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?
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.