#parent | #kids | Lonely And “Hangry,” NYU Students Recount Their Dismal Quarantine Experience

NYU sophomore Neal Patel’s two-week quarantine didn’t quite turn out the way he had imagined. First, he received the wrong meals—beef and chicken, when he should’ve had items that conformed with his vegetarian diet. Then, his internet went out for three days, making him miss work in finance and other things he was doing to pass the time.

“I was perpetually pissed off because I wasn’t getting any food, wasn’t getting any WiFi to even order food,” he said. “I don’t have an unlimited data plan so I was like a sitting duck. It was really frustrating.”

Patel and his suitemate contacted the NYU IT department and even got his resident advisor and dorm building director involved. But he says it wasn’t until he tweeted about it that the problem was solved.

“I was just stuck, and in retrospect, it was probably hangry-decision making,” the 19-year-old from Chicago said. “It’s just, honestly, with people on campus and them not getting the right food and solving problems, it gets to the point of, ‘Hey, your kids are mentally not okay and they’re freaking out online.’”

NYU students arriving from states that trigger the state’s quarantine order have been holed up in their dorms for nearly two weeks, finishing up their self-isolation. The results proved embarrassing for NYU, a school whose tuition runs $54,800 a year. That princely sum does not include room and board, which costs almost $20,000 for on-campus students.

Within the first week, students took to TikTok to show the “Fyre Fest”-like meals they received from the school. NYU issued an apology and sent students a $30 GrubHub gift card for dinner every night to fix the problem. Other students have had to deal with other issues, ranging from loneliness born out of self-isolation, to fears over the semester starting. Classes will be a mix of hybrid and in-person learning.

Alex Olesky, 19, has been quarantining alone until his suitemates arrive. He’s been able to FaceTime and Zoom with friends as well as prepare for classes but he wasn’t prepared for the loneliness, thinking that the time would pass quickly as he got ready for the semester.

“I’ve noticed I get irritated more easily; I get more frustrated with things just because I don’t have anything to keep my mind off little frustrations except the little frustrations,” the sophomore majoring in educational theatre said.

NYU is offering mental health services for students in self-isolation through virtual appointments and a text-based chat app. 

Quarantine hasn’t been so bad for Klaire Carter, an 18-year-old freshman from Chicago. Much of it was thanks to her suitemate, who quarantined alongside her. The two were able to pop their heads in to say hello and text each other. Carter was even able to do a small, socially-distant birthday celebration for her suitemate.

“I’m glad that I at least have someone here because I think it’s very unhealthy to be alone for this amount of time but luckily she’s here,” Carter, who plans to major in art, said.

Carter has also been taking advantage of the Zoom activities NYU has arranged for new students. There’ve been some that have been informative, such as what to expect out of the semester and how to get around New York City. Others have been fun. She’s attended a Zoom call on popular make-up influencers and then another specifically for Black students to build community.

“We bonded over our shared struggles and it was just really cool to see I’m not alone in what I have to go through every day just being a Black woman,” Carter said.

All 3,700 students quarantining on campus had a chance to leave their dorms last Wednesday to take a second COVID test at Gould Plaza. All students were masked and testing was organized by appointment according to each student’s last name, minimizing wait times at testing sites

“It felt a little rebellious in a way because I was able to walk around outside,” Benji Prickett, 19, a percussion sophomore said.

During the first round of testing, out of over 10,000 tests administered — divided between 3,000 staffers and over 7,000 NYU students — only 10 people tested positive for coronavirus. The findings have Olesky, the educational theatre major, “cautiously optimistic” about the start of the semester, but he worries that NYU will have to shut down like many other universities across the country.

It’s a sentiment Andre Valdez shares as well. Heading into his final semester as a drama major, Valdez knows the pain of watching a wonderful semester turn into a nightmare when NYU abruptly told students to vacate its dorms last spring as the coronavirus began to ravage the city. If not for financial reasons, Valdez would’ve skipped this semester since all of his classes are online.

“It becomes one of those things where my education actively is not as good as what I could be getting if it weren’t in-person,” he said. “I’m backed into a corner.”

Valdez is nervous about students returning to campus as classes resume in-person and virtually today, since it feels like NYU is placing “too much trust” in students.

NYU is requiring that all students take their temperature every day and answer a health questionnaire that will give them a “green pass” to enter NYU buildings. Off-campus visitors aren’t allowed to visit and NYU has set up a hotline for students to email if they see someone breaking the rules, which will result in a maximum suspension of three consecutive semesters.

“In normal circumstances, I wouldn’t be the person to report someone for partying or drinking or smoking, but if I see you having a 30-person party next door to me, I’m going to tell someone about it because I don’t want to go home,” Prickett, the percussion major, said.




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