Miles Apart: Four stories of the pandemic

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A note from the reporters:

In the weeks after students dispersed across the globe in light of the pandemic, the Record sent out a survey to 500 randomly selected students to get a sense of their living situations. We received hundreds of responses, revealing some of the many ways COVID-19 has affected our lives.

Students shared with us what time they woke up — some as early as 6 a.m., others as late as 3 p.m. They told us what the atmosphere was like where they were quarantining; the most commonly used descriptive words in their comments were “bored,” (12 percent of all adjectives) “stressed,” (12 percent) “anxious” (10 percent) and “tense” (8 percent). Several listed new hobbies they had picked up — singing opera, crocheting, “finishing my Pokedex.”  

Other responses prompted deeper examination. Some students indicated that they or people they are living with are especially vulnerable to the virus. Others said they are experiencing financial difficulties because of the pandemic, or have contracted the virus themselves. Still others had to cross borders to return to their home countries, where they then faced centralized quarantine in hotels and dormitories.

Knowing that the impacts of this pandemic have not been felt equally, we talked to some of those members of our community who have felt its effects most significantly, whose lives have been deeply upended.

Our hope is that this series helps capture this moment in the College’s history — and serves to bring our community together and, one day, help us remember.

Here are the stories of Williams students caught in a pandemic.

Three Williams students experienced COVID-19 symptoms. These are their stories.

A lost sense of smell. COVID toes. Those phrases that normally flit across our screens have landed close to home for three Ephs who contracted COVID-19, their paths intertwining at an epicenter of the pandemic: New York.


Thousands of miles from Williamstown, some students return to business-as-usual — but the pandemic is never far from their minds

Many international students who returned home in March faced government-enforced quarantine on arrival. Now, they have birthday celebrations in person and lunches sitting in busy restaurants. Their lives have returned to some semblance of normalcy — but they still must remain connected to Williams, sometimes from more than 10 time zones away.


Family first: Students take unconventional measures to protect vulnerable loved ones

From living alone in a cabin to wiping down groceries, some students have had to find unorthodox ways to protect their homes and themselves from COVID-19 — sometimes stoking tensions with family in the process.


Pandemic brings financial uncertainty to students and their families

Navigating federal aid. Lost jobs. Dwindling savings. The pandemic has precipitated an economic downturn putting millions out of work and millions more in financially insecure situations. As Williams students returned home, several contended with the short- and long-term consequences of what could turn into one of the worst economic declines since the Great Depression.