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Earlier this month, hundreds of thousands of college students all over the United States were suddenly uprooted from their normal routines, due to the Coronavirus, and forced to say good-bye to their friends, their professors and their lives as students on campus.

Among them are 4 University of Maryland journalism majors at the Philip Merrill School of Journalism who are also spring 2020 Time4Coffee interns.

Their assignment last week was to write a blog post about what the experience has been like for them and what advice they have for their fellow college students.

Here are their stories:

Taylor Roar, 21-years old, UMD, Class of 2020

There’s no simple way to conceptualize everything that’s happening in the world right now. The moment everyone realized COVID-19 was a serious health risk, it felt like the world stopped. 

All of our lives have been affected. There’s a universal feeling of anxiety surrounding the seemingly infinite unknowns we’re forced to sit with, all without the support of the loved ones we’d usually be able to lean on.

For me, the most devastating blow was the sudden end of my college career. As a senior, I had so many loose ends I planned to tie up. I never would’ve guessed I’d attend my final lecture and have my last college night out on the town without the chance to savor those moments. Having that realization has caused me nothing short of grief. 

The greatest thing I’ve done during this time is allow myself plenty of time to acknowledge those painful feelings. I know whatever you’ve lost may seem small in comparison to a pandemic, but however your life has been affected is valid. And the way you choose to mourn these sudden changes is valid as well. Some of us make internet memes that keep us smiling through the pain and others remember our lives as they once were and cry. Acknowledge what you feel, in the healthiest way for you. 

I also realized the only way to make peace with my sudden graduation is to find gratitude. College seniors, the final two months that were taken from you can’t change the years worth of memories you made over the course of your college career. You’re not unlucky. You’re one of the few lucky ones on the planet who was afforded such an amazing experience. And now you’ve arrived at a new phase of life. While you grieve the last phase’s ending, don’t forget to rejoice in the fact that it happened. 

There’s plenty to be upset and anxious about, but if you turn off the news and tune in to the world you’ll realize there are many things to be grateful for, too. See all of the creative ways people have connected with each other and, more importantly, enjoy the time you’ve been given to connect with yourself. 

Natalie Jones, 21-years old, UMD, Class of 2020

My college senior year goals were simple: trying to finish strong so I could graduate with honors, applying and interviewing for my dream first job, and soaking up every last memory and experience with my best friends, finally celebrating after four years of hard work.

All of that changed in the span of a week with the coronavirus.

Within the last few days here in College Park, Maryland, I found out that my university’s classes were being moved online for the rest of the semester, that my commencement ceremony had been canceled, and that my apartment complex was breaking my lease early and forcing me to move out with two weeks’ notice. 

Being completely honest: it really, really, really sucks. 

I was already a little terrified for the future because I haven’t found a full time job yet. But now, with the potential for lockdowns, a recession and months of social distancing looming ahead, that fear and anxiety I’m feeling is multiplied in my mind.

I’m a journalism major aspiring to be a newspaper reporter, so the pickings for my field were already relatively slim and competitive before the coronavirus. Now, I’m just scared to not have options at all. I’ve scoured job postings across LinkedIn and other websites, but I’ve found there’s a lack of openings for entry level reporters in the area right now. It’s a tough time to train a newbie and show me the ropes.

Thankfully, my university’s career center is offering an increased number of virtual career advising appointments now, but all in-person career events, workshops, interviews and information sessions are cancelled, and not everything will end up being offered virtually. 

I wish I had some kind of magical job advice or saying for the rest of my terrified, jobless college seniors out there, but the truth is that I’m just as lost as you are. 

All I can say is this: it’s okay to not get a job right away. It’s okay to not get the perfect job right away. It’s okay to not work in the field you majored in. It’s okay to not have it all figured out. 

What’s important is being resilient, and having the courage to not know what’s coming next and facing it anyway. 

In the middle of this global pandemic, I’m constantly being reminded too that it’s my responsibility to think about the safety of those surrounding me. I don’t want our older or immunocompromised families, friends or neighbors to be negatively affected by my actions, so I’m being mindful of myself and how the virus can be spread without symptoms ever showing.

At the same time, I’m trying my hardest to be mindful of my own mental health and know that  my feelings are valid, even if I’m being made to feel like they’re not. 

Being aware of the coronavirus and taking steps to prevent its spread, and being upset about having part of my senior year taken away are two things that can coexist in my mind, and they’re both equally important. 

This is the time to learn what you need to do to best take care of yourself, if you haven’t already figured it out. Create a schedule for yourself with schoolwork and exercise and downtime, and stick to it. Take a few moments every day to breathe deeply and think of the memories and people you’re grateful for. Tell your friends you care about them, and make time to text them or send them a meme or two. Don’t let yourself and the dreams you have for yourself go, even if everything seems bleak right now.

I know this is a sucky time, and believe me, I feel every ache of knowing that I won’t ever be able to experience the things I had hoped for the rest of this semester. 

All we can do is keep on keeping on, and take one day at a time. 

Nick Albicocco, 20 years old, UMD, Class of 2021

I had first heard of the Coronavirus during winter break in January as the disease was violently spreading across Wuhan, China. Yet, I didn’t pay much attention to how deadly the virus truly was or the measures that were being put in place in China to stop the spread. Least of all, I never considered the possibility that the Coronavirus had the ability to disrupt day-to-day life in nearly every country on Earth, including America. 

I finally realized how serious the Coronavirus really was on March 12, when the NBA suspended their season and nearly every other sports league in the world did the same that night. At the University of Maryland, there was a consensus opinion that the school finally had a great basketball team that could realistically win the NCAA Tournament but those dreams were dashed. Even when the University of Maryland told students that we would have online classes through April 10, I didn’t even bring home many clothes because I figured that we would be back on campus in a few weeks. It only took a few days for Maryland, along with seemingly every other college campus, to close the campus for the rest of the academic year. 

Now, I am home for the next few months taking classes online, which has basically eradicated the true experience of college. I’m stuck in my house and the only way to see friends or relatives is through the screen of an iPhone. As of now, my typical day consists of staying in my house reading magazines, watching Netflix and playing board games such as Monopoly and Trouble with my parents and two sisters. Living in New York on Long Island, the situation gets worse here with each new day. It’s not as bad as what’s currently taking place in New York City but Long Island has nearly 10,000 cases and is a small, densely-populated area. In fact, there’s even a COVID-19 testing site less than two minutes from my house. 

At this point, sending family members to the grocery store is akin to sending them off to war. 

Instead of wearing a kevlar helmet and a bulletproof vest, they wear gloves and a mask to ward off all germs. No one in my town wanders the streets or plays at the local park, which is blocked off by police tape. No one is able to go inside a restaurant, get their haircut or go to the mall. At this point, the only things that aren’t closed are the grocery stores, pharmacies and doctors offices. It’s like a cloud of depression is hovering over the state of New York with no sign of clear skies. Luckily, none of my family members or relatives have been infected with the Coronavirus nor have they even been knowingly exposed to the virus. The only “thing” that I and everyone else I know seem to be infected with is the feeling of shock and despair. I, for one, am still stunned that this pandemic has evaporated all signs of normal life. 

While there may not be many positive signs in the moment, this virus and the shutdown of everything has given me newfound appreciation for the simple things in life. 

I now appreciate the ability to roam the street, go to the mall and get food from any restaurant at nearly any time of day. I have newfound appreciation for the grocery store workers, pharmacists and, obviously, the doctors. I’ve also now realized why it’s important to savor your time in college because you truly never know when that time will end. I’m only a junior so I still have one more year of school but at this point, it’s not out of the realm of possibilities that my senior year will be shortened too. 

For any college students reading, you’ll definitely get through this rough patch. 

It’s important to use this time to catch up. Catch up on a show you’ve been meaning to watch, work you’ve fallen behind on or on your sleep. You’ll (hopefully) never have another time in your life where you and everyone you know is told to stay home and not go to school or work so spend this time wisely. Make sure that you get all your work done and find a setting in your home that gives you the ability to focus on your studies. In addition, while it’s important to stay informed on the current Coronavirus situation, don’t allow yourself to be consumed by the doomsday-scenarios and the hysteria-filled headlines. If you allow yourself to be consumed by the daily updates of this pandemic, you’re likely going to be depressed and sad. Instead, just take in one news update each day and try to steer the conversation away from the Coronavirus when talking with family or friends. Lastly, stay home. If you stay home and encourage everyone you know to stay home, the sooner this quarantine will be in the past.

Tom Hindle, 20-years old, UMD, Class of 2021

On March 15th, 2020, I didn’t want to get on a plane.

The Coronavirus pandemic had begun to tighten its grip on America, and the University of Maryland was rife with uncertainty. My parents ordered that I get on a plane from Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C. to LAX. Ever the stubborn kid, I refused at first. Eventually, my friends convinced me to comply. So, on a foggy morning, I sat vacantly in a car, journeying to the airport. Terminal two. A few sour-faced travelers shuffled through the line at security, the TSA agents cracking jokes about the severity of the pandemic. I stuck my headphones in, and zoned out until we hit the tarmac in Los Angeles.

In the 12 days since touching down here in Pasadena, California, I’ve slowly developed cabin fever.

My parents immediately established that none of us — my brother and sister included — would leave the house, except for essentials. I have since come to learn that quarantine is too soft of a word for this current state of affairs. It sounds almost cheesy, stripped shamelessly from the Walking Dead or some other apocalypse show. Indeed, isolation is more appropriate. I am the most social person I know. Being barred from the very interactions that I crave is tortuous. I’ve hit all the quarantine clichés in the meantime: rubbish Netflix shows, online video games, working out at home. But the television programs are starting to just wash over me. I’m getting bored of the taps and clicks of a video game console.

Of course, it’s not all awful. I happen to — and this might be a shock — genuinely like my family. My parents have been working remotely every day, so we all get a bit of separation from each other. And when we’re together, it’s a good time. We have fun conversations at dinner. I run with my dad most days. We all get together to watch old BBC dramas in the evening. Furthermore, it’s nice to have a break from the tedium of working — even if it’s the same people every day. As I am constantly reminded, a lot of people have it far worse.

I suppose the question on every mind boils down to two words: what’s next?  There’s so much misinformation out there, that no one really knows. Donald Trump recently said he wants the country reopened by Easter. That’s two weeks away, and suddenly seems very optimistic. On a selfish front, freedom can’t come soon enough. I’ve applied for a plethora of internships all over the country this summer. I don’t have a clue if most of them will still be available come May. It really makes me think I wasn’t appreciative of the opportunities I had before.

I, of course, have the luxury of only being a junior in college. Numerous people I know are being deprived of their last semester. For most of them, as far as I’m aware, it’s not as dramatic as social media or the news has made it up to be. They aren’t angry so much as apathetic. Maybe it’s not my place to say, but they’re all going to be alright. Everyone is in the same boat, and even those who had great jobs lined up don’t know if they’re going to be able to actually work them. 

This whole ordeal has made me much more appreciative of the life I had beforehand. I’d like to think that I, graduating seniors, and everyone will come out of this hungrier, more appreciative — and better off as a result.

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