Fortunately, I was mostly able to do so. I attended Vanderbilt University, which gave me a full scholarship to cover my tuition costs, but not my room and board. To cover my cost of living, I had to take out $15,000 in student loans. While that figure might not seem overwhelming in the best of times, during the pandemic it has become a frightening financial burden -- set against the myriad of additional challenges the virus has created for my family and me.
As a Medicine, Health and Society major, I had been following the coronavirus news since December. I knew its potential to wreak havoc on a global scale, and yet I didn't fully grasp the devastation it would cause until it spread to the United States. On March 13, Vanderbilt decided to close down the campus. I had to move home to New Orleans while still paying my inordinate rent for my off-campus apartment, which I was bound to do since my lease did not end until May 31.
When I returned home, I saw a city in disarray. The cases of coronavirus were rising at an alarming rate, with some attributing
the spike to Mardi Gras, a sacred local celebration. My own sister, a freshman at Louisiana State University, had attended and was exhibiting several coronavirus symptoms, including loss of taste and smell, coughing and a fever. At that point, testing was not widely available, so we weren't able to confirm if she was actually infected.
Virtual learning made the reality I was facing that much more difficult. With all three of my siblings home, four of us were trying to continue our educations without crashing the internet. Though our Wi-Fi largely came through for us, we faced an additional economic hurdle -- both of our parents lost significant portions of their income.