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