Being at college is the best thing that has ever happened. Especially being at Tulane, which is not only one of the most fun, most involved, and most engaged campuses on campus, but my home. A virus is something that not only comes into a population and takes a toll on physical health and safety, but mental health and safety as well. Halfway through my spring semester of my sophomore year at Tulane, the last thing in anyone's mind was being sent home. With Mardi Gras fresh in our minds, midterms recently over, and 90 degree sunny weather, Tulane was paradise. I had my freedom and my friends, and was thriving in every way. Being pre-med, I had been following the novel coronavirus since its inception in December, as an “unknown” mild, yet sometimes serious pneumonia causing vector in Wuhan, China (a place I have been before and loved with its traditional culture, breathtaking villages and waterways, and the spicy Hubei food). I know that for at least the rest of my lifetime, this beautiful city will carry the reputation as the place that created this benevolent virus, which breaks my heart. As the virus started to globally become worse, I saw fringes of fear on my campus.
People started walking around with face masks, avoiding the health center and really overall acting more cautious. As soon as a friend had a sniffle or a slight cough (which is extremely common in any college dorm situation), their mind went to the worst possibility. During Mardi Gras, when New Orleans experienced an influx of a million people partying and celebrating in the streets, it was not in one person's mind to be careful. A week later, though, everyone was scared. Schools across the country began closing, but to everyone at Tulane, that couldn’t be a possibility. New Orleans didn’t have any cases, and we were unlike schools in New York and Washington state that had a load of cases. On March 10th, everything changed when word spread around the campus of a person in New Orleans with a confirmed case. It became real when we started getting emails that “even though cases in New Orleans have been confirmed, Tulane is running as scheduled.” Parents started to get scared, and we all started to wonder if we could be the next school getting sent home.
The weirdest part about the whole thing is that the weather was beautiful, with hot weather and blue skies, which even for New Orleans is a little odd this early in the year. We were tanning on balconies, studying on the quads, and going out like we would in August. This changed when word broke that someone was “self quarantining” in one of the sophomore dorms. Even though it came to be found out that this person didn’t actually have coronavirus and was probably doing it for attention, everyone was scared. I became scared to go to friend’s rooms and even go to class. On March 11th, the day after my second big organic test, it was 80 degrees and sunny. We went to the Boot during the day, and it felt like vacation.
Everyone was out celebrating the weather, even though it was on everyone’s mind that things might change in a second as the pandemic began to sweep the country. I was in my friend’s room when we all got the email from our university President, saying that campus was closing that Sunday and we had to move out all of our belongings by the end of the week, and we were being sent home for the rest of the semester. I swear there was a moment of silence on campus when that email was sent, followed by 5,000 students simultaneously calling their parents with the news. How were we all supposed to move out by the end of the week by ourselves? It was March, how were we done with the semester already? What about study abroad? All of these questions raced as we all panicked, and began the process of leaving paradise.