As the fall 2020 semester comes to an end, we’re all looking forward to enjoying our winter break. However, as much as we are excited for next semester, many of us are still questioning whether it is safe to return to campus and the city. Although it is ultimately your own decision, here are some questions to consider while you prepare for next semester.
Are all of your spring classes online?
Some of the biggest benefits of being on or near campus are the long-awaited in-person classes and interactions with professors. Since Columbia officially announced hybrid classes for the next semester, both will depend on the classes you are registered for. Specifically, if you enrolled in research courses, performance (theater/dance) classes, or medical residency programs, you might want to pay special attention to the benefits of being in the city.
Additionally, if you have important club responsibilities or plan on doing a summer internship in the city, it might be better to be in New York and in the same time zone, especially if you will be working with others.
On the other hand, if all your classes are online, you should consider which environment will make a better learning space: your current location or a new place in the city.
Has the pandemic impacted your mental health?
Living at home or off-campus may have hurt your productivity and well-being. Whether you were studying in your bed or flipping day and night to accommodate for time zones, your experience this fall should have already given you an idea of whether you can handle another semester in your current circumstances.
If you’re a student in a different timezone who has struggled with balancing academic responsibilities and life at home, then you should consider being on or near campus. Being on a completely different schedule than your family and friends can take a toll on both your physical and mental health, so being close to campus might be a good option for you.
Are you ready for the new New York?
COVID-19 hit each part of the world differently. Right now, you might live somewhere that allows you to hang out with friends and use indoor facilities. Going to New York City, then, would be a totally different story. As cases rise again in the United States, restrictions might be tightened and the city might shut down.
Moreover, the University has enacted many new regulations that include getting tested pretty regularly, so make sure you familiarize yourself with the changes in campus life and the health compact. Not complying with these mandatory regulations may result in severe consequences, like being banned from campus, as seen with 70 Business School students last month.
What about your current obligations?
As much as your decision might be your own, your parents and family members might be concerned about your traveling alone and moving in during a pandemic. If you come from a place that is handling the pandemic quite well, your loved one have reasonable concerns. If that is the case, you should be open to discussion about COVID-19 safety in the city. If there are looser restrictions where you are, then it might be better for your overall mental health to stay at home.
More importantly, if you have any responsibilities, like taking care of family members, you need to consider who will take over if you go back to campus. The earlier you start the transition, the smoother the transition will be (and the more likely your family or the people you live with will be okay with you going).
What are your backup plans?
Anything can happen, especially when there are so many unknowns, so it is best to have multiple backup plans. Some questions to consider include:
What happens if you get COVID-19?
It is hard to predict how COVID-19 will affect different people. Non-severe cases can just quarantine for 14 days, while others may need to go to the hospital. Although it is quite grim to think about, you need to be prepared for every possible outcome.
What happens if New York goes into lockdown?
If New York goes into lockdown, one major concern will be getting essential supplies. Considering the rush and chaos that ensued in supermarkets during the first wave, you should make sure to plan accordingly to avoid major crowds.
What if you have to leave early?
It is possible that you might have to leave campus earlier than planned, either due to family obligations or Columbia shutting down again. To avoid the chaos of scrambling for last-minute storage space and temporary housing, you might want to look up storage spaces or talk to your friends about crashing at their places in advance.
If your answer to these questions point toward you being on campus, then you should start thinking about the initial quarantine you’ll face in New York. Quarantine regulations upon arrival to New York are continually being updated. At the time of publication, everyone traveling from a non-contiguous state (including all international travel) is required to quarantine for 14 days. However, you can exit quarantine on the fourth day if you receive a second negative test result. More information can be found on Columbia’s COVID-19 page. Your family may be pretty concerned, so make sure that you schedule how you will update them on your current situation, whether that is your status while traveling to New York or comforting them by making sure that you are doing well.
This decision not only involves you, but also implicates members of the community, Morningside Heights, and New York as a whole. Keep in mind that cases are rising and you may be putting people at risk by moving back to New York. However, if you feel it is best for your mental health and know you will be abiding by all restrictions put in place by the school and the state, then moving back to the city might be the best option for you.
Staff writer Time is facing this dilemma as well. These are some of the questions that helped him decide whether to go back to campus or not. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Spectator on Twitter @ColumbiaSpec.