College in the Time of COVID

laptop work station with a sign next to it that says "one day at a time"

College in the Time of COVID

By Mary Jane Dellafiora

What will be your memories of the pandemic shelter-at-home order? Does anyone out there remember the early months of infanthood and being confined to the “child-rearing cave” when your college students were infants? I’ve been having flashbacks to those days as my college-aged sons returned for Spring Break—and they preceded to stay. Two decades later, we are again confined to the family home. In the meantime, my husband and I have the surreal experience of watching them continue an alternate, virtual life that is happening at their universities—400 miles away from that home.

“Good morning, it’s 8:50, don’t you have a 9 a.m. class?” I lightly tap on the door and open it to see one son, half reclining in bed, laptop open beside him as he’s logging on to his laptop and rolling out of bed to participate in a language class. After class, he rolls back into bed and goes back to sleep. He will re-emerge in a couple of hours when it is time for him to comb his hair and tutor other students via virtual office hours. He also will have club meetings in the afternoons, as well as discussion sections in the evening. He can watch lectures at midnight. The other son participates in an internship with a tech company—team meetings and conferences with his mentor several times a week. This is college in the time of COVID.

The refrigerator door starts opening at noon. It keeps opening until 3:30 am. I had forgotten how much food a swarm of locusts (otherwise known as my sons, husband and golden retriever) can consume in a week. There is no such thing as leftovers in my house — or at least nothing left over past 3:00 am. We are on the 5 meal a day meal plan at this dining hall.

I do (or assist others in doing) laundry, laundry and more laundry. Wait, I used to live like this? Like labor pains and pre-dawn carpools to zero period, you forget what you once endured for your family. We have had lessons on how to properly clean the house. No, that is not what they have been doing at college. “Twenty-first century petri dish” is not a décor option during the stay at home order.

Designer face masks: Uh, Mom, could the nice neighbor lady make me one that’s not so “loud?” Honey, your mom is not crafty, we are grateful for everything offered and I think red is great color! (She later made him a blue one.)

One runs to the beach (and back) without touching the sand. One bikes the same route. They both return, bringing tidings that the ocean is still there.

We have Zoom meetings with our East Coast relatives.  “Company!” One son put on jeans instead of gym shorts and even wore a belt. The other one changed his clean shirt twice. I was happy to see those grooming instincts still existed. Our college kids have Zoom hangouts and game online with their friends, constantly keeping in touch through texting and social media. It’s like their electronic addictions of the past ten years have been preparing them for shutdown socializing.

Yes, in some ways we have reverted to that child-rearing cave. But we’re thankful that they have that cave in which to be safe. They actually show signs of maturity and thoughtfulness (and responsibility) that I appreciate and do not always get to witness when they are 400 miles away.  

And as parents, we appreciate what UC Davis has done to give students the benefits of their education, even when they are 400 miles away from campus. The use of the latest technology and special communication efforts by professors and administrators keep our students learning and experiencing a different kind of college life while they shelter safely at home or at Davis. College in the time of COVID.