Students adjust to self-quarantine
April 6, 2020
Not long ago, Champaign-Urbana was a bustling college town with students flooding the bars, grabbing a bite to eat with friends and tossing a ball around on the Main Quad. But these days, following the shutdown of the University and the stay-at-home order, the streets are somber, a ghost town. This period of self-quarantining proves a challenge for college students as they attempt to maintain their social life and independence while living at home.
Wherever they are in their college careers, all students are affected, often finding themselves bored, locked in their familial homes with no access to the everyday pleasures of a social collegiate. Freshmen students’ first year was cut short and their newfound independence taken away by the coronavirus chaos.
Raka Bhattacharyya, freshman in LAS, moved from the dorms and is residing with her family in Northern California, limiting her outings to walks and finding it “interesting having to readjust to living in the family unit again.”
“Apart from my family, I haven’t seen any other human beings in person in the past few weeks,” Bhattacharyya said. “I’ve been reading a lot! Picked up a couple of novels I got impatient with a couple months ago.”
Along with voraciously reading and binging horror movies, Bhattacharyya, like many other bored students, is attempting to maintain newly formed relationships virtually.
“My social life has been interesting. A lot of video chatting and spam texting. A couple disappearing off the face of the planet. I feel like it’s moments like these that remind us that not everyone communicates in the same ways,” Bhattacharyya pondered.
Upperclassmen living off-campus may find it even harder to adjust, accustomed to providing for themselves at school.
Jack Allen, a sophomore in Business student living in an apartment near campus, has returned to his home in Long Grove, Illinois. Unlike the dorm residents, Allen had the opportunity to stay in the Champaign-Urbana area but chose to stay home for the remainder of the semester.
Regarding his off-campus apartment, Allen said, “I am still making the regularly scheduled payments.” He continued, explaining, “I don’t see an issue with this because I signed a one-year contract and am obligated to uphold my end of the agreement, I still have the choice to live there, I just chose to come home because quarantining here is more comforting.”
While in his familial home with his dogs, brother, and parents, Allen has found the positives of the situation: “It is nice to have more space than if I were still at UIUC and I get to enjoy home-cooked meals instead of eating pizza and pasta seven days a week.”
Allen and his family mirror the activities and precautions of many families during this time, washing their hands frequently and using their sleeves on door handles to avoid directly touching surfaces. He and his brother go out to grab groceries or other essentials, “since the mortality rate is significantly higher with older age groups,” Allen said.
Similar to his living arrangement with three roommates at school, Allen now resides with three of his family members but has found the experience to be much different. Locked in his home without the library to escape to, Allen has found the forced intertwining of school and home proves difficult and distracting.
Allen said, “I have found myself wanting to do anything but my assignments with no library to escape to. Both my parents do work from home which does force me to stay on top of my work, but being so close to my dogs, an Xbox, and the kitchen, it’s easy to get caught up in ‘homework breaks.’”
However, while being at home is comforting, Allen also misses his active collegiate social life consisting of trips to Kams or Lion, and dinner on Green St. Yet, despite the state lockdown, Allen, along with many students, is finding ways to connect with friends.
“A couple of my friends went to a large parking lot and sat in our trunks with our cars parked two spots away from each other, but it’s definitely not the same as getting together pre-quarantine,” Allen said. “We like to have fun and make group Zoom calls to talk about the shows on Netflix we have all been watching or set up online poker games to gamble our boredom away.”
Perhaps most impacted by the shutdown are couples who are prohibited from seeing each other or must maintain a relationship from six feet apart.
Jake Elder and Teja Jeleniauskas, freshmen in Grainger, have experienced a significant shift from living in the same dorm to not seeing each other for a month or more.
“Being within walking distance made hanging out together really easy,” Elder said.
However, Elder finds himself distracted and said he is “so caught up in my routine of homework and being with family that I don’t think to even text or ft [Facetime] for a couple of days. I enjoy the reset that home brings, but I really miss being able to see her a lot and chat about whatever is on our minds.”
Echoing her boyfriend, Jeleniauskas said she tries to remain in contact every couple of days, utilizing Facetime to maintain the connection.
“We have seen each other once since all of this started, but this was after both of us had quarantined for two weeks on our own,” Jeleniauskas said. “It’s definitely hard not seeing Jake in person after we had been able to see each other every day, but you make do with the situation.”
“You know they’re the right person if it all works out, especially through tough times like this,” she said.
This shutdown and hectic period has put stress on many, if not all, aspects of college students’ lives. However, there are some positives, such as reconnecting with family, maintaining relationships, or merely studying.
Allen suggested to those struggling with social distancing, maybe to turn off the TV and “pick up a new hobby or take a class that sounds interesting and will add structure to your day. Many schools have free online courses available to take and all you need to do is make an account.”