COVID-19: Its Impact on College Students

Hannah Toth, Staff reporter

Sarah Toth is a junior at Arizona State University, and her life has been put on hold because of the new pandemic: COVID-19. Toth was supposed to spend her final semester hosting numerous events for her sorority and studying abroad this summer; but now, everything is uncertain. She’d been swept up in the joys of college life up until the pandemic filled the nation with fear. College students’ lives have significantly changed because of it. Sarah Toth agreed to an interview targeting how college life, and her specific endeavors, have been altered due to COVID-19. 

What has Arizona State done in light of the COVID-19 outbreak?

ST: At first, all my classes were moved online for two weeks when the US first announced an increase in the COVID-19 outbreak. I just took that as an extended spring break, and I was excited to get to spend more time with my family. A few days later, they moved all classes online for the rest of the semester. ASU has sent out emails to all students as the virus progresses and has made sure to keep their students updated, which is a huge help. 

What were your first thoughts when you found out the campus was closing?

ST: My heart instantly sank to my stomach, hearing that my junior year was basically over. I had so many plans these upcoming months—sorority events, Coachella, birthdays, graduations, etc. My first thoughts were that I’m not going to see my friends until August. When I said goodbye to my friends before I left for spring break, I didn’t think that would be the last time I saw them this semester. It’s a terrifying and surreal situation. 

How have online classes made things more challenging?

ST: I am very familiar with online classes, but when classes that are meant to be taught in person are moved completely online, it is very challenging. I am in an intermediate reporting and writing class where I would have to go out in the real world and report on real problems. Now, this class has been moved online, and my journalism school, the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, is not allowing any in-person reporting; it all has to be over the phone. That is challenging for me because this class is already considered one of the hardest classes I’ll ever have to take, and reporting from New York on Arizona stories is a huge challenge.

Do you think your school took the right precautions? 

ST:  An ASU student had one of the first cases in the US, and the school did nothing about it. Now that there is more research and more reporting on the virus, I think that they took the right precautions, but the campus is still open, and I think all facilities should be closed until this virus is controlled.

How have college kids around you reacted to COVID-19?

ST: It was hard for us to digest it all at first. Some of us think we’re invincible. I have a friend who turned 21 last week, and she wanted to have a huge party and wasn’t planning on canceling it until she realized having the party would be selfish, especially since she was flying from New York after spring break, the epicenter of the virus in the United States. 

Are college kids taking the virus seriously? 

ST: When COVID-19 became very prominent in the US, many of my friends were on spring break. Mexico, the Bahamas, Florida, Disney Land, everywhere. No one really took this virus seriously until the US started to close schools, restaurants, bars, hair salons, etc. Many were in denial and had the mindset: “I’m young; it won’t kill me,” which is very selfish because they could give it to 20 people who won’t be able to handle the virus. I think from what I saw a week ago compared to today, people’s mindsets have completely changed, and they realize the severity of the issue. 

Has quarantine affected you mentally?

ST: My mental health isn’t terrible right now, but it has been weird going from being busy every day to being stuck in my house and not always on the go. I would always complain when I was busy all the time, and now I miss it. But I am taking this time to work on myself and reflect on everything. I just wish this wasn’t the circumstance that made me slow down. 

How has COVID-19 affected your life? 

ST: COVID-19 has affected my whole life and many other lives in a very negative way. I had many things I was looking forward to, especially my internship abroad this summer in Australia. As of now, that’s still a go, but it may be canceled, and that was something I felt so proud of. The spring semester of my junior year is being spent quarantined in my house instead of hanging out with my friends, going to my sorority events, and just living a normal life.

Do you feel things in your life will go back to normal once this all blows over in the fall?

ST: I think that a lot is going to change in society in general when it comes to shaking hands, traveling to different countries, etc. My hope is that things will be back to “normal” in the fall, but as for our economy, I think it’s taking a huge hit, and it will surely take a while to build back up to where it once was.

Will people begin to take sanitation around campus more seriously as this virus passes, or will things remain the same? 

ST: I think for the first few months, things will be a lot more sanitary, but as time goes on, we will go back into our old way, and we will have to be ready for the next pandemic. 

College is meant to be a time for young adults to prosper and search for their purpose in life. The ability to do so has been compromised. There’s light at the end of this long, complicated tunnel, but it’s all at the cost of once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. Sarah Toth, an aspiring Journalism major, hopes to find that light before venturing into adulthood, but COVID-19 is holding out for the unseeable future. Stay safe, take proper precautions, and remember that quarantine will help students, parents, older adults, and the world get back to normal.