Editor’s Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article do not reflect those of The Collegian.
The last thing I expected to do that Tuesday afternoon was ride in the back of a golf cart holding onto several of my bags for dear life. Members of the UR administration told me I had 30 minutes to an hour to pack enough for 10 days. But they also said I had to be able to carry everything in one trip. I drastically overestimated my ability to carry everything as well as my ability to fit all these things on a small golf cart. Just when I thought things couldn’t get more hectic in one day, we stopped. We were not outside of the mobile isolation units I’d read about before arriving at the University of Richmond: we were outside Keller Hall.
Sept. 1, 2020 is a day I will never forget because it was the day I was put in COVID-19 isolation. I called the student health center that morning since I had slept through the entire day and was not eating. The doctor on the line determined a 10-day isolation would be best because fatigue is a COVID symptom. I was beyond shocked; I had honestly been more concerned about low blood sugar, anemia or depression. For the doctor to resort to isolation as the first idea though I had no fever or other COVID symptoms scared and confused me, making me feel as if the student health center was not listening to my concerns. Even the daily isolation health checklist only contained COVID symptoms, so I could not report that I still had a loss of appetite. I felt ignored.
As a first year, I was relieved that I was starting to adjust to college life and establish connections within UR. But, after about four or five days of being in isolation, unable to leave my room at all, I felt numb. I’d already spent months and months cooped up at home doing nothing after my high school transitioned to online instruction, so returning to that depressing state brought back unsavory emotions of sadness, loneliness, anxiety and emptiness. As someone with an extensive history of anxiety and depression, this situation was less than ideal.
When I was moved into my isolation room, the first thing I noticed was the oddly placed furniture (such as a shelf placed in front of a dresser) and the personal bathroom. I was given cleaning supplies, trash bags, sheets, shower curtains, snacks and little knick-knacks from CAPS for mental health resources and entertainment. Upon closer inspection of the room when I was unpacking my things, I found trash already in the trash cans, food still in the mini-fridge and dust all over the microwave. I also learned the hard way that the bathroom door automatically locks whenever you close it and can’t be opened without a key. To say these conditions were disheartening when I was already emotionally drained from the day’s events is an understatement.
As far as dining is concerned, I’m incredibly grateful to the dining staff for going out of its way to give those in isolation options and for delivering the food outside of our doors every day. It was also nice to be able to place additional comments in the online order form in case I wanted any bowls, plates or condiments. But eating food from the Heilman Dining Center every meal on a much more limited menu wore on me after a while, and it was difficult without the snacks that I’d stress-eaten the first night.
Finding entertainment and connecting with people was also difficult while in isolation. I was missing out on a pivotal moment for developing relationships on campus, so I felt left out. It was nice to be able to attend classes and events remotely, but I still felt like I was on the outside instead of being a part of UR’s campus. Also, although I made sure to bring game consoles and my sketchbook in case I got bored, I found myself unmotivated to play games and draw and instead found myself mindlessly watching videos for hours. At one point, I even found myself wanting to stay in isolation, because I felt anxiety about jumping back into my college life and felt almost content doing nothing. To be perfectly clear, if you lose interest in activities and feel unmotivated to live your life, please contact CAPS because those are strong indicators of depression.
If the emotional struggles weren’t enough, I had some problems with UR’s isolation services that made things harder. When I left my laundry outside my door to be picked up and cleaned on Sept. 7, I figured my bedding, blankets, clothes and towels would be brought back at the end of the day. When they were not, I contacted someone about the estimated time my laundry would be returned and was shocked to learn it would take three days. I ended up receiving my laundry on Sept. 11, the day after I was released from isolation. I had to sleep for days with just my Snuggie and bathrobe because my blankets were part of the laundry I sent out. It was a challenge trying to sleep well in a foreign room without blankets.
Though isolation was definitely an unpleasant experience, I’m grateful that I had a network of teachers, friends, classmates, family and fellow isolated students to help me pull through. From the way situations were handled while I was in isolation, I would say UR did not prepare heavily in advance — a TV was dropped off in my room without a cable a day before I was scheduled to leave. I would advise anyone who finds themselves isolated in the future to stay in contact with those close to you, do things you enjoy and keep a regular schedule. If you find yourself needing additional support or guidance, know that many of us have been in isolation already and know how you feel. If you have any questions, comments or concerns, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Contact opinions writer Alexandra Overby at email@example.com.
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