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Digital classrooms, canceled events and an empty campus: students adjust to life in quarantine

By Jane Bowden
Managing Editor

Three weeks ago, every hour of Emily Varga’s day was planned. Between classes, an internship and an on-campus job, she spent most of her time on campus. When Varga wasn’t working or studying, she was with her friends from Student Government or her sorority sisters in Sigma Kappa.

Since campus has closed and classes have moved online, the senior public health major’s schedule has looked pretty different — she has free time, and a lot of it.

Residential students who wished to stay on campus were required to fill out a request form (Camille Furst / Managing Editor).

“(Having free time) is really weird for me, as I am not used to it,” Varga said. “I’m not really handling things that well, because I work from home and am struggling to stay motivated.” 

As people self-isolate in their homes to reduce the spread of COVID-19, many students are still adjusting to what has become the new normal.

“It just feels like I’ve been home way longer than just two weeks,” said Julia Richards, a senior psychology major. “There are only so many hours you can be in one room, staring at a computer screen and doing school work.”

Much like Varga, Richards is used to having a busy schedule. On top of her classes and  on-campus job, she interned at Millhill Child & Family Outpatient Clinic in Trenton, NJ, attending  clinical team and referral meetings with men in halfway or long-term housing. 

But when the COVID-19 pandemic forced the clinic to close its doors, Richards’ semester-long internship was cut short, and she was left without the vital hands-on experience she needs for a job in clinical psychology.

Today, Richards is in self-isolation with her family at their home in Augusta, NJ. Since March 14, she has left her house three times —  either to go on a hike, go grocery shopping or deliver food to her grandfather. 

Richards said it’s been hard listening to news, as she fears for the safety of her family — Her grandfather has pulmonary fibrosis and depends on an oxygen tank, which puts him at high risk for severe coronavirus infection.

“(The virus) can be overwhelming at times,” Richards said. “It’s everywhere — online, on TV, in every conversation. It’s difficult to escape.”

To keep her mind off of the news, Richards spends her days inside, attending her classes through Zoom and continuing her internship online. To still receive credit for her internship, she completes her necessary hours by doing alternative online assignments such as watching in-treatment shows.

When she needs a break, she plays with her dogs, paints and watches Netflix’s popular British dating reality series, “Love Island.”

For some students, the prospect of quarantining in Ewing seemed like a safer option than returning home to their families.

Bipasha Chatterjee, a senior psychology major, lives in Wayne, NJ. Just 15 minutes away from Chatterjee’s house is Bergen County, which has the highest number of COVID-19 cases in the state. As of Wednesday, April 2, Bergen County has more than 3,700 cases of COVID-19 and 75 deaths related to the virus, and these numbers are on the rise every hour.

For the past two weeks, Chatterjee has been living with six other people in her off-campus house in Ewing, a decision she said felt like the better option.

“I know that what I love most about Ewing are the people who made this town so memorable and so impactful these past four years, and I wanted these last two months to be with those people, too,” Chatterjee said.

To maintain normalcy in her schedule, Chatterjee wakes up early to eat breakfast, do homework and watch movies.

“I’m doing better than I expected — I’m someone who prefers communicating with people in person, especially because I’m awful at texting, but I think the quarantine has pushed me to reach out to people and communicate more often than I normally would,” Chatterjee said. “Quarantining with my friends in Ewing definitely helps, too, because it keeps me in the mindset that the semester isn’t actually over.”

Varga, who has also been quarantining with her friends in her off-campus house in Ewing, said everyone in her house has been doing homework, playing board games and going outside to do work in the backyard.

“I love my friends and honestly am pretty bummed about the rest of the semester being cancelled, so it seemed like the better option and it’s been pretty fun so far,” Varga said. “I love my family, but I just didn’t want to rush moving home.”


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