I'm A Student At Stony Brook University And My COVID-19 Experience Has Been Very Strange
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I'm A Student At Stony Brook University And My COVID-19 Experience Has Been Very Strange

When I walk around on the weekends I am lucky to see one other person.

Photo by Ken Theimer on Unsplash

I am a senior at Stony Brook Univesity and this fall semester is the strangest semester I have yet to encounter. Classes started up again in mid to late August and so far we have done a pretty good job at keeping down the number or COVID-19 cases. In the past 21 days, only 5 students have tested positive, along with one university employee. Considering the number of students, these are excellent numbers. That is only a 0.1% positive rate among students.

In fall 2019 only 7% of classes were held online, now this year 81% of class registrations are online. Stony Brook University is a very big commuter school. Last fall only about 39% of students were living on campus, but now that number has been cut to a little less than half of that coming in at 17%. You can see similar trends for students registered for in-person classes in the figure below.


I am currently living on campus and it has been so different than any other semester I have experienced. The dorms feel empty and quiet all the time. There are no visitors allowed from off-campus, even if they are students with in-person classes. There are even restrictions to see my friends who dorm in the same building. There are no overnight guests or after 11:00 pm at all. I understand they are doing their best to keep us safe and the school open but it feels lonely at times.

Overall, I feel safe being back at school almost everyone I see is wearing a mask for the most part. Coming back to school I was nervous that most people wouldn't comply with the university's mask policy (should be worn at all times in building except for your bedroom, and outside when in crowded areas or near others). The only time I see an issue with the mask policy compliance is when I am at work. I work at the university's Health Science Library and there are often people who like to take off their masks. Luckily, most people will not give you a hard time and just put it right back on if you ask.

Although masks are being worn, I do not think social distancing policies have been as strictly followed as they probably should be. I often see people breaking the guest policies or hanging out in large groups outside without masks and closely packed. In the first week of classes, a group of freshmen got sent home for not following the policies closely enough. So the school is trying to regulate social interactions the best they can without being too invasive.

I asked some of my friends and co-workers what they think will happen, and just about everyone thinks that we will end up going fully online by the time the semester is over. Many also indicated that they are surprised it hasn't already. Even though it has been a rough change for everyone involved, people seem to be trying their best to keep the school open.

My educational experience has most certainly been the biggest change for me. My classes are currently all online which is a big switch from my usual. I have found that although I have been studying more this semester, I am finding it hard to stay focused. My eyes hurt from looking at the screens all day. I feel very drained by the time I am done. Also, every professor I have uses a different system of teaching online. For me, that has been the hardest adjustment. Some teachers are using very timed very clear and easy to follow modules. Some Have one big folder of documents for the entire semester that are not sorted, along with every method you can think of in between these two.

As of now, I believe Stony Brook University will not shut down again this semester. We have done what I think is an excellent job of keeping the numbers low. My only concern I that we get tested approximately once every 3 or 4 weeks I believe where I know my friends' universities have been testing once or twice a week. So I hope those numbers are accurate but I have my doubts. Hopefully, everything will be under control so we are able to come back in the spring and I can bee with my friends for the end of my senior year.

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