Firsthand account: Living in an apartment during a pandemic


Northern Star File Photo

Downtown DeKalb features several restaurants and shops for residents to explore.

By Danielle Elliott

I first transferred to NIU in January and struggled with deciding if I wanted to commute from my hometown of Plainfield or if I wanted to move into an apartment in DeKalb. After realizing my primary goal of coming to NIU was to connect with other students and professors, I knew that living near campus would be the best decision.

I laugh a little bit at the decision now as I only ended up being on campus for about half of a semester and everything is now online. It has been a challenge transferring to a new school, moving into my first apartment and living through a global pandemic.

My apartment is just off campus, and I live with three other students. We have been enjoying a lot of time together sitting at the kitchen table studying, talking and venting about the struggle of being in college during this pandemic. Our kitchen has become our tiny classroom, where we are all learning different things simultaneously. 

This source of community and the conversations we have has helped me realize it is okay to be struggling with college right now. I have always been a highly self-motivated person, but unfortunately, I have not felt much motivation lately. I understand that I am not alone with this struggle, but it feels so much better to hear it from others. The burden of it all gets a little bit easy when you have people pushing through it with you. 

Last semester, I had 15 credits of in-person classes and three credits online. I had purchased a parking pass and was on campus all day every Tuesday and Thursday until Spring Break. This semester, I have a three credit class in-person with a Zoom option and 12 credits of online asynchronous classes. This shift has been a struggle for me. I enjoy actively participating and having discussions with my professors and classmates and would be lying if I said I did not miss that. 

For the first week of classes this semester, I attended my American Sign Language class in-person. With ASL being a visual language that requires facial expressions, our class wears face shields instead of masks. I do not love this because the shields do not completely cover our mouth or noses so there is a more likely chance for germs to spread than if we had masks on. Although I do prefer having in-person classes, this is not the case during a pandemic. With this in mind and with cases rising at NIU, I have since been attending the class via Zoom. 

I am also involved in many student organizations such as Deaf Pride, The Inclusive Collective, Lambda Pi Eta and Cru, which have all been moved online. The lack of physical contact has been difficult, but I am unbelievably grateful to live in a world with technology. 

This semester has been challenging, and it has only been two weeks. I share these bits and pieces of what I have been facing to help others realize that there can be community even if it is limited to meeting online. We are all going through these new struggles of being college students during a pandemic together.