Coping with COVID-19

What students are saying about the global pandemic and its impact on everything from education to employment

Staff Writer Holly S. Trowbridge and Editor-in-Chief Rosannah Gosse


“After hearing that UH Hilo was planning to go online, I promptly packed up the items in my dormitory and purchased my ticket to be with my family in Oak Park, Illinois, a western suburb of Chicago. My arrival to O’Hare International Airport, a natural midwestern hub of air traffic, was eerie, because there was no one around to speak to, and I have never seen the airport so closed down and empty. It hit me how widespread the illness had become.

Since I had possibly come in contact with the novel coronavirus during my travel, I made the decision to strictly self quarantine for 14 days. For 14 days, I completed my online classes, and I only moved about the house between the bedroom and the restroom. On day 15 after my arrival, I got into a car for the first time, and went with my father and brothers to a local grocery store to stock up on food. I have never seen the people of this area so on-edge. Everyone has masks and gloves, and people were being incredibly cautious. It felt almost postlapsarian. I was shocked to see what traveling into the future felt like.”


“The first gutting, personally felt repercussion to come my way from the coronavirus pandemic was the news that a journalism program I was planning to attend in Italy after graduation was cancelled. Then it was getting laid off from my restaurant job in downtown Hilo, and then it was goodbye to our commencement ceremony. The fact that I won’t be able to celebrate with the Ke Kalahea staff at our end-of-the-year Ka Makaku banquet in a fancy dress and matte lipstick sucks a little more than I care to admit, too. What seems somewhat like an all-of-a-sudden ordeal has left campus deserted, classes disorganized, classmates distant, and everything different. I’m pretty sure this was not how I envisioned my final year of college to end.

Initially, I felt that it was amoral and childish to gripe about my own unfortunate circumstances when there were and are and will be so many people who are either in situations much more painful than my own or, even worse, dead. To a very large degree – yes, cultivating gratitude for my health, safety, and support system is incredibly important right now. But it’s okay to feel hollow, disoriented, bitter, scared, and downright bummed about everything that’s out of my control, too, and it helps to know that none of us are alone in these emotions.”

Editor’s Note: Responses may have been edited for brevity and clarity.

Natalie Gillette, junior in CAFNRM

“COVID-19 for me has been, to put it succinctly, extremely sucky. Both of my workplaces have gone under some measure of quarantine so I am unable to work and get paid. Fortunately, my parents can take care of me, but without working, I can't pay for my tuition. I am now on the mainland, and distance online learning without an appropriate working environment has made it extremely difficult to focus, especially with other adults around trying to do distance work simultaneously. Not all my professors have figured out Zoom or recorded lectures, so I only have their slides to work from. This has been a rough first week of online classes, and I imagine the rest will also be just as terrible.”

Isabella Chapman, sophomore in marine science and international politics

“Due to COVID-19’s effect on the school and the effective closure, it has shortened my time with friends I’ve made both in the previous semester and the current semester, and it will potentially mean not being able to see some of them again. I also lost the ability to say goodbye, as many left for spring break with the assumption we’d see each other again. With the acceleration of COVID-19’s progress, this led to many not coming back at all or being unable to see me. Although I was granted the ability to say goodbye to some of the exchange students I befriended over the course of this semester, COVID-19 also cost me the ability to go to South Korea this summer to present at a conference. At the time of this writing, the conference had not officially been shut down but due to medical complications for my family and me, even if COVID-19 cleared up greatly the risk of me traveling to a potential infectious area and then bringing it back would be too great to risk it.”

Sienna Wareham, junior in business on exchange in South Korea

“In Korea, COVID-19 has been scary, but at the same time, I don't feel too afraid. I have been watching the count grow everyday. In the beginning, I was terrified. Medical care in Korea is better than it is in the U.S., and I was hearing reports about the tests not working in the U.S. But here, Korea has set up different things not only to get tested, but also ways to prevent it from spreading.

I am living off-campus this semester, so I don't have to worry about having to leave. I even live close to campus. But right now, the school is doing online classes. I don't know anyone personally who has gotten COVID-19, but the government sends me emergency texts about cases in my area. I do know a lot of people who have left. I have one friend who is on the fence right now about leaving. She isn't sure if she could find a flight home. She is staying for now, but she isn't getting much help from her university.”

Jordan Drewer, senior in communications and Target employee

“I typically work around 24 hours per week to have my work schedule be compatible with my school schedule. Over the last two to three weeks, Target has allowed many of the team members (myself included) to stay at work and continue past our scheduled hours and often into overtime. This has been working well for many of the students that work at Target because we have many of our classes online and not scheduled. The scheduled hours are about the same because where I work in the Electronics Department hasn't been hit nearly as hard as they have been in the Personal Care or Grocery Departments.

In regards to how my job is different, I am wearing gloves and sanitizing my hands a lot more, as well as wearing a mask. We also close the store two hours early to do a deep cleaning on top of the constant cleaning of our own areas. My job is not really affecting my ability to focus on my classes. The management at Target is very flexible with our work schedule and my boss made sure that I prioritize my academics and have enough time to do my homework.”

Heather Padilla, graduating senior in English with a Creative Writing certificate

“I’m really disappointed with the announcement [about commencement being cancelled]. I know it was not a decision made lightly, but I do wish it was closer to graduation. I am sure things won’t be any better then, but it really takes the wind out of our sails for the rest of the semester. Don’t get me wrong, I have still earned that hard fought-for piece of paper, but the milestone feels like a stolen moment. Sure, they have discussed rescheduling, but we all know it won’t be the same. Students will have gone home or off to grad school and won’t be able to attend. It is amazing how five short seconds walking across a stage can mean so much.”