Written by Sophia Klomparens
After nearly six months of quarantined boredom, I packed my bags in late August to return to school. In addition to my normal fall purchases of notebooks and pens, I bought masks and hand sanitizer. Even though I was excited to go back to school, I couldn’t get rid of the knot of dread in my stomach. We would have daily health checks, mask requirements, a whole new system for meal services, reduced cafeteria capacity—in many ways, this new proposal for holding pandemic school didn’t sound like the Hillsdale I know and love. Would it feel like a prison? Would it ever feel normal again?
At first, it seemed like my fears were confirmed. Wearing a mask all over campus was strange and cumbersome. I missed homecoming events like mock rock. After a while, eating takeout from A.J.’s got old. But my whole perspective on the College’s policies changed when I was quarantined on campus.
It was a Tuesday, and I had a bad sore throat. I skipped a few classes, wore a mask, stayed far away from my fellow students—but I didn’t want to call the health center. After all, I told myself, it was just one symptom, and it was probably a cold.
Fast forward three days, and the sore throat hadn’t gotten better. On Sunday afternoon, it turned into a dry cough. Finally Monday morning rolled around, and I felt terrible. After a couple hours of turning the dilemma over in my head, I decided that I had to do it, even though I didn’t want to. I called the health center.
Almost immediately, I was on the phone with Nurse Drews. She was kind, sympathetic, and efficient. We talked about my symptoms, and she directed me to the next number I should call. Within twenty minutes, I had spoken to a healthcare professional, scheduled an appointment for COVID testing, and packed a bag so that I could wait for my test results in quarantine.
Security drove to my house, swung by the health center to pick up my antibodies, and then dropped me off at the townhomes. Sick and tired, I stumbled into my room and flopped down on the bed. In less than ninety minutes, I had gone from getting ready for classes to quarantine.
At first, I was frustrated. I thought I couldn’t afford to miss classes. My grades would suffer. I would fall behind.
But when I emailed my professors, they responded quickly with assurances about class recordings, updates on coursework, and promises to pray for my health. A couple of hours later, I attended mock trial practice over Zoom and practiced objections with my teammates. That first night, Roma Rogers, the Hillsdale College Student Health Liaison, called me to make sure I had been fed well. “We want you to know that we care about you,” she told me over the phone. “You’re not alone in there!”
Begrudgingly at first, I found myself admiring how kindly and efficiently the health center had handled my case. I had been so afraid to call and tell the truth about my symptoms, but when I finally gave up and did it, they responded instantly to take care of the situation. I realized that the College has been working nonstop to handle cases like this all semester, all so that students can have the fullest possible college experience.
And just like that, my whole perspective on the College’s COVID policies started to change. As I worked away in the townhomes, it occurred to me that this whole new system—from the quarantines to the mask requirements to canceling large events—all comes from a place of love. These rules and restrictions only exist because the College loves the students enough to balance legal requirements and health precautions with the individual needs and desires of students.
The next day, a security officer drove me to get a COVID test. Within twenty-four hours, the results came back negative, and just like that, I was free. But I left quarantine with a different view on the College’s policies. I understand now that the rules exist for a reason, and that reason is love. This is what we have to do to stay in school, and I don’t know about you, but I think it’s worth it.
Sophia Klomparens, ’21, studies English and Latin. Most days you’ll find her in AJ’s drinking coffee, obsessing over the Aeneid, and listening to unreasonably angsty music. If you ever want to have a passionate discussion about Virgil, let her know—she’s running out of people who will listen.
Published in November 2020