Parents handle stress of kids on campus


Photo Courtesy of Anita Devalk

John, Anita, Emma and Ethan DeValk pose for a photo on the Main Quad. The DeValk parents were reluctant to send their children to campus during the COVID-19 pandemic.

By Elizabeth Sayasane, Features Editor

On top of the stress that already comes with parents sending kids off to college, parents this year had to bear the additional anxieties of sending them to campus in the middle of a pandemic. Anita DeValk said goodbye to both her daughter Emma, a sophomore in FAA, and her son Ethan, a freshman in LAS, back in August.

In the months leading up to school starting, Anita said they hesitated in the decision of whether both kids should be on campus. Emma would be living in a house with a small group of friends, so Anita said she was more comfortable with her situation. She would be able to be around the same people every day, make her own food and isolate as needed.

Ethan, however, would be living in the dorms. She said they were unsure how navigating the heavily populated area and the dining halls would work for him.

Nonetheless, both kids returned to campus. Part of the persuasion to make everyone more comfortable with the decision was thanks to many of the precautions the University has implemented for the semester.

“I am extremely impressed with how thorough the University has been, how transparent they have been,” Anita said. “Their level of communication with parents through the whole process from way back in the spring all the way through the summer.”

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Coming back to campus has been particularly beneficial for Emma. As a studio art student, Emma said she is not used to staring at screens all the time for all her classes.

Emma said she takes all her notes on pen and paper and she does not type anything out unless necessary. She said she is more of a physical and tactile person, so the shift to online that happened back in the spring semester was difficult.

“Online school’s really challenging for me and it took me a really long time to get to my assignments because I just wasn’t used to looking at a screen for so long,” Emma said.

While she said she knew her parents were concerned about the move back to campus and unsure of how strictly things would be enforced, they realized it was the right decision for her.

Not only does Emma adhere to the University’s rules for COVID precautions, but she also has to follow the requirements to stay on the rowing team. They have a specific set of guidelines that Emma said are stricter than the University’s. All of her roommates are also on the rowing team, though, so it has not been too difficult for her to comply.

It is because of these precautionary measures that Emma and her parents feel safe with her being in Champaign-Urbana for the semester.

“If I was going to a school that didn’t have any available or didn’t have as good of a testing system, that would have been a different conversation,” Emma said. “But with everything that the (University) has been doing, I personally feel pretty safe, and I would hope that my parents also feel the same way.”

Anita did express the same regard for the rigorous testing practices.

“I do appreciate the thorough testing that they have been doing,” she said, “As parents, sitting back at home, you know, hundreds of miles away, it is reassuring to know that your child knows whether or not they’re positive.”

She shared that other parents with kids who attend other universities acknowledge how strong Illinois’ testing procedures have been. The actions of the University have made Anita proud, she said.

Emma’s friends at other universities have told her the more difficult conditions they have on campus. The lack of testing availability has made many of them hesitant about their health and safety.

Anita does not only credit the work of the University, though. She also said the students have been doing important work so they can stay on campus as well. When she has visited campus, she said she sees students in masks and taking it seriously.

“I can tell that you guys are taking it seriously and that makes me as a parent really feel confident and calm,” she said.

Student participation in keeping the spread of COVID-19 at bay has been an expectation since early in the fall. Anita said the chancellor’s emails set the tone by asking students to take proper precautions and safety measures so that they can stay on campus.

While she acknowledges this semester has not provided students with the full college experience, she said the University has done important work at least to create a better experience for many.

“I’m very happy that my kids are where they’re at,” she said. “Every day parents always worry and there’s a lot of extra worry during a pandemic, but a lot of it has been alleviated because of the proactiveness of the University and the awesome work being done by the kids.”

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