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Commuter Student Reflects on How COVID-19 Impacted His Life

Back in December, I finished the Fall semester thinking it was the most challenging one thus at Lesley. It was not the academics alone, but rather a combination of things. It was the first full semester where I worked at home and went to school simultaneously and as a commuter student the balancing of schedules was not an easy task. That being said, I finished and made it a goal to handle the next semester a lot better. However, I do not think anyone could have expected what was to come.

About a month and a half in and things were going well. I had balanced schedule that via a combination of online courses and traditional on-campus classes. With spring break on the horizon, the coronavirus was very much existent over in China, but had only reached the United States in a handful of cases. Taking public transportation as often as I had, I made sure to take my precautions anyways. I avoided physical contact with as much as possible whenever possible, carried around my own hand sanitizer, and I made sure to wash my hands whenever I could. It was still scary then, but it seemed manageable. Little did I know that when I left campus that first week of March, it would most likely be my last time at Lesley University until September.

Flash forward and things have changed drastically since then. As I mentioned before, I was already taking a couple of online courses through Blackboard, so I only had to make the transition for three of my five total for the semester. But If I am being completely honest here, it has not been that smooth of a change. Time management has been a struggle and the understanding of what is expected of the students for each course is anything but clear. As we move into the second week of change, I expect everything to become more comprehensible going forward. Admittedly, the decision to make the default grading option for this semester pass/fail was a big weight off my shoulders, as it only seems fair in such unprecedented times to do what’s best for both students and their professors. With it, I am hopeful it will end up smoothing over in the end, along with everything going on outside of school.

Recently, it was announced by Governor Baker that all non-essential businesses were to cease in person operation for at least the next two weeks. While many expected something like this, the change has still been a sudden one. About 8 months ago, I got a job at a slow grocery store down the street from my house. This of course means I am not only working through all of this but have been hit with a wave of customers that our store has never seen the likes of, something that seemed to have happened in a heartbeat.

Wednesday, March 11th was the first night the coronavirus had hit the consciousness of America’s general public in a strong way. President Trump banned all unnecessary travel through Europe, popular actor Tom Hanks tested positive for the virus alongside his wife and fellow actor Rita Wilson and NBA center Rudy Gobert tested positive as well which lead the NBA to announcing a suspension of the current season. This all happened in minutes and was the start of a chain reaction that lead to more breaking news than you could possibly imagine. As a result of this, real changed occurred in the public eye, which I was “lucky” enough to experience first-hand.

The next night, I went into work and as I mentioned before, the store I work at was relatively slow with Thursday’s being virtually dead in terms of customers. But that night was different. With more crowds than ever, the store was chaotic and only got worse as the weekend went on. Shelves were empty and lines at every register extended down the aisles. Management was forced to call every employee in that they could, and they begged all associates that were already there to stay as long as they could, claiming concerns about overtime hours were nonexistent. It really was a struggle and while things have developed in a positive direction, it certainly continues to be a challenge. Some have labeled me lucky due to the fact that I have the opportunity to get paid during such stressful times. Others have warned me to be safe going out and working in such a chaotic environment. I have gone back and forth on these two mindsets internally and to be honest I genuinely do not know how I feel about it. However, while I could go on, there is one more change in my life that I would rather leave you with.

Perhaps the hardest thing I have witnessed is what my mother has had to go through. For years she has worked as a nurse in the city of Lowell, but in that time, I do not think she has ever had to deal with something like this. Every day I see her leave early in the morning and she does not return until more than 12 hours later in a state of exhaustion and unbearable stress. Even when she is home, she works on the phone communicating with her coworkers, making sure they are all set for the night to come. I have not really gotten to speak with her that much over the last couple of weeks as she has dedicated all of her time into helping people work through these situations and return to a normal lifestyle. However, what we have spoken about revolves around her consistent reminders to practice social distancing and to take care of ourselves as much as possible by washing our hands and not touching our faces. So while we could complain about our jobs, or how a lot of us spent spring break doing nothing, or how bored we are stuck at home, I try to keep in mind what someone like my mother and any other members of the medical field continue to do on a daily basis. One of the main reasons we are practicing social distancing in the first place is to try and lighten the load for these people, and for that reason I will continue to patiently play my part in order to help solve the problem rather than be a part of it.

Normally busy Government Center is quiet, as most people are staying home.

 

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