Two years ago this month, the lives of millions of college students changed forever.
It was mid-February of 2020, early in the afternoon. I had just gotten back to my fraternity house from campus after my classes for the day and I remember talking to my roommate, Joe, about if he thought the new disease known as Coronavirus would make its way to the United States.
At that time, we were planning a spring break trip to Port Aransas, Texas; a popular spring break hotspot for college students on the island of Mustang, about 180 miles southeast of San Antonio.
We never took that trip, and I’m grateful.
In March 2020, the World Health Organization declared the spread of COVID-19 a worldwide pandemic. Businesses closed, grocery stores were running out of household essentials, and on March 12, Emporia State announced the indefinite suspension of in-person classes beginning after spring break.
In the letter, former ESU President Allison Garret stated, “We strongly encourage students who live in the residence halls, sororities or fraternities to travel home or stay at home.”
Before the pandemic hit, ESU was a laid back, fun college with activities, plays, concerts and parties.
Greek life numbers were steadily rising and Walmart was open past 11 p.m. (who remembers those midnight Walmart runs?). There were parties every weekend and Thirsty Thursdays at Bourbon Cowboy. The idea of a pandemic coming in and rampaging through our lives was a weird dream you had after eating half-priced apps at Applebee's last night.
Will ESU ever return to what it once was? As of March 1, 2022, the university has lifted the mask mandate for campus, although individual teachers may still hold mask guidelines in class.
For some students, this is the first time they have experienced college without masks on.
My friends and I never went on that trip for spring break that year and instead, I went home to Topeka and took a gap year for 2020. Joe moved to Wichita to pursue becoming an EMT and many of my friends either transferred or dropped out. There are a lot of people that I talked to and saw every day that I still haven’t seen since that last day before spring break 2020.
It’s no question that COVID-19 changed the world, it also drastically changed how students will experience college for possibly years to come.
I hope that these students eventually have the opportunity to truly experience college without the worries of COVID-19.