Op-Eds Opinion

Rotondo: Alumni quarantine was not easy, but needed

Irene Rotondo
@irenerrotondo

9:00 p.m. on a Tuesday night is not when you receive important emails from your college. That sort of thing is saved for an 8:00 a.m., Monday morning type of setting, when you have the rest of the day to process, and to plan.

Unfortunately, keeping in tandem with the disordered state of affairs that is 2020, all norms of everyday life have gone out the window. Alumni residents were told on a massive Zoom call with President Mary-Beth Cooper and the PLT that we would be quarantined for the next two weeks, starting the very next day, on Sept. 30.

My friends around me, all of our attention suddenly taken away from the enrapturing first presidential debate, began discussing their plans and almost immediately decided to return home. Even my roommate, an Arizona native, flew home the very next day to begin her quarantine.

I chose to stay. Personally, I was intrigued to see what Springfield’s accommodations for the students staying on campus would be like. 

Not only that, but as a junior in college, I think it’s sad I can say that I’ve only actually been on campus for just one full school year. My undergraduate years will only last for so long; I want to experience as much of them on-campus as I can.

Hearing my friends say, “See you in two weeks!” as they locked their doors and carried away duffel bags brought back the same dreadful feelings I had the last time we were sent off to quarantine in March. What if it wasn’t going to be just two weeks again? What if that was the last time I saw my friends until Jan. 2021?

The worries subsided after the first few days, especially since I was lucky my boyfriend (who already lives in Alumni) decided he wanted to stay too. 

I was never completely alone; he was just two floors away from me, and we were allowed to go outside to walk around campus, do homework, and eat meals together anytime we wanted.

The rules applying to the 50 or so of us remaining in Alumni were harsh. No entrance to other buildings, and that included the Union and other dorms. 

This also meant we took all of our classes remotely. Though it was difficult to complete some of my class work due to the quarantine, professors were extremely understanding and helped all of us make it work. 

I would meet on Zoom at my regularly scheduled class time, instead of attending in-person, with the rest of the students on Zoom for the day, and I was able to keep up with lectures and assignments this way.

A regular day in quarantine looked a little something like this: since I didn’t have to actually be in-person for any of my early-morning classes, I could wake up a couple minutes before class was scheduled to start to just brush my teeth and toss on some clothes.

After my first course of the day, I would clean my room and get myself ready for the rest of my classes. Lunch was always ready in the lobby around noon, so my boyfriend and I would grab it to sit outside since the weather (thankfully) was mostly nice. 

After that, we’d head back to our rooms and finish up our classes for the day, catch up on ALL the homework we could, and watch endless amounts of Netflix.

Dinner was always exciting because they’d order us special meals, like Domino’s, or have a themed night. We would take our food outside again and afterwards, walk around the outdoor parts of campus we hadn’t had the time to explore before.

We had to rely on the amazing staff at Harvest Table for these past two weeks to get our meals, and though eating Cheney food in a to-go box that’s already been walked across campus, sitting in a warmer on wheels, might not be the ideal meal for everyone, the effort and love that was put into taking care of us who stayed in Alumni was very, very appreciated.

Countless groups on campus put together goody bags with special snacks and activities we could do while in our rooms to let us know we were being thought of by the whole campus community. 

In all honesty, those little presents were what really helped lift all of our spirits; I know of few other colleges that have expressed as much compassion to their quarantined students as Springfield did.

As I mentioned before, the rules on building entrance and restrictions were the real killer for those of us who chose to stay. Not only was almost every floor of the dorm empty, but we weren’t even allowed to see our other friends who were still on campus. Just knowing they were so close, yet so far, was the worst part.

I think the lowest point of quarantine was about five days in. That’s when it really started to hit me; I had nine more days of this shit, had already done almost a full week, and I was pretty much all alone. 

Watching other students stroll around campus from my fourth-floor window felt like I was stuck in a mini time-warp; all the other Springfield College kids were continuing on with their lives, attending classes and all, while I legitimately watched from afar. 

A moment of clarity came a few days later, though. Was I really missing out on anything? Was I really so alone? Most of my friends were home, doing the exact same things I was doing but in their own rooms.

I wasn’t alone, really; there were about 249 other kids going through it too. Not only that, but Springfield College is a community. The quarantine was for the greater good of the community to keep us all safe, and following the rules, knowing I was helping my community, felt good.

Quarantine has officially ended as of Wednesday, Oct. 14. While I was stuck in my 160-square-foot single, I wasn’t just missing my friends and classmates; I was missing getting to walk past people on the sidewalk, walking into the Union and hearing students’ voices downstairs, holding the door open for others on my way into Locklin Hall. 

I don’t speak for all of the Alumni students who were in quarantine, but I can say for sure we are so glad to be back.

Photo: Irene Rotondo/The Student

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