Managing college life in a pandemic


Photo courtesy of Klaire Brock

Klaire and Whitney Brock wear masks to make sure their grandmother stays safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Fall 2020 semester will be nothing like any other experienced by college students in generations. Not since the 1918 Spanish Flu, the Great Depression or the years surrounding WWII, have the lives of so many Americans been so altered by a shared event. The transition from high school to college, from the relative safety of our home community to this new place, is a challenging thing on its own, but coming to college in the middle of a global pandemic is filled with so many more unknowns for all of us.

Having class switched to online during last spring semester was a difficult thing to process for many Tarleton students. One day, you’re in the middle of spring break and the next thing you know you aren’t returning to campus at all. No chance to say goodbye to friends, no face-to-face time with faculty and, for many, packing up in a rush. It was a difficult change to switch to online courses halfway through a semester for students and faculty alike. However, for some there were positives that came out of having to self-isolate.

For myself, I was able to go home and spend quality time with my family. My twin, who had recently gotten engaged, came home and for the first time in four years, we were in the same house again. I was able to spend time with my parents in between zoom classes and work meetings. I was also able to spend almost every day with my Gammie (Grandmother). Although, having to go home for some wasn’t possible or positive as it was for me, I will forever be grateful for the extra time I got with my family.

If we have to do it again, we know we can and this time everyone is prepared.

Starting college in a pandemic, many students have hard-to-answer questions; how can I enjoy college if I can’t have fun with my friends? How do I safely share a room with one to three other people without wearing a mask all of the time? What if my roommates don’t take this seriously or what if they take it more seriously than I do? What about eating at the dining hall or out anywhere? What about all the things that made us want to go away to college in the first place?

Unfortunately, there are no easy, quick or proven answers to any of these questions as this situation is new to all of us. The bottom line is, use common sense in response to a pandemic or to life in general. Hang out with responsible friends. Wash your hands, and wear your mask. Clean it properly and learn how to take it off without contaminating yourself.

By deciding to attend Tarleton, you have made the Texan Commitment to be safe and respectful during this time. Wearing a mask is not just for someone who is actively infected. It is showing that you have enough respect and compassion to wear one for others who might have a compromised immune system.

“We all need to take personal responsibility to limit the spread of COVID-19 by making our own health and safety and that of others a top priority,” Dr. Kelli Styron Vice President, of the Division of Student Affairs, said.

If you are feeling sick, stay in your room and contact your Residential Leader and family.

If a friend is sick, encourage them to get medical care. If you test positive for COVID-19, the Tarleton’s roadmap for Fall 2020 on the Tarleton website has a form for students, faculty and staff to fill out. If you are feeling overwhelmed by the combination of new college experiences, new people and this pandemic, remember you are not alone. These are very unusual times and everyone, those who ignore the risk and those who take it seriously, is trying to figure this out.

Feelings of sadness, anger, and frustration at plans interrupted or changed, is normal. Talk to your friends, your Residential Leader, or Student Counseling Services. Student Health and Counseling services are included in your tuition, so use them. You can always try it and decide that it isn’t for you.

Don’t let others decide your response to this virus situation (or to any other situation you face). If you are afraid of getting sick, take the actions you need to feel in control of your own health. If you aren’t afraid, be respectful of someone who is (you don’t know what that person’s health or personal situation is). Most importantly, be kind.

At a time like this, it is critically important that you rely on the things that have helped you get this far. Maintain your routine and don’t let those around you take that away from you. Sleep is essential to physical and emotional health. Stay connected to those from home who know you best and can offer support. Connect with new friends that share your values.

Life is about choices and the consequences you are willing to live with. Try to make the best of a situation we are all in together. Change can be a good thing if we embrace it and grow from it. Don’t let something you can’t control affect the start of the best four years of your life.