A college student’s perspective on the uncertain future

When I entered my dormitory for the first time, toting all my possessions in reusable bags and Amazon boxes, my dad told me straight away not to unpack anything unnecessary.

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When I entered my dormitory for the first time, toting all my possessions in reusable bags and Amazon boxes, my dad told me straight away not to unpack anything unnecessary.

© Carley Campbell/iGeneration Youth/TNS Carley Campbell takes a selfie with her meal from the cafeteria at Montclair State University. The school offers takeout options.

In his eyes, I would only be in that dorm room for one week, tops. He was ready to turn the car back home without a second thought.

At the time of writing this, it’s been eight days since I moved into my dorm room at Montclair State, the second-largest university in New Jersey. With over 22,000 undergraduates, we are a top college choice for many kids in New Jersey.

Most students are commuters, driving down the treacherous parkways and highways of the Garden State and into our many parking lots. Commuting or going online completely is not an option for me. I may live 20 minutes away from the school, but the only way I can get there is if I take several trains and buses, use rideshare apps, or just walk home. I can’t drive a car.

I am studying journalism, which is difficult to practice with online-only classes. Three of my classes, which will have physical class meetings, require me to rent equipment, sit in recording booths, and wrangle B-roll footage into a news report.

Few people are on campus. The school is doing phased move-ins. Out-of-state kids, kids with two-hour drives from the shore and Philadelphia, and kids who can bypass the difficult housing process are coming in. They had to shut down a dormitories because it had shared bathrooms. People are uncertain about how long they can live here. We know that after the Thanksgiving break, classes will be fully online.

© Carley Campbell/iGeneration Youth/TNS The wild animal population has reappeared on campus. Deer graze outside Dickson Hall, which houses the College of Humanities and Social Sciences at Montclair State University.

For the safety of students and staff, you fill out charts and forms dictating where you go and when you go into the school to move in. It’s all done building by building, based on needs.

Housing was not a big concern for some because the on-campus population has been halved. I moved in at the earliest time I could: Aug. 10. During that time, the only people I saw were joggers wheezing up the many hills around my school. I was more likely to see custodians than students on the campus sprawl.

To get my double room, I had to fill out an abundance of paperwork. Agreeing that in the event that I get COVID-19, I will be in a single room devoid of human contact, besides food delivery and online classes. Affirming that I must report my whereabouts to the school in a survey wonderfully named “Hawk Check,” and go to classes with masks and sanitizer at the ready. And the most chilling of them all, filling out a safety plan, so the university can notify my parents if I need to be taken out of the school as soon as possible.

© Carley Campbell/iGeneration Youth/TNS An example of the signs put on chairs, desks, tables across Montclair State University.

I had to get a COVID-19 test done before coming on campus. I have a roommate, and I share a bathroom with two others. We were provided some cleaning supplies by the school, but we bought some in case.

And then there was the food situation. It’s unknown whether dining options will be open in time for our classes next week, and if they are, how they will be handled.

The tables I spent many hours sitting at with friends have all but disappeared. There are plenty of floor signs for all students to follow, complete with plexiglass barriers and red hawk talons (a reference to the school mascot). Instead of sitting down to eat, it was grab-and-go. Pick whatever you want, and an employee will pack it for you in a styrofoam box and a plastic bag.

© Carley Campbell/iGeneration Youth/TNS An example of the signs put on chairs, desks, tables across Montclair State University.

But here on campus, it’s the calm before the storm. As one can imagine, the doom my dad prophesied has yet to arrive. Somehow, society hasn’t collapsed. Cats and dogs are not raining from the sky. Pigs aren’t flying. Right now, it’s like a nature preserve with buildings scattered about. I’ve seen more birds, deer, and squirrels than humans here.

My bizarre college situation leaves me with sleepless nights and constant texts from my parents about whether I’ll even be able to go to classes next week. Much like this whole pandemic, everything is just one day at a time.

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