Behind the 'Mental Battle' of the 14-Day Quarantine
UHH Spent $200K Accommodating Students in Need of Quarantine Assistance
Graphic Artist: Naomi Lemieux
Writer: Kasumi Collins Editor-in-Chief
Makoa Caceres, a senior and a double major in Hawaiian Studies and Political Science, didn’t think that two weeks of quarantine was a big deal until he experienced it firsthand.
“I didn’t really expect to struggle with the mental aspects of spending so much time alone,” said Caceres, a UH Hilo student and general manager of Vulcan Video Productions, who documented his quarantine experience in video clips that he will ultimately produce into a shareable movie.
Caceres is among countless college students who have had to comply with the state of Hawaiʻi’s mandatory 14-day quarantine, upon their return to UH Hilo.
UHH has offered assistance to students who reside both on and off campus, who do not have the means to quarantine on their own. To date, nearly 200 took advantage of UH Hilo’s offer, according to Dr. Farrah-Marie Gomes, the vice chancellor of Student Affairs.
However, by the time the quarantine assistance program ended on Oct. 15, Gomes stated that the total cost for UHH was $200,000. By the end of September, 105 students had completed their quarantines at Grand Naniloa Hotel, while 71 students completed their quarantines at one of the residence halls on campus.
UH Hilo student Rachel Meade, a first year in the Marine Science program was among the students who quarantined at Hale ʻAlahonua.
“Just picture yourself in there for two weeks,” she said. “You cannot go for a walk or step outside. All you have for fresh air is the window by the desk.”
Caceres expressed similar sentiment, being cooped up in a room without being able to venture outside.
“It feels really dumb to complain about, but watching everybody experience their first week of school while I sat alone in a room was hard,” Caceres said.
“You don’t realize how much you miss walking on a sidewalk, feeling rain on your skin, or even leaning on the shoulder of a friend until you're forced to live without it for two weeks.”
To connect with others and feel “some sort of normalcy,” Caceres used the social network Discord and virtually played video games with his friends every night.
Meade, meanwhile, connected with her friends and family via FaceTime.
“If we did not have the technology we have today, I think I would have definitely gone crazy!” Meade said. “It was very important to get that time to hear familiar voices and talk like normal when everything around me was different from how it used to be.”
For her free time, Meade would typically work out, watch TV, do crafts like drawing and paint-by-number art, or “just vibe and listen to music.”
Caceres spent his time playing video games on his Xbox or “League of Legends” on his laptop. But that didn’t come without technical difficulties. In the end he got an ethernet cable delivered, because the wifi in his dorm room was “horrendous” and it was making it difficult for him to log on to his classes via Zoom.
Imagine Caceres’ video clips of his quarantine to the tune of the Tyga song, “Bored in the House.”
“Quarantine in the dorms takes the very essence and foundation of that song and makes it a reality,” Caceres said. “The heat of Hale ‘Alahonua will definitely be a killer though. It’s relentless.”
Feeding themselves proved to be an interesting challenge for both Caceres and Meade.
While the university offered housing assistance during quarantine, they couldn’t do much for students who had opted out of meal plans. According to Gomes, students were provided with a list of delivery options upon their check-in to the residence hall and Hale ʻAlahonua.
“In both locations, students needed to complete payment online, then delivery was made to the front desk and front desk staff delivered the food to the students’ rooms,” Gomes said.
Meade ordered her food from companies like DoorDash and groceries through Ships. “It was pretty expensive having to pay for delivery costs,” she said.
Caceres, who also wasn’t participating in a meal plan, didn’t want to spend a couple hundred dollars on food delivery. His parents sent him a couple packages, one filled with food and the other with cleaning supplies. “I only ate microwaveable ramen and pho for most of my meals through the two weeks,” he said.
One highlight for Meade was receiving “randomly order(ed)” surprise packages from her family via Amazon. There were two low points for her: When the resident assistant left her in the room and “I realized how small of a space I would be stuck in for two weeks. Just a bathroom, shower, one bedroom and one window.”
The other low point for Meade occurred mid-way through the quarantine when she felt like she was “fighting the mental battle of being stuck inside for another week and wondering if it would all be worth it.”
Caceres actually celebrated his 21st birthday in quarantine. It was the second to last day of his quarantine experience. “I expected to be spending my 21st birthday at a bar or a restaurant, having with my family and friends. Instead, I found myself locked in an ‘Alahonua suite.”
But the highlight for him came through seeing the effort his family and friends made to ensure he had a good time despite quarantine.
“At midnight, all my friends sang happy birthday to me on Discord,” Caceres recalled. His family had food delivered to his room, so his birthday meal didn’t have to be yet another bowl of ramen. They also mailed him a care package with his favorite snack and birthday decorations.
His coworkers at the Kipuka Native Hawaiian Student Center bought him ice cream from Dairy Queen along with a pair of swim fins, and left the loot for him at the dormitory front desk.
“Situations where you find yourself really sad and stuck and unable to do anything about it for yourself is when your family and friends typically pull through and show you what true aloha looks like,” he said.
Caceres offered his compliments to the Housing staff who he said “does a great job of ensuring that you have the basics of what you need, in order to get through the whole ordeal.”
Check out Caceres’ quarantine video on the VVP Youtube Channel: VulcanVideoProductions B.O.M.B