Six University of Connecticut undergraduate students talked to The Daily Campus about their experiences quarantining on the Storrs campus during the first few weeks of the fall semester.
The overall consensus among the six students who gave quotes, whether they had to do the campuswide two-week quarantine before the semester started or are currently in isolation for testing positive, was that it was both lonely and nerve racking.
Rebecca Riter, a fifth-semester Biomedical Engineering major, tested positive for COVID-19 on Friday, Sept. 4. She said that she started to quarantine in her dorm room two days prior after her suitemate tested positive. When she got her results, she was moved to Mansfield Apartments for isolation.
“The overall experience has been surreal,” she said. “I followed all the safety precautions and never thought I would test positive or be in isolation. Yet, here I am.”
“I followed all the safety precautions and never thought I would test positive or be in isolation. Yet, here I am.”
Riter said the initial moving process was hectic, as she had little time to both pack and mentally process that she tested positive.
“I did not have a bag ready to go so I had about 30 minutes to go back to my suite and pack enough clothes and belongings for 10 days in isolation,” she said. “Overall I was very stressed throughout the process, as I was still processing my test result as well as frantically packing, but I think that it was as smooth as it could be.”
Now that she has spent a few days in Mansfield Apartments, she said that she has set up a routine.
“I’ve been keeping myself occupied by taking walks, doing homework, reading and Netflix,” Riter said. “I’ll also set up a blanket in the grass outside my isolation apartment to do work in the sun and some other people, who have also tested positive, will also set up distanced blankets so we can do work together and talk.”
Riter said that UConn Dining delivers her food three times a day and she has been enjoying what she has received.
“The meals are on time, usually within 15 minutes of the time they told us they would be served,” Riter said. “Honestly, the food is pretty good, and they put a lot in each meal bag, so it is a full meal.”
Camryn Hafner, a fifth-semester Communication and English double major, said she spent the first two weeks in Husky Village. She’s from Minnesota, which UConn designated as a hot spot state. The quarantine went by without any issues and she moved into her permanent housing in South Campus.
She said the experience was short lived. However, she received a voicemail the same day she moved to South telling her that someone on her floor in Husky Village tested positive and that she needed to quarantine once again.
Hafner said she was initially told that she could quarantine in her room as long as she agreed to wear a mask in shared places with her suitemates and wipe down all surfaces she touches. The next day, she was told by a nurse from Student Health Services that she had 40 minutes to pack her belongings and get a new set of keys to go back to Husky Village.
Hafner said she was able to get accommodations to move out by 4 p.m. the next day. However, she would be unable to get a moving van and had to carry her belongings across campus by herself.
On the morning of her move, she spent hours going back and forth trying to figure out her arrangements, Hafner said. She walked to Whitney to pick up her new Husky Village keys, only to find that no one was there. After phone calls and emails sent by both her and her parents, she ended up getting an email from the Dean of Students office saying that Dr. Ellyssa Eror, Student Health medical director, would help her move back to Husky Village the following morning with a UConn van.
Overall, Hafner said she was confused about why her arrangements changed so many times.
“I received a lot of conflicting information from various departments, and the only emails I received I had to specifically request. Otherwise, there has been no documentation of this move other than the odd voicemail,” Hafner said. “I packed up my stuff on Tuesday evening once I had confirmation of how I would be moving, got the last-minute school things packed right before I left on Wednesday and hauled it all downstairs myself. I met Dr. Eror, who was very kind, and once I was finally able to get into the building, that was pretty much it.”
“I received a lot of conflicting information from various departments, and the only emails I received I had to specifically request. Otherwise, there has been no documentation of this move other than the odd voicemail,”
She said that the whole experience was “extremely stressful.” Now resettled into Husky Village, Hafner said that she stays busy with her classes and her job, as well as watching Netflix and Skyping with her boyfriend.
“Husky Village is lonely,” Hafner said. “I literally never run into anyone, even in the bathroom, which is probably for the best. Otherwise, it’s just like any other dorm, except again, I can’t make myself at home or make the space mine and have just been living out of a suitcase.”
Her schedule is so busy that she barely has the time to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in her room for lunch, let alone walk 30 minutes to her designated dining hall, Buckley, for meals, Hafner said. She said the first quarantine was easier when North dining hall was her designated dining hall.
“For the most part, I just eat what I have with me in my room: bread, crackers, peanut butter, pistachios, Cheez-Its and a couple boxes of cereal…” Hafner said. “Then usually for dinner, I will make the trek to Buckley.”
Sophia Murphy, a fifth-semester Biomedical Engineering and French double major, said she has been in quarantine for about a week in North Campus. She said that she is getting “stir crazy,” and that she drives to get her food from Buckley dining hall just to have a sense of freedom.
“Quarantine sucks,” Murphy said. “I drive to Buckley and hope I don’t get a ticket because having to walk there is horrible.”
As a Resident Assistant, Murphy said she feels extra pressure because it is difficult for her residents to connect with her. Besides getting food and going to the bathroom, she doesn’t leave the room, so her residents never get the opportunity to see her.
“The last thing is that my residents don’t really see me because I’ve really been trying to follow the quarantine rules,” Murphy said. “But it also kind of ruins the relationships and trust that we, as [Resident Assistants], try to build with our residents so they feel comfortable coming to us if they need help. It’s kind of hard to talk to someone if you don’t really know them.”
Robert Fisk, a fifth-semester Management Information Systems major, said he has been in quarantine ever since he returned to Storrs. He is one of the 270 students living in Garrigus Suites who was placed in medical quarantine before the campuswide two-week quarantine ended.
“It is very different living in a building where everyone is quarantining at the same time because I have not had the opportunity to introduce myself to people on my floor yet,” he said.
Fisk said that the experience has “gotten more boring the longer quarantine has gone on.”
“Student Health guidelines allow quarantined students to go on walks, so I have been taking advantage of that in order to [keep] myself occupied,” Fisk said. “I have also been spending a lot of time on my phone watching TikToks.”
Adam Baran, a seventh-semester Biological Science major, said that his two-week quarantine upon arriving on campus was boring, but he tried his best to stay busy in his room in Northwest.
“I kept myself occupied by trying to learn the guitar, submitting applications to medical schools and socializing with friends and family through online platforms such as Discord,” Baran said.
Unlike Baran, Kuba Zakrzewicz, a fifth-semester Civil Engineering major, had to be quarantined in a building other than his dorm room for the first two weeks back on campus. He said he is from Washington State, which UConn deemed a hot spot state, just like Hafner with Minnesota. He spent his two weeks in East Campus before moving to North Hall.
He said those two weeks felt never-ending.
“When I was in isolation, I was really, really lonely,” Zakrzewicz said. “My friends who are from Connecticut would regularly meet up and take socially distanced walks around campus, and I had to stay in my room all day, every day for two weeks.
Zakrzewicz said that he is much happier now that his quarantine is over.
“However, now, I feel really good, and have been going to the gym and walking around campus with my friends again,” Zakrzewicz said. “I am so happy just to be here, and not to be sitting at home in front of my computer all day.”
After being isolated for a few days, Riter said that she is not scared anymore about testing positive or being isolated. She hopes that others wouldn’t use their fear as an excuse to not quarantine or isolate.
“By sharing stories, I hope that it will take some fears about it away so that students will be more willing to quarantine or isolate in order to make campus safer,” Riter said.
Zakrzewicz said that despite being lonely for the two weeks of isolation, it was a sacrifice worth making.
“A lot of people aren’t taking this virus and this pandemic seriously. They are engaging in reckless behavior that endangers others, such as not wearing masks, congregating in large groups inside [and] not social distancing,” he said. “And when you are put in isolation, it really sucks, because you can’t see anybody, do any fun activities, and have to spend all day, every day in your room! It gets really boring, and nobody likes that. So, the trade-off between not taking it seriously and then having to be alone for two weeks isn’t worth it.”
“A lot of people aren’t taking this virus and this pandemic seriously. They are engaging in reckless behavior that endangers others, such as not wearing masks, congregating in large groups inside [and] not social distancing,”
Hafner said that she wanted to share her story, so people realize that despite feeling lonely, everyone is going through a similar situation. She said that she wants others to learn and help develop a better system for moving students into quarantines so the process can be less stressful for others.
“Hearing other people’s stories from quarantine can help remind us that even though we have minimal in-person contact, we aren’t alone in what we are experiencing,” Hafner said. “Exposure is the first step towards improvement, so if we can see what is wrong in the system and what everyone else is going through, we can find better ways to work through it.”