Earlier this week, colleges and universities around the country began responding to the widespread coronavirus, which the WHO has now deemed a global pandemic. Schools like the University of Dayton, in Ohio, instructed students to leave campus immediately, and many like Columbia University and University of Washington have taken classes online.
While most administrations say they are most concerned with keeping students and faculty members safe, there’s no denying how devastating and disruptive it can be to leave school in the middle of a semester, especially when you’re taking classes you love, spending precious time with your friends, and, oh yeah, have already shelled out thousands of dollars in tuition, housing costs, and travel expenses.
Here, Cosmopolitan spoke to college students to see how their schools’ reactions to COVID-19 have affected them.
I had to leave so abruptly that all my belongings are still in Rome.
“I was studying abroad this semester in Rome, Italy, and was required to return home early from my program due to COVID-19. All my classes are online for the rest of the semester and I have to self-quarantine for the next 14 days. But I had to leave so abruptly that all my belongings are still in Rome and there are no plans for me to get them back anytime soon since the country is under lockdown. I’m doing fine now, but my stuff is still in Italy and I’m not sure when I’ll get it!” —Jenna Bush, 20, University of Alabama
We are all being told to go home to places that are way more dangerous.
“Students at Williams College have been told to leave campus by Tuesday at 5 p.m. Spring break is starting a week early and will be a week longer than expected. In the past, Williams has done whatever it can to make sure that classes don’t get cancelled and that student life goes on as per usual, so this is definitely out of character for the administration.
“My biggest frustration is the fact that we are all being told to go home to places that are way more dangerous than here in the corner of rural Massachusetts. When I go back to New York City, where I’m from, I am at a much higher risk of getting infected than if I had stayed here, but I have to go back to the city anyway. I feel the safest when I am at Williams and to be told to leave during this time is just really hard to process or accept.
“My friends and I are spending as much time as we can together before we leave. We still have classes this week, but we are watching Jeopardy! and having a hoedown birthday party for one of our friends tonight. We just want to have fun and have good memories to take with us before we have to leave for the rest of the school year."
—Bellamy Richardson, 18, Williams College
I definitely did not pay thousands of dollars and go to a school 200 miles away just to be subjected to online classes.
“My school, Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana, finally made a statement today and decided the best option is to have all classes be online. But they encouraged us not to leave campus. The email shocked everyone and there are so many questions.
“For starters, I am a fashion student. My classes are creative and project-based. I am missing out on so many tactical opportunities I simply cannot learn or do online. Granted, I am not opposed to doing what is the safest option for all of us, but keeping me in a dorm full of other people, still having me eat in dining halls (again full of other people), and having me take tests in a testing lab filled with germs is not helping my health.
“Will we be on lockdown for a year? Will I be able to have an internship this upcoming summer? I want my fashion career to take flight, not live in fear. And I definitely did not pay thousands of dollars and go to a school 200 miles away just to be subjected to online classes. This all may sound selfish—that is not my intention. I truly do want what is best for everyone. But that doesn’t make this process any more easy or fair.”
—Breana Cowan, 19, Ball State University
I don’t even know if my graduation requirements will be met.
“We were told that up until March 31, students aren’t allowed on main campus and classes will be carried our virtually, but a lot of people are saying that’s probably going to be for the rest of the semester.
“I work on campus and none of the student staff who work here are allowed to carry out their shifts. I know for a lot of students who have work study on campus, they won’t have an income and that’s really scary for a lot of people.
“But otherwise, there’s a really sad feeling among seniors. We only have a month and a half left of school and at this point, we’re only taking classes we’re really passionate about. My favorite class was canceled for the rest of the semester. I also intern for a college credit. It’s up to the people in that office to determine whether they shut down for the intern program. If that happens, I don’t know if I’ll get a credit for that. It’s really frustrating and I don’t even know if my graduation requirements will be met.” —Lydia Niles, 22, Syracuse University
They’re not giving us any info...
“I’m at Agnes Scott College in Decatur, Georgia. Right now, we’re on spring break and all they’ve done is send out a few vague emails about how we’ll go online if necessary. They’re not giving us any info and everyone is stressed out. I really just want the college to send out an official statement—like, are we closing or not? (We all know it’s going to happen, but I want confirmation!)” —Laura Stordy, 21, Agnes Scott College
This just feels like a huge unnecessary disruption.
“Honestly, this just feels like a huge unnecessary disruption. My school is leaning into ‘the abundance of caution’ mindset, which I respect to some degree. However, moving things online indefinitely is especially frustrating for me as an out-of-state student because it requires packing up (as much as I can) with no real return date. It has not impacted me [financially] because I’m here on scholarship, but it’s definitely been a topic of conversation. Online classes are obviously not the same. It feels like a rip-off.” —Caroline Collins, 21, Florida State University
I mean, currently we are paying $75,000 a year to open our laptops and sluggishly retain a Philosophy lecture in our PJs and bedhead.
“Fordham University has done the best they can in keeping all the students updated. We started receiving emails about the virus weeks ago. Monday, we got the notice that we needed to leave ASAP and everything would be online until March 29.
“My biggest frustrations are that they are waiting to tell us if we get to go back or not after that. Being from the West Coast, it is not easy to go back and forth [to New York]. Some of my teachers even forgot to take into account that there are different time zones when giving online lectures at the regular class time. I totally slept through my 8:30 a.m. class this morning because that is 5:30 a.m. for me. It was not on purpose, but hey, when a pandemic comes around, who knows what will happen?
I mean, currently we are paying $75,000 a year to open our laptops and sluggishly retain a Philosophy lecture in our PJs and bedhead. But in times like these, you just have to be thankful you are not somewhere worse.” —Isabelle Hesse, 19, Fordham University
Now that classes are moving online, I know I don’t possess enough focus to be able to still truly understand the material, let alone get a decent grade.
“I’m really scared about what the remainder of this semester is going to be like. I have pretty difficult ADHD that I’ve struggled with my entire academic career. Now that classes are moving online, I know I don’t possess enough focus to be able to still truly understand the material, let alone get a decent grade.” —Elizabeth Bovay, 20, SUNY Geneseo
It feels like the world ended overnight.
“It feels like the world ended overnight. My professor compared this to 9/11 in terms of how things went from feeling normal to this surreal uncertainty within such a short time. I am the musical director of the Binghamton Treblemakers, a cappella group. At rehearsal last night, our president announced we won’t be able to have our semester show or use our funds for sound and lighting. I started crying. Seniors are being robbed of their senior solos they’ve waited for for four years.”
—Rachel Slotnick, 21, University of Binghamton
We’ve been told we’ll be reimbursed for a quarter of a year’s room and board.
“Wednesday afternoon, we were told that on-campus classes were over for the semester and we had to move out by the 23rd. The administration’s communication has really been lacking, and because of that, there’s been a good bit of misinformation going around. But all housing at Wesleyan is on campus, and we’ve been told we’ll be reimbursed for a quarter of a year’s room and board (around $4500) unless we are approved to stay on campus.
“The student and alumni response has been huge though. There’s a big ‘Wesleyan mutual aid’ spreadsheet going around where people are offering housing, transport, food, money. That’s encouraging at least!” —Amy Geiger, 20, Wesleyan University
There are a lot of unknowns at this time.
“We got a very abrupt email Wednesday saying that all classes were being suspended for the rest of the semester and transferred to online starting Thursday. I live on campus and the residence halls are staying open, but they are restricting any visitation, including students visiting other students. They are planning on consolidating the halls if they need to in order to try to move everyone staying on campus into one-person rooms. They are not planning on reimbursing us for any housing costs or meal plans.
“All Greek life events including formals and philanthropy events were cancelled without any warning. A lot of people are panicking about what they will do about housing, how to get home, how to move their stuff. There are a lot of unknowns at this time.” —Whitney McBay, 20, Loyola University, New Orleans
Everyone found out that we are online for the rest of the semester from Governor Cuomo’s tweet.
“I go to the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, and they only told us we were closed for next week. But everyone found out that we are online for the rest of the semester from Governor Cuomo’s tweet before the school let us know. I have friends that are transferring after this semester and are now in a panic because our semester has come to such an abrupt halt. It’s been a really eerie and unsettling feeling not knowing how long this will last or how much worse it could get.” —Carli Brennan, 20, Fashion Institute of Technology
Will I be able to walk across a stage and get my diploma?
“All I want to do is spam my professors’ emails for answers as to what’s going to happen, but at the same time, I don’t want to overwhelm them more than they already are. What makes things worse is I’m supposed to graduate in the spring. I can’t help but wonder what’s going to happen: Will I be able to finish everything in time? Is this semester like a free pass or will I have to make it up? Will I be able to walk across a stage and get my diploma? I don’t think anyone has these answers at this point. So now all I’m left to do is sit and wait. It is quite unsettling.” —Molly Tarase, 21, Cleveland State University
Everyone is terrified and we have all gotten to the point of not knowing how to stay calm.
“Central CT State just closed immediately until further notice because a student may have it. I know people who have no where to go because they are getting kicked out of their dorms. One of my professors said yesterday, ‘I know they say we’ll see you again after spring break but my educated guess? This is the last time I will see you guys this semester.’ Everyone is terrified and we have all gotten to the point of not knowing how to stay calm. Nothing like this has ever happened before.” —Christina Plourd, 22, Central CT State University
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