By George Schroeder | Broadcast Reporter
“I really hate to be the one that has to tell you this, but you are going to have to isolate yourself in your room for the next fourteen days starting from your date of exposure.”
I don’t think I’ll soon forget my conversation with the kind lady from Baylor’s contact tracing office. Only one morning class into my freshman college experience, and this was one of the worst phone calls I had ever received.
I came to Baylor knowing no one at the school or in the area. My parents, who lived only four short hours away in Oklahoma, had just moved to Tennessee, more than tripling the distance. When they had to say goodbye, it hurt. Starting college alone is stressful enough, but add in a global pandemic, and it becomes even harder. It wasn’t easy, but I was optimistic and excited to begin my next chapter of life. I had hardly stuck my foot in the door when everything came to a screeching halt.
After being exposed to COVID-19, I had to self-quarantine in my dorm room. Meals were delivered, and I could only leave to walk down to the bathroom or showers. I was not even allowed to go outside. I was isolated with just my roommate (who was not assigned to self-quarantine). Knowing no one, having very few new acquaintances, having even fewer new friends, not being able to go home and being stuck in my room, I had never felt more alone in my life. What I wanted to do above anything else the whole time was just hug my mom.
Baylor needs to do better. I am grateful for everything they have provided for me during this experience and thankful for their resources to keep us on campus, but once I was quarantined I was told nothing besides my restrictions. It was my responsibility to contact my professors, who, besides one, I had never met, and most of them have no options for virtual learning. A few days later I was told they would be contacted, but to my knowledge, they still haven’t been, except by me. My professors have all reached out and done what they can, but I am still learning at a massive disadvantage.
I can’t blame them for this situation. I can, however, blame whoever thought it would be a good idea to create a system that can trap freshman in their dorms on day one of college and say: “you must abide by these guidelines, many of your professors (who we won’t contact) don’t have options for virtual learning, and good luck.”
Emotionally, the days have been a rollercoaster, but one that never goes very high. Unfortunately, I can’t give Baylor much praise in this category either as I was told that I would be regularly checked on to see that I was handling everything well. That has only happened through the university once. Now, while I wasn’t entirely comfortable opening up on the call, a daily or frequent call would have been nice. No options to go outside whatsoever really started to take a toll on me. Essentially having only the choice of boredom or constant screens with very few other options has been awful, and I found that my motivation was being drained very easily.
The beginning days of isolation were terribly hard. I have never been an anxious person, but fear and anxiety plagued my thoughts and gripped my attention. Anxiety over my classes and social life spiked immediately, and my room shrunk smaller and smaller as my emotions sank in deeper. Eventually, as I settled into a routine and was able to get on top of my classes, it started getting better. Through it all, I would pray, and I kept thinking back to Joshua 1:9. I tried to make the best of it, but I would still get flashes of anxiety, stress, and sadness.
Despite the flaws in the self-quarantine system, in the darkness I saw, as the saying would go, some Baylor lights shining bright. I want Bruce Gietzen, director of student media and publications at Baylor, to be my honorary grandpa based on how he has treated me during my time in isolation. He has provided constant check-ins, encouragement and offers to help at every turn.
Many students on the Baylor Lariat staff, and the few friends I had been able to meet beforehand, began to reach out offering assistance and support. Many adults from my old church and friends from back home texted me that they had been praying for me, and offered support where they could. Obviously my family played a massive role, calling, texting and FaceTiming, me. To anyone who reached out, I thank you and I’ll remember what you’ve done for me.
Looking at the bigger picture, I see Baylor is doing what it can, and we should all be glad for it, but when I get out, I will remember those who reached out. They are the ones who made my time bearable, not the system. I love Baylor, and I am immensely proud to be here. This experience won’t change how I feel about the university. If I can end the story of my experience with anything it would be a request. If you know anyone in a quarantine or isolation situation anywhere, please, call them, FaceTime them, offer them assistance for a grocery or food run and even if you’re busy, you’re never too busy to just send a text. It seems simple, but it means so much. Pray for them, and let them know you’re doing it.
Finally, to anyone who is in a situation like mine, or will be in one, know you’re not alone. It will be hard, but God is with you, and there are so many people who will come to your aid. Stay strong, take it one day at a time, and know it gets better… even if they serve you the equivalent of what I think astronaut food probably tastes like.
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” –Joshua 1:9