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To Be a College Student During a Pandemic

It’s an odd feeling to study in the Christian Center completely alone. Last August, it was hard to find an empty table. I’d chat with passing professors and run to Eco Grounds to grab a snack. I remember sitting in there past midnight, desperate to understand calorimetry. Maybe today was different because it was 3pm on a Friday, or maybe because finals are far to come. But this is what it is to be a college student during a pandemic.

Back in March when remote instruction began, I was sure everything would be normal by August. Foolishly, I confess, there was no doubt in my mind. But, with 44 students isolated or quarantined after one week of classes, it’s clear to me that things won’t be back to normal for a while.

In response to the uptick in cases, the College implemented a new rule.

Effective immediately, there is a limit on the number of people allowed in a residence hall and/or a fraternity house room. No more than one student guest per room resident can be in a room at a given time (1:1). Masks must be worn and social distancing must be observed.

It’s easy to spot the rule’s origin—we haven’t been social distancing. And although I don’t excuse myself or my peers, it’s hard to imagine a world in which college students aren’t social. Countless movies and TV shows depict the typical college scene: classes, sorority events, parties, everything except distancing. And with a restless student population, the want to interact is heightened. While it’s easy to detect the campus’s irresponsibility, I ask, is this not what we all expected to happen? Yes, this is a serious situation, and I’d like to say that I have observed all guidelines to limit exposure. Yet, I vacationed this summer, going across eight different states, and I could have easily contracted the virus. The risk was there.

To be a college student during a pandemic is an internal battle, and it’s a battle that we should have expected. It’s a battle between what you want and what you need. It’s about responsibility. We were supposed to learn that lesson during these years anyway, but being on campus, surrounded by friends, adds temptation. There is a happy medium. I don’t think we’re there yet, and I don’t think I’m there yet. However, we will find the balance; it just takes time. This is only a learning curve.

I’ll be the first to tell you that being a college student during a pandemic isn’t ideal, but neither is being a professor, a Caf worker, or a member of student life staff. It’s up to all of us to make those unwanted decisions and follow the guidelines, so that next August won’t look this way.

We can find this medium, and I truly believe the Christian Center will be full once again. This will come to pass. But until this day comes, it is our job to listen and to learn.

And, make no mistake—listening and learning starts by wearing a mask.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Keith Dunn

    Sara, thanks for such a great, honest article. We’re not having the normal Millsaps experience this fall, but I just can’t tell you how great it is to have students back on campus and in classes. Your presence is our reason for being. As you say, we all just need to do what we can to keep ourselves and our community safe and find our way together.

    Dean Keith Dunn

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