COVID-19 has forced Willamette students to choose between staying on campus or going back home. Even though Willamette’s dorms have remained open, most students decided to head back home rather than stay on campus. With most students now home, many have had to deal with a lack of space and family distractions.
Some students feel safer or more comfortable at home than on campus. Emily Alameda (‘22) said, “I felt more comfortable being with my family.” Alameda has a close relationship with her parents. Because she didn’t want to be alone and she feared getting sick away from home, she decided the smart move was to return home. With Willamette being out of state for her, Alameda was concerned about the possibility of travel restrictions being placed on the region, and feared getting stuck in Oregon not being to get back home if anything were to happen.
Aleena Brinkley (‘23) also worried about travel restrictions separating her from her family. Her dad is an EMT in Vancouver, WA, and she feared that he would be sent to New York. Because of that possibility, she didn’t want her sister to have to be left alone. She mentioned that her dad wanted her back home, so he knew that she would be safe and with family.
Parker Jones (‘23) said that he is having difficulties with his class, Intro to Painting, when it comes to finding space to work.
“I don’t have a painting studio. I’ve just been setting up my canvas on my desk propped up and it’s kinda messy. It’s not the same as being in the studio,” he said. When he was working in the studio, he was able to get more feedback on his work, rather than just comments on a posted picture.
Locker reported that she has been able to separate herself from her mom and dad while doing schoolwork. Both of her parents are working online, but they all have seperate rooms to work in. Her mom works in the living room, her dad is downstairs and she stays in her room.
Alameda’s parents are also working online, but she has encountered more difficulties with it than Locker has. Alameda’ dad’s office is right next to her room, and she said she doesn’t want to disrupt him. Because of this, she has had to find a different space to work in.
She said, “We had to close my kitchen off for an hour for my classes because that’s the only area that I’ve found that I’m able to actually try and focus in.”
Students have had varying experiences with social distancing, based on the measures their towns and cities have taken. In Salem, Brinkley still sees people walking around and ignoring the new rules.
“People are just going to stores and walking around just because they are bored,” Brinkley said.
Alameda’s home is in Everett, WA, only 25 miles away from Seattle. Because Seattle was one of the first hotspots for COVID-19, the area is strictly enforcing social distancing and stay-at-home guidelines. Alameda is working to mitigate stress and meet the needs of her family and friends by making masks for those who are in need of them.
Jones and Locker feel school has taken the right precautions. Jones thinks the switch to online classes and the ability for students to stay in the dorms were both beneficial.
“They are trying to keep up the normalcy of having classes continue,” said Locker.
Due to the postponement of the return of in-person classes from April 13 to the fall semester, different people left campus at different times. Jones left campus during spring break and returned to Portland, OR. Alameda left to Everett, WA before the extension of online learning through the rest of the semester.
Alameda said, “I left a lot of my stuff back there [on campus].” She hopes that restrictions will be lifted by early May so she is able to return to campus then to pack up her dorm with minimal issues.
Students who left reported that the largest factors in their decision to go home was personal health as well as proximity to family. Continuing classes has helped retain the normalcy and structure of school and work. Interviewed students are hoping they will be able to come back in the fall to resume their in-person education at Willamette.