Families around the country are beginning to navigate a new world as classes begin amid the coronavirus pandemic. Colleges around the country are testing different methods of instruction, with some moving to online-only instruction and others attempting to hold in-person classes. Some campuses have reopened just to close a few weeks later after a flare-up of positive cases, further disrupting lives. Amid all of this, thousands of students are trying to figure out their place in a world that holds no certain answers for anyone.
BuzzFeed News worked with five college students, who all captured one of the last weekends of summer during a time that feels both endless and lost. With online classes upending back-to-school rituals, these students had an overwhelming sense of suspended animation, that the day-to-day routines of summer would not change much with the coming school year, and that goals and milestones would be delayed. Nonetheless, all five spoke of their lives as being full of family, friends, and a sense of creative freedom amid the anxiety.
Dan Hu is a rising sophomore at Northwestern's Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications. As classes are moving online, he is staying with his family in New Jersey, where he spends his summer days working on personal projects and reading to his twin siblings.
With this illustration series, I hope to capture the disjointedness of life in quarantine. I’m privileged enough to not have personally been affected much — other than experiencing reality and time warp more than ever before. Many others have also been caught in limbo, and so it’s really a shared experience.
Siddrah Alhindi is a rising sophomore at Baruch College in New York. The pandemic canceled her annual trip to Qatar, where she spends summers with her mother.
This weekend did not feel out of the ordinary for me, yet one thing that made it unique was this photographing experience. I usually take photos on my phone for my Instagram page or to keep an account of some memories, but it has been a while since I held a professional camera. Bringing the camera alongside me as I hung out with my friends or went to eat dinner felt like I was an outsider looking in. It allowed me to take a step back, observe, and see a bigger picture that I am too distracted to notice most of the time. I was experiencing life through a lens, and it gave me a different perspective, one that paid attention to details and the little things that make our life so limitless and beautiful.
Geoffrey Haggray is a rising senior, studying photography at the Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia. Even though classes will be online and lab access will be limited, he chose to stay in Savannah with his girlfriend and roommate for the summer.
In the age of social distancing, my days have been mostly inside. I have been spending most of my time with my girlfriend, who has her own apartment — but recently we’ve just been going back and forth from her apartment to mine, spending a few days or nights at each. I have a roommate at my apartment, whose girlfriend is also currently there, and we also have a cat. Most of our days start off with breakfast and an episode of whatever show we’re on at the time. The middle of the day is dedicated to chores, errands, photo books, playing with the cat, and Instagram. We mostly go out to get groceries.
Some days in the evening when it isn’t too hot we ride our bikes or walk to the park. That’s another reason we have mostly been staying inside — Savannah is HOT in the summertime. Occasionally we will go to the beach or on little outings when we’ve been holed up inside for too long. I have weekly Zoom calls with photo and film friends. We’ve been cooking as a couple more since the start of all this, so the evenings are also spent cooking whatever new recipe we have found. When we do go out for walks, we both bring our cameras and use the time to channel whatever photographer we have been adoring lately.
My girlfriend has been working on some paintings on and off during this time inside. My roommate and his girlfriend work for our college and thus are on Zoom calls a lot. Before the coronavirus, we used to enjoy going to the movie theatre a lot during the summer, as well as the jazz festival. We go to the weekly farmers market every now and then when looking for specialty foods.
This weekend for me has been about enjoying the last days of summer vacation and getting ready for my final year of college. Thankfully we have the luxury of working from home. My fellow classmates and I are looking at the state of this country and the world and hoping that there will be a place for us in it when we graduate. My generation will be the ones to create real change. I wish all the best to the graduating classes of 2020 and 2021.
Tyler Newman is a first-year student at Stanford University, although with the pandemic she chose to defer a year and remain at home with her family in New Jersey.
My weekend was a time of polar opposite emotions and experiences. I started Friday at home, spending most of my time preparing for the launch of my YouTube channel and gap year program, The Year of Mastery. I went on a walk with my dog, Oliver, around my neighborhood and felt moved to take pictures of the many racially or politically charged lawn signs that I passed. For some reason, these signs have felt off-putting to me as each day I would take a walk and pass the 10th identical “Black Lives Matter” sign.
I wonder about the people within those houses — did they really care about Black lives, or was that sign just an extra one that their neighbor supplied them with and they put it up to prevent themselves from looking bad? It’s a peculiar dilemma, to be surrounded by signs that say that you matter but to still feel unsafe walking through your suburban neighborhood alone.
Saturday felt like Groundhog Day, like most days during quarantine do. I woke up, posted some content on my social media platform, and then worked most of the day, did some drawing, rode my bike, and ended the day watching Netflix. I was so excited about tomorrow that it was hard to sleep. I was going to the city to meet up with some friends also going to Stanford; it would be my first (socially distanced) in-person interaction in months.
A love for fashion is one of many things my mother and I have in common, and she and I took joy in picking my outfit for Sunday’s hangout. I love dressing up. Fashion is a medium of self-expression for me, especially statement earrings! My mom and I drove into Manhattan; after going to the orthodontist for my appointment and grabbing lunch, I headed over to Central Park to meet my friends. I was astounded by the vast number of picnic blankets and people on the open expanse of grass. I hadn’t seen that many people in ages. There were about 16 of us who had attended, all from New Jersey, New York, and even one person from Connecticut. I entertained myself by gazing at the park’s unending views and reveling at the experience of actually being OUTSIDE with FRIENDS who weren’t contained by Zoom boxes. It was magnificent. Afterward, I almost got lost navigating through the park to find my mother and was met by an impromptu choir as they walked behind me and provided soulful music for me and other parkgoers.
Sam Waigand just graduated from the University of Missouri and returned home to St. Louis to help with her family.
Every year for as long as I can remember, I have always done the same thing around this time: I tested my pens, walked to my classes, and started a new year. But in May, I received a diploma in the mail, marking an end to one chapter of my life and a very strange beginning to another. COVID-19 has presented a very disorienting situation where I am often left feeling dazed and alone. I have taken on a lot of responsibility since I’ve been home, but as I look to my family, we are all supporting each other in one way or another. My family brings me comfort that during such difficult times, and they have taught me how to help one another and to always remember to feel the joy in life’s small moments. This is how we survive.
Starting a new chapter of my life in the same place I grew up in is a disorienting feeling, like I haven't made the progress that I set out to make. It's anxiety inducing and my mind often races. But I know this is the best place for me to be at this time.
Going on long drive's is my brother's favorite part of the day. I like driving through natural places, where everything feels peaceful and filled with newness. When I saw the baby elk, I wondered if he felt alone or scared. I wondered if my presence threatened him like this pandemic threatens us. At that point, I decided to stop thinking and just enjoy the beauty of the park before we had to go home.