By Kristina Markulin
Cleveland State University’s closure during the COVID-19 pandemic has affected students across the university. From online classes to housing, many students are struggling to adapt to the changes brought forth when Cleveland State closed its campus for the remainder of the Spring 2020 semester. Although this change affects all students at Cleveland State, it affects different students in different ways. The Cauldron interviewed a few students to ask how the quarantine has affected their lives and their schooling, as well as their opinions on the university’s and the state’s response.
The Grocery Store Employee
After losing her job as a server after the closure of restaurants in mid-March, Maddie Perry, a transfer student in her first semester at Cleveland State studying Special Education, needed to find someplace else to work. She found a job at her local Aldi as a temporary store associate, but it hasn’t been easy.
“People are panic buying, making work for grocery workers like myself extremely hard,” she said. “Even grocery stores, they don’t know how to handle it. We were so busy that we didn’t have enough workers to cover the floor last week, even after hiring five new people in one day.”
Perry transferred to Cleveland State this semester to pursue her Special Education degree. She says the quarantine has affected almost every part of her life, from her job to her relationships to her mental health. She’s been talking to her friends through Snapchat and other social media sites, but keeping up with her professors has been difficult with the loss of face-to-face instruction.
“I do not do well with online courses to begin with,” Perry said. “I’ve struggled with the courses I already had online, so I’m very anxious to continue all of my courses online.”
Her opinion of the quarantine is a little mixed. When she first heard that Cleveland State was shutting down for the semester, she was angry that they were taking such drastic measures.
“I remember I was sitting out for lunch, and I was like ‘Oh my gosh! How could they do that? They’re overreacting like all the other universities out there,’” she said. “But I think obviously it would have been inevitable for the university to close down, whether it had been when it did or later on.”
Staying healthy while working at Aldi is a major concern for Perry, considering she splits half of her time with her grandmother.
“Everything’s disinfected the second I walk into my grandma’s house,” she explained.
Perry still wishes that there was more clarification with the shutdown, especially regarding what businesses should remain open.
“I know there are a lot of businesses still open out there that shouldn’t necessarily be open because they find loopholes in the guidelines,” she said. “So that’s a problem that we’re facing now too.”
During her downtime, she’s been staying home with her cat Dolores, practicing her music and doing what she can to keep taking care of herself. Even though she’s displeased with the quarantine, she still stays put when she’s not working.
“I know it’s necessary, but I’m still salty about it,” she said, regarding the stay-at-home order. “I want to continue my life, but I know that I can’t.”
The International Student
Haruka Kuwahara is an exchange student at Cleveland State studying marketing. She’s a senior this year but won’t be able to graduate in the United States.
“I heard a rumor that Japan, which is where I’m from, is going to shut the border to prevent coronavirus from spreading, and my family is worried about me because all of my family is back in Japan,” she explained. “My family told me to come back home.”
Having to leave the country has been difficult for many reasons. Her lease at The Edge isn’t up, and she has to find someone to take it over before she can leave, or she has to continue paying it.
“It’s going to be around $800 per month, so it’s going to be a lot for me,” she said. “And I have it until July. I have to keep paying”.
However, she also has to give up the opportunity to stay in the United States after college. She intended to apply for an Optional Practical Training visa after graduating, which allows international students to work in America for one year after earning an undergraduate or graduate degree. But with the downturn in the economy, she figures she won’t be able to find work within the 60-day time frame the visa gives you after graduation.
“I think I’ll give up that opportunity and go back home to Japan, and I’ll find a job or whatever they have,” Kuwahara said. “It was kind of my dream to work in the U.S. after college. That’s why I chose a university here in America, but because of the coronavirus, I can’t do it anymore.”
Like many students, the transition to online-only classes has been hard for her. She prefers face-to-face learning, but going back to Japan will be an added challenge for online classes.
“Because of the time difference, class is going to start at like 4 a.m. or 3 a.m.,” she explained. “I’ll have to wake up at 2 a.m. or 3 a.m. to attend class.”
Many other student residents at The Edge have gone back to their homes, but her circumstance is more uncertain than others. Her roommates are sad that she has to leave earlier than expected, but she doesn’t know exactly when she can.
“I don’t know when or exactly what day I can go back because I have to sell my car,” she said. “So as soon as I sell my car, I think I’ll go back, but it’s kind of hard to set the date.”
She had planned to stay in the U.S. for this summer and travel as well. But with the possibility of not being able to get a job in the U.S. and the rumor that Japan was going to close its borders, she doesn’t want to take the chance.
“I’m really sad that I have to leave here, and that’s now the end of my American adventure,” Kuwahara said. “It’s sad, but yeah, I can’t change anything.”
The Susceptible Student
Christina McIntosh intends to stay home as much as she can. She doesn’t have a job, so she doesn’t have to worry about leaving the house. She’s staying with her grandmother during the two-week stay-at-home order Gov. Mike DeWine put in place, but she’s worried about it extending.
“I understand that it needed to be in stages; you can’t just put everybody in quarantine,” she said. “But people weren’t taking the situation seriously until a quarantine was dubbed, and therefore, it’s caused the disease to spread more, and now there’s no guarantee that this is just going to be a two-week thing.”
She has a weak immune system, and many people in her family have underlying conditions that make them more susceptible to the virus. She feels that not enough people were taking it seriously when the disease began to spread, and there are still people who don’t take it seriously enough.
“We saw the pictures of what was happening in other countries,” she continued. “We always thought ‘we’re American, we’re exempt, it won’t come here,’ and people weren’t prepared. And even when it did come here, people underestimated the severity of it spreading, and therefore nobody did anything, and now we’re in the situation we’re in.”
She’s concerned about her mental health as well as her physical health. Since she can’t leave the house due to the quarantine, her social interactions have been cut down , limiting them to texting and Discord to talk to friends.
“I wasn’t getting that much social interaction before because I am a fairly introverted person,” McIntosh said. “So, the most social interaction out of my life that I was getting is if I would tutor somebody or if I would talk in class.”
She is thankful that her professors are working with her through this transition. Even though she isn’t fond of remote lessons, she understands that it was a transition that had to be done.
“I think they took immediate action for what they could do, and they came up with solutions for the kids who needed to go do online schooling very quickly,” she said. “The professors have done very well for being accommodating for their students.”
In the meantime, she’s planning on remaining indoors for as long as she has to. On top of her schoolwork, she’s been spending her time around the house reading, cooking and playing video games. She wishes that other people, who can stay indoors, do so as well.
“People who are young think to themselves that they will get it and they’ll be fine, but the people who can’t fight it off, they have no choice,” she said. “For all of us, stay home.”
Regardless, she’s approaching the quarantine with a wry sense of humor.
“And stop hoarding your toilet paper,” McIntosh quickly added. “It’s not the new currency.”
The Fast Food Worker
Jason Sorensen, a first-year psychology student, works in fast food at Dunkin’. Since his franchise has carry-out, he still has a job under the guidelines. But his store has seen very little business since the quarantine, he doesn’t see a point in being open.
“One of the main reasons people are leaving their houses right now is to get things like fast food and groceries,” he said. “And groceries make sense, but I feel fast food should not be open right now, even if it puts me out of a job.”
Aside from the lack of face-to-face interaction, he says the quarantine so far hasn’t affected his life all that much. He did most of his socializing at school but has transitioned to using Discord to keep in touch.
“I can’t say it’s really impacted me hugely, but I understand the problem,” he said. “I just don’t really have a reason to cope yet, if that makes sense.”
His transition to online classes has been OK for the most part. Many of his professors have transitioned to using Zoom for online lectures, but online learning has affected the availability of some resources. Aside from the distractions that come with living with siblings, he hasn’t had many issues transitioning to online work.
He believes the actions being taken by the state are necessary, although weakly enforced. He still sees people roaming around his community despite the heavy warnings the Ohio Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have sent out.
Sorensen thinks the quarantine should be stretched out longer, but he is concerned that it will affect the university past this current closure.
“I just hope this doesn’t continue into next semester,” Sorensen continued. “Because I don’t know if the college will be able to handle another semester or even another school year of remote courses.”