By Mira Lerner || Copy Editor
While the coronavirus itself has not yet reached F&M, it has already prompted dramatic action within our community. Certain students have faced and completed self-isolation periods, as suggested by the Pennsylvania Department of Health and obliged by the College. One of the students who did self-isolate kindly agreed to an interview for this article. For anonymity’s sake, he will be referred to as “A.”
A is from the city of Chengdu, Sichuan, in southwest China and said that he was contacted by F&M at the start of the semester. Beginning on February 5th, A was self-isolated in his Campus Crossings at College Row apartment. For six days, A and one of his roommates did not leave their rooms or their apartment’s living room/kitchen area. The Pennsylvania Department of Health’s recommended isolation period for recent travelers from China is fourteen days after departure from China. When A received that information on February 5th, he only had six days left.
Although he lives with three roommates, only one other also engaged in self-isolation. The other two continued life as usual, regularly going to classes and leaving the building. Due to the close quarters of College Row apartments, this registers the self-isolation of half of the apartment essentially useless. However, it is unclear whether or not A’s roommates were also contacted by F&M.
Aside from some friends that A told, A’s professors, and school officials, A does not know if others were aware of the situation. His parents back in China knew what was going on because A told them, but he is unsure if the school had also contacted them or if his parents could even receive such information because of internet restrictions. He said that his professors were very supportive, and thinking about their kindness makes him feel “warm inside.” The Joseph International Center provided further support to students in isolation and offered to arrange deliveries to rooms if they were unable to access food.
Overall, the isolation period was not difficult for A. He didn’t even really feel isolated because he still interacted with his roommates, and the internet allowed him to continue playing games and FaceTiming with friends. Re-entering campus did not pose any challenges, and he said that his sense of belonging at F&M has not been changed by his experience. The biggest difficulty for A was missing classes. Just trying to catch up with work after missing four to six class periods was hard for him. Also, he said that being confined to his apartment was not difficult but kind of frustrating.
After his experience in isolation, A wishes that people would treat the coronavirus situation more seriously. Some people are comparing it to the flu, but they should pay more attention to staying healthy, he said. As the coronavirus inches toward Lancaster and governments consider how to slow the spread, increasingly extreme measures may become commonplace. For some, though, such measures are already a reality.
Senior Mira Lerner is a copy editor. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.