Over the course of just more than a week, Ohio State students have had to quickly, and dramatically, adapt to updated regulations and programming amid the COVID-19 outbreak — especially those living on campus. But after a hectic week of moving out, the last few students gathered their belongings from the residence halls Sunday.
Since University President Michael V. Drake’s announcement of campuswide evacuation from residence halls taking place March 14-22, students were solemn yet understanding on the final day of move out.
Information on the total number of students who moved out, whether all who were supposed to moved out in the designated timeframe, the number of students with exemptions to remain in university housing and whether they have already been placed in different residential halls is not available at this time, Dave Isaacs, university spokesperson, said in an email.
As the pandemic has progressed, students said their perceptions of the global situation that ultimately led to Ohio State’s decision to close campus housing have substantially changed.
Ryan Menchey, a second-year in finance who moved out of Blackburn House, said he initially thought the announcement from Drake was an overreaction, but he has since come to better understand Ohio State’s position.
“I can recall a time before leaving for spring break, a lot of kids on campus I knew, we were just joking about the coronavirus being an issue,” Menchey said. “But I think once we got a lot more of the facts and saw how far behind we were lagging based on what we’ve seen from other countries, the urgency was real.”
Menchey, a Pittsburgh native, said it has been good to see Ohio State and Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine step up and take action that has set a precedent for other states to operate seriously and swiftly.
Olivia Herzog, a second-year in finance who moved out of Torres House, said she had a similar shift in mindset as move-out week came to a close.
“At first it seemed drastic. I was like, ‘This is too much. It’s not that big of a deal,’” Herzog said. “But I understand and I get that they are trying to keep us safe and trying to keep this as contained as possible, especially now that there are cases in Columbus.”
There are currently 351 cases and 3 deaths across 40 counties in Ohio, according to the Ohio Department of Health at the time of publication and the first two cases in the Ohio State community were announced Wednesday.
Mikaela Fisher, a second-year in business who moved out of Blackburn House, said she will miss the social interactions that make up the college experience.
“I spent a lot of time in the library, especially in-between classes, to do homework and just catch up with friends,” Fisher said. “Ultimately, I think the college experience isn’t just going to classes and studying, but also all the activities on campus and being surrounded by your friends.”
Menchey said that prior to spring break, he was in the midst of pledging for business fraternity Phi Chi Theta and expecting to increase his involvement after the break.
“What I’ll miss the most is having friends to lean on and socialize with,” Menchey said. “Doing all this work isn’t exactly the easiest, especially when you’re doing it on your own during a time like this, even virtually.”
Herzog said she had just started taking classes for her major this semester, as well as the required course for new resident advisers, and she is going to miss getting to know the students she will spend more time with throughout the next couple years.
In addition to her classes and involvement, Herzog also said she is going to miss campus as a whole.
“I think what I’ll miss the most is how alive campus is, especially during the spring after the winter seasonal depression rut,” Herzog said.
Rachel Younkin, a second-year in aviation management moving out of Blackburn House, said that although she is from Columbus, she thinks living off campus in her apartment will be lonely.
“I have a lot of friends in the area but who knows if we’ll be able to go out soon because all these states are starting to shut everything down to the point where you can’t even leave your house,” Younkin said.
This would prove to be even more difficult given DeWine’s stay-at-home order announced at a Sunday press conference that will take effect at 11:59 p.m. Monday, limiting Ohio residents from leaving their homes unless it is essential.
Younkin said she wishes she had finished her full two years in the dorms, especially because there is no guarantee she will see anyone she lived with next year.
“We were luckier than most because we had an extra week here to be in the dorm again, but I feel like I’m not processing it fully until now,” Younkin said.
Beyond social interactions among friends and student organizations, students are also disappointed to no longer have access to Ohio State facilities.
Tia Schiaretta, a second-year in aviation management moving out of Blackburn House, said she is part of the Ohio State Flight Team, which had to cancel its practices and national competition due to many universities closing.
Since the team had access to airplanes and practice space at Ohio State’s airport, Schiaretta said she is going to miss out on a lot of flying time, which might prevent her from receiving her next pilot’s license.
“It’s like not having something to look forward to every day,” Schiaretta said. “Having to do other schoolwork — that’s not as exciting as flying an airplane.”
More than anything, students are concerned about their lack of motivation upon returning home and adjusting their settings to remain conducive for completing coursework.
“I was a library freak last semester, and now the library and my bedroom with my mom yelling my name from the kitchen, are two very different environments,” Menchey said.
Herzog said that since she typically relies on motivation through surrounding herself with friends or the bustle of a coffee shop, she will have to crack down on her organizational skills and make a specific agenda day by day.
“I think it’s gonna be hard just being at home and having to study and focus,” Schiaretta said. “Home is like relaxing time.”
Schiaretta said there are a lot of young adults who act as if the pandemic doesn’t affect their lives, and she hopes moving students out of the residence halls will shift those perspectives.
“I think there’s a lot of college kids that just think they’re basically above it,” Schiaretta said. “It’s sad when people aren’t willing to put their lives on hold for other people that have it a lot worse and have higher risks.”
Despite the chaos, Menchey said he is looking forward to Ohio State returning to business as usual.
“A sense of normalcy, more than anything, is certainly encouraging,” Menchey said. “As long as I can have that kind of comfort once we’re moved in at the start of next semester, that’s something I’m really looking forward to especially, and just getting back in the routine of working hard and studying again.”
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