A student’s perspective on the pandemic | Article Three

Mountain Lake PBS intern Shawn Alexis concludes his series of articles showing an insider’s look at how SUNY Plattsburgh students are coping with the COVID-19 situation, with his own thoughts on the subject.

Life as a college student isn’t easy. I’m sure most people know that already. You make it to that final semester of your college career, knowing that all your hard work, all the stress that you felt, the lack of sleep and everything you had to go through would all finally be paid off. You’re finally enjoying your last bit of college, enjoying the parties, the lighter schedules, hanging out with your friends for the final time. Then the Coronavirus struck.

At first, we didn’t think much of it. I thought the worst that would happen is that we would have to stay home an extra week for Spring Break, which I was okay with. I live in the city so I knew that going home would be a risk but I wasn’t too worried about it. Then March 11, 2020 arrived. No one at SUNY Plattsburgh knew what was going on, and we were all awaiting a decision from the school’s president. All it took was a tweet to flip everything I knew on its heels. Governor Andrew Cuomo declared that all CUNY and SUNY schools would be closed and classes were to be taught remotely.

I never felt more distraught in my life. At that point, nothing was certain but I knew that I couldn’t go back home. I realized that instead of the two months I had to say goodbye to everyone, I had two days. I wouldn’t be able to keep my job on campus. The school said they would be closing all of their facilities. As a Television and Video Production major, that hinders and stops any work that we would be able to do. Our television studio, which is essential to the work we do has officially shut down, leaving us all lost, with no real solution on how to finish the semester.

My living situation would remain fine as I live off campus, but students who lived on campus were optimistic that they would be able to come back and be able to hang out with some of their friends for the final couple of weeks because the school had originally said that they were keeping the dorms open. Little did we know that the school would change its mind, making it so that only international students, and those who were deemed necessary to stay on campus would be allowed to stay. 

This added on to the load that we had to bear. At the time, our commencement ceremony was up in the air, and then I came to find out that the people I thought I’d see after Spring Break, turns out I would never get to even say goodbye. The only time I get to see them is on Zoom. 

Once Spring Break started, I was all alone. My roommates had gone back home, and I didn’t know if there was anyone left up here. Leaving me with nothing but to reflect on except how everything I knew in life was essentially over. Every day blended together, and it felt like I was in my own personal hell. Talking to people who weren’t a graduating senior wouldn’t help. They don’t understand the fact that my last time in college, and the life I knew was ruined. My after college plans have been greatly affected as I am still unsure if, when and where I’ll be able to get a job. I can’t go home because I live in the most infected area in the country, New York City. The only thing I enjoyed doing was production work in the school. Everything in a matter of seconds was ripped away from. I just felt lost.

Before Spring Break officially started, I went around and asked how many people would stay in Plattsburgh. A considerable number of off campus students said they would remain in Plattsburgh until the end of the semester or at least they would do that once they returned from the break. We all banded together and said if we were going to survive this, then we needed each other to do it. It took one day to realize that all of that squad stuff we were talking about was a lie.

Trying to hang out or just talking to someone proved to be a huge challenge for the first week. Everyone was distraught over the whole situation. Now everyone handles things differently but from what I can tell, no one was handling the situation well and very few people were there for each other. This left me alone for a little while, and it even going outside to walk around felt like a crime, so I stayed secluded in the house. Out of everyone in the “team,” only one person was really still by my side. Lauren McAuliffe and her group of friends would eventually start inviting me over to hang out. 

The next few days became easier to deal with. However all good things must come to end, and so they did. Very quickly, people started dropping like flies from that group. Whether they had to return home, or they just stopped coming around, it just left Lauren and me with just each other. We would be there for one another, if someone was having a bad day, needed a shoulder to cry on, or just needed someone’s company. It was a great feeling to have some solidarity with someone and it made the first week of this new reality a lot easier. 

Then my roommates slowly came back and life started feeling okay again. Then one of my roommate’s mom and little brother came up to visit for a day, but left their father home because he wasn’t feeling well. Later in the week, it was discovered that his father had contracted the Coronavirus. My roommate had gone back home under the pretense that his dad just had the flu, and once he was made aware of the situation and had made the decision to quarantine himself back at home. In turn, we who were left here decided that it was best for us to quarantine ourselves here because we came in contact with someone who had been in contact with COVID-19. 

The fear of having it was a lot to bear, not because of fear of my own health but due to the fact that I had been around a good number of people in those few weeks. So telling people why I had to stay to myself filled them all with dread. I was trying to assure people that they were safe but they needed to stay away from me because of the risk factor. Added to that was the fact that I was worried about my friend’s dad and the well-being of the whole family. We would receive updates on his father for the next week and it sounded like his condition was improving. Originally they had him breathing with a ventilator but they decided that he no longer needed it. As quickly as his health improved, it deteriorated even quicker. One day, we were told that the rest of the family tested negative for the virus and his dad was improving, and two days later, we got the news that his dad had passed away. 

The pure shock of how quickly COVID-19 took him away from his family and friends made me realize how serious this is. According to the doctor, his was the worst case in Westchester county that they’d seen. It’s really crazy that someone that I knew had now been deeply affected by the virus and life would never be the same for him again. I try to be there for him as much as I can but there is nothing I can really do to help. What makes it worse is that they couldn’t even have a proper funeral for him because gatherings of over ten people were no longer allowed. I couldn’t imagine what that feels like and I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy. 

One thing I know that most students would agree with is that we all look forward to graduating. So when the time finally comes for you to enjoy your last semester, you’d want to spend that time enjoying every second of it. You think you have time to say goodbye to your friends and people who have become like family. So when a pandemic strikes and takes away all of that, it messes with your head. 

School became extremely hard. With all the classes transitioning to an online format, it was hard to be motivated to do the work. I didn’t sign up for online classes because I know it would be hard for me to handle them. Motivation to go to classes and do the work drastically decreased. I’ve missed a good amount of classes ever since they switched to Zoom and Google Hangout. It doesn’t feel worth it to show up. I used to enjoy showing up to classes because they were lively and people were having fun. Now on Zoom, people don’t want to have their cameras on. They barely talk. It’s not very engaging, regardless of how hard some of the professors try. 

It’s also very clear that some of the professors don’t know what to do for work. Everyone is lost and it’s difficult to stay on track. I, for one can be honest and say my drive has gone down to the bare minimum. I struggle to get work done and when I can’t leave the house, then you can forget about it. I understand how some may still have the will to push forward with the same drive as before, but I don’t have that in me anymore. 

I had plans for my future that I was going to start immediately. After graduation, I had plans on starting my career, away from home. Moving out on my own away from New York City. I was getting job interviews, and I was motivated and working hard. Now media jobs are even harder to get. The job market has been abysmal and everything I’ve been looking towards has been put on hold. With that being my reality, I don’t have anything motivating me to keep trying. When I do try, the professors are slow to get back to me to know what my grades are, so I’m really left in the dark. 

It’s funny that things worked out this way. According to the school’s system, I’ve been finished with all my classes since last semester so I’m only in school to collect credits. I’m forced to stay to complete classes that are overall pointless to me. I had just accepted that fact and now that my classes are all online I don’t really know how I’m going to pass these remaining classes. Really feels like I got scammed, like a sick joke is being played on me. I could have graduated early and would have been able to get my life started early, instead because of something that offers me no benefit, I had to stay and who knows when I’ll be able to begin my life.

All of these things haven’t been great for my mental health. It’s a struggle to go to sleep, especially before the sun comes up. It’s even harder to get out of bed in the day. I say the day instead of morning because if I move from my bed before 12:30pm, it’ll be a shock to everyone. I don’t have the space or equipment to do most workouts so I feel like I’m falling out of shape. So to say that I’m not handling this stay-at-home order very well would be an understatement.

The only thing I will say about the past two months really is that when everything is over, I would hope that the world, including myself, would have a better outlook on life. Life has been so miserable but I know this won’t last forever and that fact has been what’s been keeping me going. I don’t know when this will end but all I know is, I can’t wait for this to be over.

S. Alexis