A Senior’s Journey back to Penn State during a Pandemic
The last 30 days of my senior year at Penn State have not to out the way I expected them to be.
My name is Christina Veintimilla and I’m a senior studying photojournalism. I was halfway through my spring break in Ft. Lauderdale when Penn State announced that our classes would be going online until April 6, 2020. This news was devastating for my friends and me because we were looking forward to going back to campus and enjoying our last few weeks together.
Since I was in Fort Lauderdale I was only two hours away from my home in Naples, so my parents and I decided that instead of going directly back to State College, it would be best for me to go home.
I had to stay home for a lot longer than I had intended when Penn State ultimately decided to cancel in person classes for the rest of the semester. In the fall semester I put off the typical nostalgia every senior has and didn’t appreciate that it was going to be my last time on campus. I was heart-broken.
The idea of being at home with my family for over a month was great, but I also had in the back of my mind how I was supposed to be at school with my roommates at this point in the year. This made it hard for me to be able to enjoy the family time that I was being given.
While at home I was trying to find new ways to entertain myself like trying out new cooking styles that I wasn’t really used to. My classes have had the same projects but specifically for my photo classes I had to be able to adjust to only being able to take photos at home.
At first I was able to still go to parks in Naples and take pictures of the people there and the dogs of while making sure to not get too close to anyone.
Collier County has been increasing limits on public parks but still encourage residents to go outside. As of today Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has mandated a 30-day stay-at-home order for the state. Photos taken at Baker Park in Naples Fl. on March 22, 2020. @covid19globalview @webcurtpsu
This ended very abruptly and within a week all of the parks and beaches in Naples were closed, and I wasn’t going be able to take the pictures I thought I was going to be able to. I had to find things around my home or interesting things I did that day to photograph, which continues to be a challenge. Most of my classwork is creative work and it’s hard to be as creative when you’re limited to such a small area and number of people.
Collier County closed beach access points and parking on Thursday, March 19th, 2020. There are still stretches of beaches in Collier County that are not affected by these actions due to them having private access points. Photos taken at 4:46 pm on March 22, 2020. #covid19globalview @webcurtpsu
A couple of weeks after being home my best friend Jenna Alderuccio, a senior at the University of Florida, came home as well and we were able to go on bike rides together, while staying six feet apart. This was a saving grace for both of us since after she returned home it was two weeks before we were able to see each other. We both found that we were not exercising much while stuck in our homes so bike riding became something we both looked forward to every other day.
After a month and a week of being home and many long discussions with my parents it was decided that I could return to my apartment in State College. I was able to get a flight from Naples to Philadelphia for $36 and then drove from Philadelphia to Penn State in a rental car to try to limit myself from going on another plane and having to interact with even more people.
Traveling by plane was a really interesting and different experience than normal. I fly alone most of the time, especially when I go to school so far from where I live. I am very used to going on multiple flights of by myself, but this time was completely different. I was so anxious the day before the flight.
Planes are known to be dirty no matter what, so during a pandemic the stress was heightened with the fact that I could catch it. I made sure I didn’t touch anything on the plane, the only thing being the seatbelt and I didn’t even touch it before I fully disinfected it. I wore a mask the entire time and I would estimate about 85% of the people on the plane were wearing masks. This was comforting but I was still tense about being in such a small compartment of people for a long period of time. Even though I wasn’t sitting directly next to anyone, I still was not far enough away from the people in front and behind me.
I was the first person to return to our apartment at Penn State. My roommates arrived a couple days later, which was really uplifting. At home we had to communicate by Zoom calls. Our conversations apart focused on how we would rather be quarantined together, so finally being reunited made us all very happy.
Since returning to State College, we’ve been going on walks around campus while wearing a masks and making sure to still follow social distancing. We are all so thankful that although the past 30 days have been tough for all of us, we were able to be together again.