Students’ concern varies over returning home for the holidays

By Zainab Qureshi, Longform Editor

The Friday before fall break, cars lined the streets in front of dorms, all with their trunks open and their hazard lights on. Parents and students walked boxes of their belongings to and from their rooms. 

Based on the amount of luggage, it appears many of them are moving out.

Probably because they are — at least for a couple of months. 

This Thanksgiving will look different from previous years; dinner tables will be set with fewer placemats and numerous students and families may be greeting each other at the front door with masks on. With the University urging students to refrain from returning to campus after break, many students will spend upwards of two months back at home. 

With COVID-19 cases dramatically rising across the country, some students have placed an importance on staying vigilant to keep their families from contracting the virus on their account. 

Katie Thies, a sophomore in LAS, described being exceptionally careful in the weeks leading up to break to keep her family safe upon her arrival back home. 

The two weeks before break my roommate and I were even more cautious than normal,” Thies said. “We don’t tend to see many friends — only two or so on a semi-regular basis — and all of us make sure we have multiple negative tests before continuing to meet.”

Others are not quite as concerned. 

In an email, Matthew Kelly, a junior in Engineering, talked about how he and his family are not overly-worried by the idea of contracting the virus. 

“I have 8 siblings, and none of us got flu shots until high school,” said Kelly. “We are one of those weird homeschooling Irish-American Catholic families who value freedom in life over the possibility of death. 6 of us have already gotten COVID and found it to be not much worse than past cases of flu we’ve gotten through together.”

He does, however, acknowledge that other community members may not have the immune system to withstand the virus. 

We respect the policies of individual businesses, churches, and other families when it comes to social distancing and masks, especially considering that others may have prior health issues where COVID could overload their body’s tolerance for disease and kill them,” Kelly said, “But when we are together, we kind of just grin and bear it and take our vitamins as we always have.”

Kelly also described how his experience with COVID-19 has informed how he interacts with others now. 

“It has shown me that this disease is catchy and when considering interacting with other groups of people, the free flow of information must be maintained, and a consensus needs to be reached in order to keep people safe,” he added. 

Kelly is not the only one with a brush with COVID-19 whose experience is now informing the way he travels back for Break. Nick Eikelberner, a junior in Engineering, is traveling home to see his parents in New Jersey this Break. Eikelberner said he believed that he may have contracted COVID-19 at the beginning of the pandemic but was unable to confirm it at the time due to the lack of accessibility in testing. 

“I will get tested the day I leave,” said Eikelberner in response to the protocols he may be taking as he returns home. “I believe I had (COVID-19) at the beginning of the whole pandemic so I’m not super concerned.”

Eikelberner does believe that driving is the safest way to get home during COVID-19. 

“I wake up at 7 a.m. and just drive for 13 hours, so I don’t have to sleep anywhere, I don’t have to stop,” said Eikelberner. “I don’t really have to interact with people that much. (Which is not the same as) if you were to fly or even take the bus.”

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