By: Mackenzie Kokal, Loyola Sophomore
Imagine entering your first year of college and never eating a meal in a dining hall, never sitting in a classroom, or never meeting any other students/classmates in person.
People say that college is the best time of your life. Most students heading off to college for the first time have a similar hope. Yet, for many college freshmen this year, college was going to be an entirely different experience due to COVID-19.
Days before the 2020 fall semester at Loyola was to begin, the university made the decision to close dorms, meaning that incoming freshmen and other students expecting to live in dorms could not live on campus. The university also decided to hold most classes remotely.
Fast forward to the spring 2021 semester, Loyola announced that it would re-open the dorms on a limited basis. Therefore, freshmen would be allowed to come to campus, but would have to live in single-occupancy dorm rooms. As a condition to moving in, students also would have to quarantine in their rooms by themselves for two weeks and be tested on a regular basis for COVID.
How would you feel if you were an incoming freshman at Loyola and had to begin your college career at home, but then transition to campus to live by yourself in a dorm for 14 days knowing no one? This is certainly not how many freshmen expected their first on-campus college experience to begin.
I had the pleasure of interviewing freshman Makenna Warnkes, a visual communications major at Loyola, who is currently living in Marquette Hall, about her experience with the quarantine process.
*Interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Kokal: Besides getting tested for COVID, were you allowed to leave your dorm anytime else?
Warnkes: We weren’t supposed to. We weren’t supposed to see anyone, and we were supposed to stay in our room and then go get tested and walk back. After getting tested though, I went on really long walks around campus, and those walks definitely helped because if I didn’t have those walks it probably would’ve been miserable. The first two weeks, classes kept me busy, so I guess I had stuff to do. I also decorated my room and had plans to set everything up, so it took time.
Kokal: Did you do anything else to pass the time besides decorating and classes?
Makenna: Well, I got a sewing machine for my birthday, so I’ve tried that a couple of nights. It has taken a long time and a lot of YouTube videos to learn how to do it, but I plan to make a canvas tote.
Kokal: What were some of the conditions or rules you had to follow during quarantine?
Warnkes: Obviously, you couldn’t have anyone in your room. We got tested twice a week so if you did not get tested twice, they would send an email. I also had to live off quarantine meals which were terrible. I barely touched them because the meals were like frozen meatloaf and beef stew. The only ones I ate were the baked ziti and the Paninis which were pretty good, but other than that, I did not eat the meals because I tried cooking one, and it was still frozen in the middle. If you were in an apartment style dorm, you literally just got a whole box of little TV-like dinners. If you lived in a suite-style dorm, they would have the same meals, but they would just warm it up and give it to you.
Kokal: What would you say was the hardest part of your quarantine?
Warnkes: The hardest part was definitely the transition from being home all my life and then automatically being in the apartment and living by myself. It was a huge transition because you don’t know anybody, and I was not able to see my family. Quarantining was a little challenging. There were some tough nights where I just wanted to be home because I was so lonely, and I did not have anyone. Physically, it was tiring just because you would wake up and then you would have to be in your room from morning to night. So like what do you do?
Kokal: Where was the first place you went after you were released from quarantine or what was one thing you wanted to do right when you got out?
Warnkes: The very first thing I did was participate in the sorority recruitment process which was virtual, so I didn’t really have enough time to do anything that weekend. But, it was Pack Nutrition’s grand opening, so me and my suite-mate got that.
Kokal: Was quarantine worth it in the end?
Warnkes: Yeah, it was worth it. I do not really understand why after a negative test we had to keep quarantining. I guess after a week it would have been fine, but I had four negative tests, so it was just so exhausting to keep going to get tested. It was worth it though because now I can go out and do my own thing.
For more updates and information of the coronavirus at Loyola University go to this website: Coronavirus (COVID-19) Updates: Loyola University Chicago (luc.edu)