or write on the whiteboard again.
I know people are out of work or working frontlines or dealing with sick loved ones and I appreciate that they have it much worse. I do. But too many people are lumping all college students together, as reckless partiers who don’t care about other people, who think they are not likely to get sick, and who have it easy because they can hunker down and continue their education.
I don’t think people understand how much upheaval we’ve endured. Even for students who have access to technology, who aren’t babysitting siblings, who don’t have to work or who aren’t sick or caring for the sick, it’s still not an easy transition. Some classes were never intended to be taught online.
Normally, I might be thrilled to take an online course if it meant the freedom to travel and visit friends. But I am stuck at home. Yes, I’m staying home. I’m not partying. I’m worried about my grades, my future plans, the friends I may never see again. I can’t fly to visit my soldier, who’s now scheduled to leave for Kuwait in June.
Who knows if I’ll be able to hug him goodbye before he goes…
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Jenna Skrelunas is a full-time student at Saint Leo University studying professional writing and multimedia management. She plans to attend the Connecticut School of Broadcasting after graduation and hopes to become a journalist. Jenna loves writing about inspiring topics and making a difference in the lives of others. Follow Jenna on Linkedin at linkedin.com/in/jenna-skrelunas. On Instagram- @jenna__kaitlyn and on Facebook- Jenna Kaitlyn.