This all started back in March. As students at St Joe’s we were finishing off our midterms, getting ready to go home for spring break. We all had very different last few moments. Personally, my friends and I were dancing in a crowded basement filled with people from all different grades. That was the last normal memory I have. Following that week, we were sent home because spring break started and when everyone was leaving, there was excitement in the air because we were all under the impression that we would see each other after break. However, that wasn’t the case.
That was the start of the craziness. Many schools started shutting down and soon thereafter. While I was one, I started noticing life around me change. people started buying hand sanitizers in bulk, cleaning supplies were scarce, people had to start standing 6 feet apart from each other. But the most visible change was: MASKS. It became a requirement to wear it everywhere. Stores made policies and started changing their rules to the point where you would need a mask to enter the building. It was especially easier for me to notice them because I worked at a grocery store so we were the first group of people to start wearing masks. It was difficult for everyone because we were so used to seeing smiling customers’ faces to not being able to figure out who is who anymore.
While all of this was happening, St. Joe’s was in the middle of extending their spring break because they were trying to get a feel of what was happening around the world. It didn’t take long for them to make a decision and on March 12th, 2020 students and families receive an email with information stating that classes will shift to online for a couple weeks until a final decision is made. No more than five days later, we received the following email notifying us that we will continue with virtual classes for the remainder of the spring semester. A wave of sadness washed over me as I read the email because I knew that would mean the end of my freshman year on campus.
While finishing off my semester, everything around me started shutting down. States started enforcing curfews, people refused to leave their homes, hospitals were flooding with patients and unfortunately, families lost loved ones as well. For many, including myself, was struggling to have faith during this depressing period. All-in-all, I was drained in every aspect of my life. But soon my faith would be restored.
St. Joe’s was one of few schools that made the decision to return to campus in the fall. I was elated while reading the email. However, even though we could be back on campus, changes would be enforced. We would be going back to a completely different environment, than what we were used to. The school was doing everything in their power to get us back on campus while following orders from the CDC and ensuring that students felt comfortable.
While many decided to remain online, those that decided to go back to campus were starting to go back. Before we all went back to school, we had to quarantine for 2 weeks before returning on campus. When we got back to campus we noticed how it changed.
A big ole white tent is propped up on Villiger lawn. The tent served as extra seating space because Campion seating was closed off. To this day, the tents are still propped up and people have been using the. Inside Campion, tables and chairs were spread out to the point that only 3 people could sit at the table; two on the ends of the table and in the middle. Besides the layout looking different, the system was different as well. As soon as people swipe in, they receive a brown lunch bag that is stuffed with an empty fountain cup, sealed utensils and napkins. Students would go to their desired stations and a prepackaged box with the meal of the day would be placed in front of the station, easily accessible.
Numbers on campus were low as well especially since students had classes on zoom which gave them an opportunity to stay in their apartments. It was rare seeing someone you knew on campus because people were barely there.
On top of noticeable changes, there were changes happening behind the scene as well. On campus services started closing early as well and on some they wouldn’t even be open. Einstein’s bagel, a campus staple, was battling to stay open due to the lack of students on campus and a decision was made to cut the hours and remain closed on Fridays.
Campus was noticeably empty. The campus that we were used to, filled with smiling faces and over enthusiastic students, became a lot quieter and had less movement on campus. Regardless of the changes, we were still making the most of it. Even though events hosted by Hawk Hill Productions required masks and social distancing, it was a success. People didn’t let COVID get in the way of socializing, and that’s how it should be. We are all faced with this challenge but St. Joe’s has made the most of it and have been trying to make life on campus the way we used to live it. As Richard Gioioso, Ph.D. professor of political science said,
“I admire students, in particular, St. Joe’s students, who have been able to do these hybrid forms and be back on campus and really adapt in the way that St. Joe’s is adapting.”Richard Gioioso, Ph.D. professor of political science