It's been over a month now since Rutgers closed and switched to online-learning, and Rutgers students miss it. Whether freshmen whose first-year experience got cut short or seniors who are missing out on rites of passage, everyone is missing the Old Banks in some way. We're chatting about exactly that here at Rutgers Odyssey:
Meet The Panel:
Where are you spending quarantine? What's the vibe?
Rishika, Class of 2021
I am spending quarantine with my family at home not too far from New Brunswick. I commute to Rutgers, so I'm used to studying at home. However, like many of us, I never thought I'd be home this much. My house is usually quiet, save the sounds of kitchen gadgets whirring (courtesy mom), and the occasional cricket game in the background. We're all usually together for meals until we have to return to our rooms to resume work. It's paradoxical, but something that many are experiencing during this time is experiencing aloneness together. Although I cannot see friends, it's been wonderful having my older brother come back home. We've talked, played board games, and bonded over Brooklyn 99. Frankly, it has me reminiscing of the times when we were both in school. That's why, during this time, I feel especially grateful to have our entire family together. Albeit under unforeseen circumstances, we've come together once again.
Stephanie, Class of 2022
I am quarantined at my home in Cherry Hill. My family is all safe which is good, we are just definitely growing very tired of one another!
Miranda, Class of 2023
I'm spending quarantine with my parents and younger sister in Charlottesville, Virginia. We've been getting along pretty well with each other even if my parents tend to underestimate the degree to which I learned to adult while I was away for my first one-and-a-half semesters of college. The lockdown isn't quite as strict as it is in New Jersey, but it's still strange to wander around the neighborhood at night and have it be completely silent.
Aasha, Class of 2020
I'm quarantined at home in Central Jersey, with most of my family except my older sister — she's a doctor at a hospital in NYC, so she's there treating COVID-19 patients. We are simultaneously worried for and proud of her, and thankfully the rest of us are safe and well!
How do you feel about our university's response to COVID-19?
Rishika — Rutgers' response to the COVID-19 pandemic has been immensely positive. As most know, our university has a new saliva testing technique approved by the FDA that is now being implemented for more efficient testing. Even on all other fronts, though, Rutgers has been taking care of things very well. As an engineering major, I know that our school has an engineering open house each spring for prospective students to come out and see the variety of things being done by students. Due to the transition to remote learning, the open house still continued — but online. Engineering organizations were asked to send in information about their projects and students were asked to send in videos or anecdotes of their favorite experiences while being a part of the School of Engineering. Furthermore, the efforts from the Office of Career Services to provide virtual resources for students whose jobs have been adversely impacted by the virus is so heartwarming. They've held online career fairs, are offering advising appointments online, and raffling off lighting sets for a better WFH experience. All of this, in combination with warm letters from Dean Litt of the Douglass Residential College, university efforts to plan an alternate commencement celebration, and so much more are all such beautiful ways to show students that they are missed and cared for.
Stephanie — Although I wish we were back on campus, I am happy with Rutgers's response to COVID-19. The University had to close to protect everyone from contracting the virus. This is a very serious issue that I feel a lot of us are not fully aware of, but I am happy Rutgers took action to help end the pandemic sooner rather than later.
Miranda — I think that Rutgers took the right steps by shutting down classes, but in retrospect, I wish they had decided to finish out the rest of the semester online before we left for home. Few of us recognized the full potential scope of the pandemic at that point, but if I had known for certain we were not returning, I would have taken the rest of my belongings home with me. As an out-of-state student, I wasn't entirely sure I would be able to get to New Jersey for my move-out date, as we heard rumors about people being pulled over and quarantined in Delaware. The Residence Life representatives I spoke to about the issue were not particularly helpful, recommending U-Haul services that had been shut down in response to the virus and insisting that the university would not ship anything to us if we were not able to take it home ourselves. Ultimately, I did manage to move out on schedule, but I was still not impressed with how Rutgers handled the situation.
Aasha — Overall, I'm proud of Rutgers' response to COVID-19. Residence Life approved thousands of students to stay on-campus virtually over-night in order to support students who were housing-insecure or otherwise could not leave campus, which was a lot more equitable and supportive than many other universities who gave students a few days for everyone to move out. That said, I do wish Rutgers had decided sooner that we would not be returning for the semester — while I live just a half hour away so it wasn't hard for me to go back to move out, I know many of my residents had difficulty coming back weeks later once they knew they had to move out. More recently, I am incredibly proud and in awe of Rutgers' saliva test that is definitely changing the face of COVID testing.
When did you start to know it was serious? When did you start taking action?
Rishika — I first started becoming aware of the severity once the situation began to deteriorate in New York. Being in the tri-state area, it was only a matter of time before it spread to New Jersey. Then, when the first New Jersey case was reported and Princeton University had already transitioned to remote instruction, it really felt real. When Rutgers closed early for spring break, though, I still wasn't discounting the possibility that we may be returning. Now, however, I appreciate that universities across the nation are taking this seriously and ensuring students do not come to campus for any activities. I can't imagine it being any other way, even though it does come with its challenges.
Stephanie — I started to know this situation was serious when the supermarkets started requiring masks in order for customers to enter. That was when I knew that the situation was not being blown out of proportion, but I was personally taking the situation seriously before that as well. I was not going out with friends, I was predominantly staying home and being conscious of the things I touch.
Miranda — I'm a microbiology major planning on pursuing a career in infectious disease, so I was following coronavirus news from the moment the pathogen was first identified in China. When I heard about cases appearing in New York City, I began to suspect that we were past the point at which we could reasonably contain the virus's spread, and I started using my meal swipes to purchase non-perishable goods from Cafe West just in case I found myself in the position of having to quarantine in my dorm room. Even then, I wasn't entirely certain whether I was overreacting or not until the University announced it would be transitioning to online instruction after spring break.
Aasha — Hearing about the dire situation in Italy was the first marker to me that this was a serious, possibly global issue. When we heard about cases in New York, it felt inevitable that it would spread to New Jersey as well, given the amount of overlap in populations. In the days leading up to Rutgers' "extended spring break" I had gotten very uncomfortable taking the Rutgers buses to class, so I was relieved when Rutgers made the decision to start spring break early and switch to remote learning (for at least a few weeks, at that point).
What do you miss most about being on campus?
Rishika — I miss being able to walk outside and catch some fresh air between classes. As a STEM major, I essentially live on Busch campus. That being said, I am aware of the hate that Busch gets as being home to the "mean geese" and having nothing fun to do. While I understand these extremely pressing issues, the nature-lover in me has always appreciated the greenery, the geese, and the smell of the fresh mulch every spring. Love ya Busch <3. I also really miss being able to study with my friends while trying out new combinations at the smoothie bar, telling each other about all the work we had to do, grabbing dinner together, and suffering through the same classes together (shoutout to my civil squad!).
Stephanie — I miss my residents and Residence Life, Leadership Department, and NRHH family!
Miranda — I miss the experience of exploring New Brunswick. I've lived in one town almost all of my life, and it was exhilarating learning how to navigate in a new place and find different places on campus. I'm thankful to be at home, but I yearn for the adventures that I was able to have while at school.
Aasha — I miss my HC-DRC residents so much! I so wish we got to close out their first-years properly.
What's something you didn't realize you'd miss?
Rishika — I didn't realize how much I would miss in-person instruction. While technology has helped so much by making the transition possible in the first place, it clearly does not give the same experience as sitting in a classroom. For me and many other students, a classroom's vibe on its own is enough to put me in a focused state of mind; I feel more alert, engaged, and as a result understand concepts quicker. Being at home poses easy distractions like checking one's phone, opening up another tab, and my biggest one — zoning out. Still, I wouldn't have it any other way because, despite these challenges, they are worth every moment knowing that we are saving as many lives as possible. Also, it feels odd to think that not too long ago we could make plans to visit new places and try out new things with the ones we cared about — it's something I don't think I'll ever take for granted again.
Stephanie — I honestly did not realize I would miss the Rutgers buses. I miss taking the LX to eat at Henry's with my friends.
Miranda — I didn't realize I would miss the shower in my dorm so much. The water was so much warmer, and my sister is twice as bad as anyone on my floor was when it comes to leaving the bathroom a mess!
Aasha — I knew I'd miss campus as a whole once I graduated because of how beautiful and varied the Rutgers campus is, but while sitting at home and taking classes on my laptop, I realize just how immensely I miss the act of simply walking between classes on our gorgeous campus.
What's the first thing you're doing when you get back?
Rishika — Like so many of us, I would first feel immensely grateful to be back. Then, I would proceed to enact out all the Rutgers plans I had made with my friends, including the postponed ones from spring break. Trying out that new place on Easton? Check. Going to as many Rutgers events as possible? Check. Beach? Check. Just being outside in general? Check.
Stephanie — The first thing I am doing when I get back is going to RA training and spending all the time in the world with my Residence Life family!
Miranda — I'm going to meet my future roommate Trent: Seeing Eye puppy-in-training! His raiser (another awesome future roommate!!) has been posting so many pictures of him, and though I'm sad she never got to introduce us while at Rutgers, I'm so excited to see them when I get back.
Aasha — I'm graduating this year so sadly I won't be "going back" like most other students, but I am definitely looking forward to having some sort of reunion and getting to say thank you in-person to everyone who has made my college experience what it was.
How are you helping those around you?
Rishika — Right now, the biggest thing that all of us are doing to help out and do our part is by staying at home and encouraging others to do the same. I make sure to update my family on the recent stats and news in our area from trusted sources and remind them why it's important to continue staying at home like we've been doing. After going outside for walks or bike rides, I make sure to wash my hands and face thoroughly as to not track any germs inside. And, when it comes to groceries, I help out by wiping down all items and organizing them neatly where they belong so it's one less thing for us all to worry about.
Stephanie — I am helping those around me by not going out with friends, and washing my hands right away after I come in from walks around my neighborhood.
Miranda — Aside from working with my family to keep things running smoothly around the house, I've primarily been active in trying to help other students with the transition to online classes. Especially with courses like Organic Chemistry, the professors are often unable to cover material because they have so many course policy questions, so I try to do my part by answering them when I can so that we have more time to get through what we need to for the exam. Once the summer comes, I'm hoping to increase my involvement in community service again by hosting additional Smithsonian transcription sessions with my friends. I often feel frustrated by how meaningless these small things seem amid the comparatively massive crisis COVID-19 has generated, but I'll still keep trying to do the best that I can.
Aasha — Staying at home is a HUGE help that I hope everyone is taking seriously. Other than that, a few weeks ago my dad and I spent hours driving around (safely and distanced-ly) picking up face mask and other PPE donations around Central Jersey, to drive up to my sister for use by the residents at her hospital. It was really difficult to hear about the lack of basic protection the residents were receiving while directly treating COVID-positive patients, so we put out requests for any donations in our local communities. It was incredible to see how many people donated face masks they found; I believe we had around 500 surgical or N95 masks that our community donated. It's hard to believe this was such an issue at a major hospital in NYC, the most hard-hit place in America. It makes me deeply worried about the situation at smaller hospitals, in smaller areas — and the inadequate response from the federal government to support and protect healthcare workers, not to mention essential workers in other fields.