COVID-19 Hotspot? More Like Just Another Residence Spot

This quarter, like many, I traded the promise of beach sunsets and the ocean breeze for orange hazy skies straight out of “Blade Runner” and noxious fumes we try not to breath in too much of. Instead of livin’ up the college life, I’m stuck at home doing endless chores. It’s not ideal. But honestly, this pretty much follows the trend of how 2020 has been going. I mean, what’s next, aliens? 

All jokes aside, though the world as we know it is slowly crumbling around us, there still might be a way to keep that college dream alive. Living on campus is still an option and, as it turns out, it’s not a bad choice. 

Since in-person classes have been moved online and dorms have mostly been cancelled, this has left many wondering what their living situation will be like as we move into fall quarter. Many (including me) are living at home, some are moving into Isla Vista apartments and just a few people are moving into campus dorms. 

Due to COVID-19, those who can stay home probably should. But for those who have already signed leases for I.V. apartments or on-campus dorms, living on campus or close to it isn’t a bad way to spend the last remnants of this accursed year. 

Living at home is definitely not the same as having the on-campus experience, and some experts think that this might have an impact on one’s well-being. According to Michelle Janning, a professor of sociology at Whitman College who is studying how the pandemic is impacting the college transition, “When a student goes away to college, the first one-to-two years are really instrumental to their being seen as an adult. Now as kids go home, they are reminded of who they used to be by parents who don’t always know how to negotiate their new identity.” 

Yeah, that’s right. Avoid an identity crisis by going back to school. Kind of ironic, as undoubtedly, school has caused many a crisis of “Who am I?” and “What am I doing with my life?”

Though, this actually rings true for many, especially incoming freshmen who have long been preparing for the huge changes that come with starting college. Overall, it’s a bit of an awkward reconciliation between the expectation of independence and the supposed beginning of a new chapter in life when in reality you’re still sleeping in your childhood bedroom. 

The introduction of online classes also poses huge educational barriers that make learning incredibly hard for those who are in different time zones or those who don’t have reliable access to the internet. Just look at AP tests, which when moved online caused a whole host of problems for a lot of people. Inside Higher Ed showed how AP testing was problematic for international students, some who had to take their tests at 4 a.m. Similarly, The Washington Post reported that those who had unreliable internet connection weren’t able to access the tests at all. 

For those who remember scrolling through all those TikToks deriding the way AP tests were conducted, remember that these problems also apply to online classes. Especially for those who have experienced similar problems with online learning, whether it be the time difference or internet access, living on campus would be a game changer in terms of the quality of their education. 

Some may ask whether paying rent just to take classes online is worth it. Or whether it’s even safe to stay in I.V. while college towns across the nation are becoming the newest coronavirus hotspots. After all, horror stories of college parties and blatant disregard of safety protocols make many balk at the notion of moving in. 

However, with reduced dorm occupancy and online classes, the risk of getting COVID-19 is significantly less, more so if you’re following social distancing guidelines, which by the way, you should be following regardless of whether you’re on campus or not. As for paying rent despite having online classes, it really comes down to whether it’s worth it for you. Housing prices this quarter are the same with single rooms being the price of doubles, and rent in I.V. is largely the same as well, if not lower than normal.  

In the end, living on or near campus is still an option, and not a bad one at that. At the very least, you can ride out the end of this year while sitting by the beachside enjoying the views (while staying six feet away from everyone, 12 if you’re extra careful, of course).

Christine Tu desperately needs a change of scenery and wants to live on campus but is too cheap to pay housing costs.

Melody Wang / Daily Nexus

Zooming in From Home is Not a Bad Idea

Little did we know that the once innocent-looking coronavirus would come hurling its ugly face at us and uprooting the very hope we’ve hung onto since March: the College Experience. Yes, all caps are warranted here, given the weight of this crucial time frame. 

It doesn’t help that UC Santa Barbara could just as easily have come straight out of a Hollywood romcom laminated with postcard sunsets and crashing waves in the backdrop. It’s not a surprise that many students are flocking to Isla Vista, an unintended repercussion of Chancellor Henry T. Yang’s decision to limit on-campus housing to those with “special circumstances” for fall quarter. 

But, let’s face it: cases have only gone up, possibilities for contact tracing are slim and parties have only exploded in numbers with no control. Now is not a good time to go back — especially when feeding the growing petri dish in I.V. is the last thing we want to do right now.

Yes, this means you should skip out on I.V. this quarter. Parties are an absolute no-go. Only when the university and state successfully deploys contact tracing, grants the use of vaccines and allows for daily or weekly testing should we go back to campus.

A few months ago, I was once a doomed high school graduate, bidding farewell to my teachers and peers through a video graduation ceremony. Now as I’m entering my first year of college — more so, reentering the cast of “The Brady Bunch” — I feel for you. The resentment of missing all the opportunities to be with your friends one last time in high school or the year before can be hard to take in, especially when we are ill-fated to relive it this quarter.

Despite our deep-rooted bitterness for our circumstances, we are still pushing through the best we can amidst the uncertainty. In the words of Michelle Obama, “life will always be uncertain” — but it’s how we act in the sphere of our control and morals that matter.

With that being said, we have control over whether we decide to go back. Our collective decisions will inherently influence whether I.V. becomes the new epicenter of the virus or a safe zone. Or, even if winter quarter becomes a reality or merely a faraway dream. The cards rest in our hands.

Perhaps it’s time to reimagine the age-old College Experience from a new angle: an at-home sequel featuring your childhood bedrooms and memories from home.

Imagine all the showers of glory you will be welcomed with by your parents who weren’t emotionally ready when you initially left for college. Or the unfinished task of removing all your push pins from the time you tore out your posters midway. And just maybe, you can alas reunite with your stuffed animals.

The goodness does not end there. In fact, you can save a heap of money just by staying put — trust me, your piggy bank will begin to adore you. On-campus housing rates scale as high as $20,000 per academic year; apartments in I.V. cost approximately $2,252 a month per lease. The more people you live with, the less your rent costs. On the flip side: the more roommates, the riskier it becomes.

If you choose to take the I.V. route, stricter safety precautions may grow into a burden as you navigate through rule-breaking roommates, parties and potential outbreaks. Even if you take all the possible precautions and serve as the moral semblance of your group, there’s a chance that your friends and roommates will not. Living conditions can be quite dense in I.V., which is the perfect hangout place for COVID-19. 

According to John Hopkins Medicine, young adults are being infected by COVID-19 and hospitalized at a higher rate than ever as the virus continues to surge across the world. And yet, even if we are insusceptible to the effects of the virus, we must realize that by ignoring health guidelines and throwing parties, we could be unknowingly spreading the virus to older people and immune-compromised individuals.

There are families, children and senior residents in I.V. who are not eager to see a swarm of college students behaving out of manner. While we may consider ourselves invincible now, we don’t deserve a cape unless we are aware of how our actions may ripple across our community. 

Yet, college will go by in a blink of an eye. Shouldn’t we savor it while we can? While our four years in college will surely go by fast, it’s not worth it to risk your health and others’ to have the time of your lives. With the ever-changing information about the virus and the growing virus pool in I.V., we cannot be sure enough to go back to campus anytime soon.

In addition, we have seen many universities across the United States reopen then close temporarily after reporting thousands of COVID-19 surges among students. An emerging reality is becoming clearer: College campuses and towns have long posed as a COVID-19 hotspot much like senior homes and concerts.

While local businesses in I.V. are eager to have students roaming around in the streets again, now is not the time. The city’s decision to reopen restaurants, gyms and salons is largely dependent on whether the virus continues to spread. 

To help your local and small businesses, stay home.

In the end, your decision is yours alone. The future of reopening is contingent on your actions and your peers’. Fall quarter doesn’t have to be glamorous; after all, what’s worse is that the next couple quarters could just as easily turn out like the first.

Be creative for once, and find solace within your family and support system at home. It’s counterintuitive to get hung upon the College Experience; your experience is, more so, a storyline than a definition. As you make due with what you have at this moment, let this be a reminder to never take things for granted.

Melody Chen encourages everyone to reimagine the meaning of the College Experience™ in your childhood bedrooms so we can all keep the virus (monster) away.


Christine Tu
Christine Tu is an opinion staff writer and economics major. In her spare time, she enjoys hiking, reading, and making snazzy to-do lists.
Melody Chen
Melody Chen is an opinion staff writer and a psych & brain sciences major. When she is not searching for inspiration, she can be found doing yoga and cackling at the latest standup comedy.