On Wednesday, March 11, it was life as normal. Thursday morning, March 12, there was officially a pandemic, nations were closing their borders, the United States seemed to panic and spring break at California Baptist University was extended by a week. Little did anyone know, soon the only people left on campus would be the few with nowhere else to go.
For me, a student whose entire family lives overseas, COVID-19 was my worst nightmare. In a few short days, my only option was to stay on campus at California Baptist University through their provision for international students and other students who could not get home.
It is eerie, now, as I walk through Lancer Plaza. On a Tuesday at lunchtime, students would be laughing, talking, stressing and eating their El Monte like there was no tomorrow. Now, the only dining options on campus are Campus Xpress, Chick-fil-A and Wanda’s.
Even coming into contact with the few other students left seems like a different world. The Riverside County Public Health Officer, Dr. Cameron Kaiser, mandated masks for anyone going outside starting April 4. Violators are subject to a fine. Wanda’s will not serve anyone without a mask.
Elijah Martinez, freshman graphic design major, said the emptiness is difficult.
“It feels solitary. I feel trapped,” Martinez said. “I’m just living in the same space doing the same things every day with no real variation.”
It can seem like the campus simply died in response to the novel coronavirus. Elizabeth Iserman, senior public health major, said that the virus permeates everything.
“I feel like (COVID-19) is the only thing we talk about — that or boys,” Iserman said with a grin. “It’s not an actual fear, but it’s always present in conversations.”
The remaining students received an email April 7 from CBU Housing Services, requiring students to move to The Point living area. This comes as “an effort to ensure the safety, health and well-being of members of the campus community,” according to Housing Services.
Iserman said she is less than thrilled about leaving her old student housing assignment for a new one.
“In my eyes, this is my home; this is where I’ve been living. This is where I only have one more month left,” Iserman said. “Now I have a week to move in with someone else in a different place. I know it’s going to be very empty.”
The emptiness is overwhelming. I walked down my hall in Smith today, past the array of closed doors. For some of them, I never even had the chance to say goodbye.
Colin Magness, senior cultural anthropology and international business double major, said his experience was similar as people left campus and he stayed behind.
“(It) mostly feels like a lot of goodbyes never got to happen and that time with those I actually care about got cut too short,” Magness said.
I will come back in the fall, but many seniors do not have that luxury. The emptiness threatens to swallow our campus whole. I look forward to seeing the streets filled with laughing students once again.