When students left Texas A&M for spring break, no one knew that they would not be returning to life as usual the next week. COVID-19 struck the U.S. and by March 12, A&M had moved classes online for the rest of the semester.
Now, as Texas experiences a spike in COVID-19 cases, students and workers are reflecting back to when the pandemic first began and how their thoughts on how the virus response has changed since March.
Charlie Collins, a biochemistry third year at the University of Surrey in England, said he had a unique experience while working abroad in the research labs at A&M the semester the pandemic hit.
“This year was supposed to be about me expanding my horizons and realising that I can do more than I’d previously thought about, whilst getting a taste of true independence and adult life for the first time,” Collins said.
Collins said he first heard about COVID-19 around January and thought this pandemic would be similar to the Ebola outbreak in the sense that it would be relatively contained and easily identified. However, once the cases began to rise and COVID-19 was labelled as a pandemic, Collins said his plans changed drastically.
“I had to fly home on the last guaranteed flight I could get, face losing my job and thousands of dollars and say goodbye to all my friends I’d made as well as all sorts of travel plans I’d been saving up for and planning for months,” Collins said. “My world was turned upside down on top of it being a pretty emotionally stressful year already. It sent me into a bit of a mental health maelstrom.”
In returning back to day-to-day life, Collins said that he has grown accustomed to how things are in England but is taken aback by how COVID-19 is currently impacting the U.S.
“I’m hearing about people not wearing masks, or even having large group events in the US, then suddenly everyone gets sick afterwards and that’s somehow a surprise to them,” Collins said. “It baffles me. These things are a small price to pay to protect vulnerable and susceptible peoples’ lives.”
Political science senior Lindsey Brenner said she left for spring break fully expecting to return to College Station the following week.
“I did expect some differences because I had been following the virus since January,” Brenner said. “I definitely wasn’t expecting a full online course load, but that came quicker than I thought.”
Brenner said that in the beginning of May she felt things were getting better in comparison to March, but her perception has changed in June due to the governor's announcement of a spike in cases in Texas.
“There was a brief moment of hope, but since things have changed once again, I am not as optimistic,” Brenner said. “I am still hopeful that things will return to a more normal way of life, but I still think that will take time.”
Because of COVID-19, visualization junior Osvaldo Davila said his first semester at A&M looked much different than he expected.
“I was expecting a great, sociable year, but that was never possibly my first semester and it won't possibly be my next semester due to me being in fear of being in a campus with 60,000 students,” Davila said.
Davila said cases of the virus have increased an unreasonable amount these past few weeks because the governor didn’t take enough precautions.
“If Texas would have shut down completely and mandatorily, it would’ve allowed [us] to not have as many cases today,” Davila said.
While cases continue to increase within Brazos County, Brenner encourages her peers to try their best to follow COVID-19 safety regulations so Texas can return to normal once again.
“Texas can only do their part and hope for good news,” Brenner said.