Adjusting to a socially distant campus

Yasmeen Hill

Editor’s note: This column was written before shelter-in-place guidelines were enacted in Georgia.

Spring is my favorite time of year, and springtime at Mercer makes me enjoy it even more. The cherry blossoms start to bloom, and I get to come out of “hibernation” to lay out on Cruz Plaza or congregate in the quad. 

These are things that I usually look forward to, but in the midst of the pandemic, campus understandably feels very different. When I used to take a walk across campus pre-quarantine, I’d see nothing but familiar faces. Now, it’s just me and the occasional squirrel. Most people are boarded up in their homes with hand sanitizer and disinfectant spray at the ready, but for those of us left on campus, social distancing and quarantine works differently. 

I have to interact with the campus as a whole to survive. Sometimes that means leaving the germ-free safety of my dorm room for food, mail or fresh air.

A typical day for me now starts a little later than usual. I mean, who needs to get ready for class when you don’t have to go to class? I wake up, turn on my diffuser and hope the lavender essential oil will be enough to ease the anxiety caused by the uncertainty surrounding the pandemic. 

Before it was confirmed that we would not be returning for in-person classes but we could stay on campus, I was constantly dealing with the possibility of being forced to move and the implications that would have. 

What If I don’t get paid for my work study job? I can’t buy groceries without a paycheck. What if I unknowingly expose my family? I’ve been traveling, and they’ve been quarantined in Atlanta for weeks. 

I felt instant relief after receiving President Underwood’s email detailing his decision, and felt comfortable in my choice to stay. 

My position as a Resident Assistant also influenced me to stay, but with less and less residents to assist, my job has devolved to mostly just answering phones and unlocking doors. 

From my bedroom I work through whatever online material for the day and attend Zoom sessions as needed. Distance learning is a practice that has been surprisingly helpful. Despite the initial awkwardness, it’s relieving to see my peers and professors, even if it is only on a screen. 

My daily dose of in-person human interaction comes from visiting my friends who, for various reasons, also decided to remain on campus. Ironically we’re somewhat quarantining together, sharing resources and solace in the fact that we are all going through it. 

It’s easy to get caught up in how this is affecting us on an individual level, but we all have to support each other now more than ever and take the steps to do our part in reducing the spread of the virus. So by next spring we can watch the cherry blossoms bloom again and this time be present for it.


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