COVID-19 signaled an abrupt end to this spring semester for the vast majority of college students across the nation. And so began our lives from home.
This new paradigm presents challenges for everybody. Comedian and USC alum Will Ferrell encouraged his fellow Trojans in a video posted on social media to hang in there as he sported a fake mustache. “I know you’re tired of being at home with your families, Mom and Dad hovering over you,” he said.
But is Will right? For some, returning to a childhood bedroom and losing the independence of college life is a sad, giant drag. But that’s not everyone’s experience. Some students actually enjoy the newfound opportunity they have to catch up with parents.
“I think we don't really know our parents that much,” said Anli Zhang, a senior economics major who returned to the east coast to stay with her mom. She believes that these circumstances have allowed her to develop a stronger emotional bond with her mother.
“During this process, I was able to get to know my mom better and feel her emotions, feel how she responds to things,” Zhang said.
Ariel Rubin, a senior communication major, was also happy to spend some quality time with her family in the South Bay since she’s unable to make frequent visits during the semester. “One of the pros of staying home is Mom’s cooking, of course,” she laughed.
Cathy Kuriyama, Rubin’s mom, was delighted to see her children help around the house once they returned home. “Every little thing counts, especially with parents,” she said.
Nikki Ramsy, a sophomore history and communication major, says that this is the first time her entire immediate family has been under one roof in 10 years and considers it a luxury that they are reunited.
“We’ve been doing a lot of things that we wouldn’t really have the ability to do otherwise,” she said.
Moving in with parents after living life independently can have its downsides, however. Parents can still hover, whether you’re in elementary school or a college grad. Rubin definitely feels that there are instances where she can’t escape her parents.
“They’ve definitely chilled out a lot more since my childhood but there are definitely moments,” Rubin said.
Balancing conflicting identities has proven to be a challenge for some, as well. Coming from a Chinese background, Zhang acknowledged the difference between her cultural spheres at home and at school. The boundaries she would normally have with college roommates would deem her distant or indifferent if she carried them home. Whenever she arrives on campus after breaks, however, she feels like she assumes a different identity.
“It has been a bit challenging for me to balance because I’m used to American individualism,” she said over the phone. “I’m used to thinking and doing things differently—independently.”
Ramsy also acknowledged that living together can sometimes be constricting. Like many other students, she feels that the person she is at college is different from the person she is at home.
“I think I have to dilute myself a little bit when I'm around my parents,” she said.
Despite this, however, many students and parents hope to keep this rejuvenated connection with their loved ones once life returns to normal.
“I want to think this thing made me realize what's important, and I think that family is more important than anything,” Zhang said.
Time with family has always been a priority for Mrs. Kuriyama. Although she spends a lot of time at work, to her something as simple as sharing dinner with her loved ones is just as important. “I work hard and I work a lot, but I look forward to when I can have a meal with my family and we could sit down and watch something and laugh,” she said.
“I feel like this has overall brought people closer, especially through social media or just FaceTiming or texting people,” Rubin said. “I feel like there are more connections being made.”
For the future, students and parents alike hope that this shared experience of confinement makes people act with more thoughtfulness and compassion. “I hope it builds more community, because we're definitely in a bubble especially at USC,” Rubin said. “I feel like now it's easier to want to do something to help people.”
Kuriyama hopes that, once quarantine is past us, we don’t revert to not appreciating the essential workers who make our lives possible.
“I hope people wake up and are more sensitive in the way that they talk to people,” she said.
As the semester comes to an end, students continue to attend Zoom classes and submit assignments from home. Although the future is in no one’s hands, what it is in our control is the ability to remain positive. In his video, Ferrell closed out by reminding students to look at the bright side that their ‘SC education will serve them well down the road.
“I’m sure you miss your friends, you miss being on campus, not to mention taking all your classes are online, but you can do it,” Ferrell says. “Hang in there.”