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Georgia Tech senior: ‘I am afraid to return to campus’

A Georgia Tech student says: ‘The University System of Georgia, which indirectly is run by the governor Brian Kemp, is unwilling to admit that the state of Georgia has failed. In that failure, they’re putting at risk the lives of their students and their world-class professors. I do not want to be used as a pawn in their game, but as a student I am subject to the moves they make.’
A Georgia Tech student says: ‘The University System of Georgia, which indirectly is run by the governor Brian Kemp, is unwilling to admit that the state of Georgia has failed. In that failure, they’re putting at risk the lives of their students and their world-class professors. I do not want to be used as a pawn in their game, but as a student I am subject to the moves they make.’

Credit: JOHN SPINK / AJC

Credit: JOHN SPINK / AJC

Student says decision to bring everyone back to public colleges as virus surges creates health threat

Sarah Demsky is a rising senior at Georgia Tech studying aerospace engineering. She is originally from Orlando, Florida.

In this guest column, Demsky discusses her fears of returning to campus while the coronavirus surges in Georgia.

By Sarah Demsky 

I am one month away from starting my senior year of college at Georgia Tech. And I am afraid to return to campus.

I should be excited. I should be fitting my class schedule into the ACC football schedule, dreaming of graduation cap designs, and solidifying my resume for the job market.

But tonight, I lay awake, panic-stricken over the reality that is going to face me in fall 2020.

This summer was supposed to be the greatest summer yet; I had landed my dream internship in Colorado and had planned a semester of weekend camping trips exploring my new state.

Then reality struck.

For the past 112 days, I’ve been sleeping in my childhood bedroom in Florida, somewhere I hadn’t lived for longer than two weeks at a time in the past three years. I was lucky though; I finished my remote classes with ease and my summer internship had gone virtual.

But I still can’t help to think about how my first summer as a 21-year-old has become nights of watching TV with my parents, and only leaving the house for essentials. But I did what I was told, and I expected everyone else to do the same.

Sarah Demsky
Sarah Demsky

Now, it’s mid-July. Florida, where I’m now residing, is the new epicenter for the entire world. The news each night has a video of some American refusing to wear a mask or some teenagers throwing a social distance-free rager. Around me cases are exploding, and my college (located in Georgia, which isn’t far behind) has promised that almost all classes will have an in-person component that is required.

Tonight, I lay awake in fear over that prospect.

As a senior engineering student, I planned to take senior design in the fall, a collaborative class that culminates into a final group project. I’m also a leader of many clubs that, as of now, have the go-ahead from the school to conduct in-person events. Normally, I would be leaping at the chance for these opportunities on campus.

But now I would rather not go.

The University System of Georgia, which indirectly is run by the governor Brian Kemp, is unwilling to admit that the state of Georgia has failed. In that failure, they’re putting at risk the lives of their students and their world-class professors. I do not want to be used as a pawn in their game, but as a student I am subject to the moves they make.

Trust me, I have not enjoyed my past four months secluded from my friends and stripped of any interaction with people my age. But I have pushed through for the greater good, while watching many kids my age just dismiss the weight of this pandemic.

I do not see the benefit in attending in-person classes if, while taking part in them, I’m going to fear for my safety. I know that this is not the same situation for every college student, but I’d much prefer to take my classes virtually, in the comfort of my own home, instead of trying to focus in a classroom terrified for my own health.

College students already suffer from high rates of anxiety, and the fear of contracting the virus is only going to exacerbate those feelings and create a more haphazard learning environment. (Not to mention the environment created once students inevitably contract the virus and are quarantined.)

Colleges say that the learning experience virtually is just not the same. And they’re right. It does lack the student-to-student connection that college is designed around. But that connection won’t be same with 6 feet of distance. It will be more isolating to see your friends and want to interact with them via movie nights and kickback parties, only to be forced to keep a separation of 6 feet at all times. (Which I highly doubt every student is going to follow.)

I would do anything for COVID to magically disappear. I desperately want to reconnect with my friends, learn in a classroom, and utilize campus facilities. But those things are unlikely to happen in this new era. I will be reconnecting with my friends at a six-foot distance. I will be learning in a classroom from an at-risk professor who is afraid to come close to any student. I will be using the campus facilities with a constant fear that the virus is all around me.

And that doesn’t sound like a healthy college experience to me.

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