Home Opinion Column What it’s like to live socially as a student during COVID

What it’s like to live socially as a student during COVID

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Photo by Stephen Ransom

Due to me not wanting to be barraged by those who may not agree to the lifestyle I have may or may not have lived the past half year, I’ve decided to label this piece as a subject of gonzo journalism. 

As some of you may know, there is a little virus going around nicknamed the Coronavirus. Once taken as a joke, it bore Corona Light themed parties, puns, and, later, pure chaos. 

What once brought us a sense of unity has turned us on each other, from anti-maskers and pro-maskers colliding in the streets, to spitting on essential workers, and utter destruction of local businesses. 

Who would’ve thought my third year of attempting to go to college would bring such joy. 

Fast forward three months from the initial lockdown. Three months of me sitting in my apartment in SLO playing Call of Duty and FIFA 20. I hadn’t seen but one person, my best friend and neighbor Sam, in my time of being perched up in a cocoon of gluttony in San Luis.

My lease eventually ran out, and I was headed back to my hometown of Visalia. 

As I hit Visalia, I became reluctant to where I would draw the line as “safe social distancing.” I worked nine hour days for my father, who did take the precautions quite seriously, on a job site in Porterville. 

As summer started to make its way around the precautions, or lack thereof, started to fade. I’m not one of the most responsible people as it is, and my longing for the ability to see friends was growing. 

I moved back to San Luis Obispo, a bubble of a community, in which there were under 10 deaths reported due to Coronavirus in the month of June. I made a new friend group, and we had a very tight knit of people whom we’d hang out with on most days.

June was what could be called a “bender.” As some of us would make contact with positive COVID cases, we would constantly be in a state of not going to work. 

Now, what happens when you give college students four months of unemployment, and the ability to do whatever they want?

They party.

They make stupid decisions. 

I personally plead the fifth. 

Hopefully, as you read this, you can use my voice as a common ground for students in SLO. It’s maybe not what you want to hear, but this voice can be representative of a majority populous of college students.

As you scrolled Instagram this past year, you probably ran into many stories and posts advocating “wear a mask!” or “social distance!” Many of these were posted by those who I have ran into at a get together on the weekends here in SLO. 

So, with that being said, I prefer to not lose myself to hypocrisy. I am guilty of going to a function where more than the restricted amount of recommended people attended. 

Fast forward seven or so months from the nation’s lockdown. There are many people on both sides of the spectrum regarding social distancing, mask usage, and so on. Halloween night was no different to any other Halloween I’ve experienced here in SLO. I can say honestly about three or four people I know personally have fully abided by COVID rules, morals and guidelines.

If you live in SLO, there’s a pretty good chance that you have broken the social distancing recommendations, or at least have had a friend who has. 

Personally, I have been tested for COVID five times. COVID has swept through about four or five of my friends and households. Shifts get canceled, as those who come into contact go into quarantine. The whole situation is a mess, and creates a huge chain reaction. 

Can you blame those who live in a college town for having fun though? Yes, definitely.

It certainly seems as though the authorities do.

Cal Poly suspends those who host parties, and many are calling on those with authority in SLO to up the stakes on punishing those who go to gatherings in San Luis. In a SLO Tribune editorial, the writer seeks to vouch for more restrictions to give these 18 to 23-year-old kids. 

But why are we not blaming Cal Poly for letting thousands of freshmen to come back from non-local, populated areas of the state? Why is it that we have to be the ones receiving extra thousands of dollars of fines for having music playing with a couple of friends? Why is there a change of rules every three weeks on what we already know is a hot mess?

Why put the blame on a bunch of college kids who just want a break from the reality of these lockdowns? Do they feel guilty for charging thousands in tuition for students to sit on a laptop all day? Is that why they attempted to have freshmen back?

I don’t know the answers to these questions. I do know that having students in town drastically improves the economy. Rental houses in SLO can’t just go vacant. The inevitability of college aged kids being here in SLO is pure reality. 

As we had gone into another lockdown-esque closure, I was scared. I was more scared of my mental headspace than the actual reality of catching COVID. As I and many others have gone unemployed through this, the uncertainty of the lockdowns we have had to deal with is nothing short of scary.

To shift back and forth from normality to borderline martial law every month or so causes headaches for everyone involved. Small business owners and the working class continue to struggle. 

As much as I can complain about my life here in sunny San Luis Obispo, many others have it much worse than we do. I encourage everyone to at least just be smart about socializing, and please get your damn vaccine, but try not to lose your sanity. 

What I do not understand is the treatment of college students throughout this ordeal. We are suspended from school for attempting to maintain our sanity through having a few friends over, yet only weeks later, I go downtown to witness masses of older folks at the bars doing exactly what we could/would be doing, minus the $100 bar tab.

Some consistency we have in who gets punished and who doesn’t (hope you sense my sarcasm).

As a Cuesta student like myself, I can afford to maybe get caught with having a few friends over and not being severely punished. 

But for others, they face a potentially hefty fine or suspension from the campus they pay a hefty price to attend (virtually that is) and call home.

Hopefully, this fall, our dystopian college fantasy can come true! But until then, good luck students, and don’t play your music too loud.