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From Quarantine to Class at NYU, a Freshman Starts Her Next Chapter

PRODUCED BY

Madison Hall

New York City, NY.

09/04/20

Madison Hall’s college experience started with a two-week quarantine in her dorm room. As classes begin, she reflects on the difficult decision to move away from home during an ongoing pandemic.

Madison Hall poses for a self-portrait while in quarantine inside her NYU dorm room.
Photo: Courtesy of Madison Hall

Madison: Back in early July, NYU gave me four weeks to decide if I wanted to live on campus or take classes remotely from home. Having to make a decision was frustrating.

Madison: [Audio diary] I’m very much struggling with trying to decide what I’m supposed to be feeling. Like, I’m confused about a lot of things but I’m not sure, like, if I’m allowed to be confused about it. Like, am I confused because I’m a freshman in college or am I confused because the world is in a confusing place right now?

Madison: I usually try not to make decisions based on my emotions but the pandemic made it hard to think clearly. I didn’t talk to my parents about my decision — I knew they’d want me to stay. And I didn’t wanna get their hopes up. I also knew they might actually convince me to stay. So I talked to my older sister about it. She said I would regret not dorming. I would miss out on a big part of my college experience. And if I stayed, there would be seven of us in the house. That gave me the reasons I needed to go. I knew I should leave home, even though I didn’t really want to.

Madison: [On a Zoom call] Hi, how’s it going?

Andrea: Alright.

Madison: My friends were also deciding what to do. We talked about how school might look in the fall.

Andrea: [On Zoom] I feel like I won’t grow as much this year as I would if the year was normal. I feel like my personal development will be stunted.

Madison: That’s my friend Andrea. She decided to take her classes from home.

Andrea: [On Zoom] I won’t get the experience being, like, more independent because I’m staying at home.

Madison: Our friend Rayelle was also on Zoom with us. We had both decided to dorm on campus.

Madison: [On Zoom] So how do you feel about, like, the fact that your freshman year isn’t going to be, like, normal?

Rayelle: Kind of disappointed because everyone’s been talking up college. You know, I’ve watched a lot of movies — everyone’s like college is the time you get to let go, go crazy, learn about yourself and everything. But nope, we all get to be quarantined and wear masks.

Madison: Find yourself inside of a mask. It’s Gucci.

Madison: I do wonder how I’m gonna make friends. I’ve never really been a fan of making friends online. It’s just not the same as talking in person. As far as classes go — I don’t mind the social distancing.

Madison: I’m actually looking a lot — like I’m very looking forward to being six feet apart. I don’t know. I’m antisocial and I don’t like talking to people in class. I hope this means no group projects, that’s what I want. No group projects. [Laughs]

[Zoom call ends]

Madison: We were worried about a lot of things — the whole transition to college: Classes, how to make friends, moving. I didn’t spend much time thinking about the possibility of getting COVID. Until I got an email from NYU saying that I had to move in two weeks early to quarantine. When I told my parents that, it made everything feel more real for them.

Madison’s mom: What is the exit plan if there is a second wave of this virus and more people are getting sick and they begin to shut things down again? Cause I don't even think they should have opened the school back up. Like — Manhattan is deserted.

Madison: I try not to think about what will happen if NYU shuts down.

Madison’s sister: They’re not gonna make it so that students can’t get home.

Mom: But they might if they say shelter in place.

Madison: But then I'll have to quarantine — right. Then I have to quarantine in my dorm and it’s not even a question.

Madison’s mom: But are they gonna have food set up? If they’re sending all the workers home, how you eating? You see what I'm saying?

Madison: They’re not gonna let me starve if I have to shelter in place.

Mom: They might not have a choice!

Madison: In March, my sister was studying abroad and got stuck in Europe. So now my mom tries to prepare for the worst.

Madison: But if I have to shelter — they’re not gonna let me starve. Like you guys can ship me — I’ll order me food if it’s that serious.

Mom: I’m just saying you’ve got to be prepared for anything.

Madison: I understood why she was worrying but some of her fears weren’t realistic. I felt like NYU was gonna do their best. And I was starting to get excited about going to college. On August 18th, I woke up early and we drove to New York.

Madison: [In background] I really just wanna — I’m already late for my move-in appointment.

Madison: The last few miles, I was really anxious and my stomach was in knots. When we got there, there was a really long line to get tested for COVID.

Madison’s dad: [In background] We out here! In this COVID-19 line, baby!

Madison: I was told it would hurt, but it didn’t.

Madison: [Right after getting tested] My nose feels clean though.

Madison: After that, I checked in at my dorm.

Madison’s mom: [In background] I’m so excited for you, Madison!

Madison: I got a welcome package that had my ID and key. But also a bunch of masks, hand sanitizer and a thermometer.

Staffer checking people in: So I just need your signature there as well as your phone number.

Madison: My dad, mom and aunt all took turns coming upstairs. We carried stuff in then cleaned and rearranged the room. And then I was all alone.

[Sound of door shutting]

Madison: [Audio diary from move-in day] Oh my gosh. I am alone. Everyone is gone, it is just me, my food and my bed.

Madison: I spent my days watching Netflix and talking to my high school friends.

Madison’s friends: [On a call] So how’s the dorm? Is it a nice dorm?

Madison: Two of them were also in quarantine.

Rayelle: [On phone] Wait, how do you get your food? Do you have to go get it or do they bring it to you?

Madison: Once a day someone rattles my doorknob like a serial killer. [Laughs] And then I wait five minutes so I won’t be murdered in a very empty hallway. And then I open the door and there's a brown paper bag on the doorknob.

Madison: Mostly, though, I just ate Pop-Tarts and ramen. And was really bored.

Madison: [On a call with friends] Should I ship you some of my ramen? [Laughter]

Madison: The day quarantine ended, I wanted to go outside but I didn’t wanna go alone. So I sent a message to one of the group chats I’m in and asked if anyone wanted to meet up. There were more responses than I expected — we had to split up just so we could social distance properly. But we still had fun walking around until it got dark. The next day, I went to my first classes on Zoom. Even if things shut down tomorrow, I’d be glad I decided to come to NYU. COVID took my senior year of high school but it didn’t stop me from moving into my dorm and making new friends.

Also featured on WNYC and on NPR/WBUR’s Here and Now.

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