Devon Tomas Delgado - University of Chicago

On Thursday, March 12th, The University of Chicago Administration sent out an email ordering that all undergraduate students leave campus by March 22nd. Baffled, I ran to my lounge and found that it was filled with other students equally as freaked out as I was. I was met with laughs, sobs, problems, and solutions. I was so settled in with life in a dormitory and living away from home as everyone else, and suddenly everyone’s lifestyle was to change within 10 days. I’ve had a few international friends who were unable to return home since The Department of State has issued a Global Level 4 Health Advisory. Students who could not leave were frightened of the thought of not having a stable food source with all dining halls closed. I was to leave all of the friends I made in the past year within a week and a half, too little time to say goodbye. I did share many of the same sentiments toward the situation as other students, understandably. But there is truly something more unique and morose about the FLI student experience during these troubling times.

This entire epidemic has put safety and health above academic performance by a long shot. For the first time in a long time, I suddenly forgot about my academics and focused on helping myself and as many people as I could with moving out of the dormitory. In the back of my mind I knew that finals were supposed to be next week, but my logic told me that grades can be fixed at a later time, but your life only has one shot. This created a very interesting paradox within myself, since I was taught at a very early age to keep working hard no matter the circumstances, hence why I am at university. But this epidemic totally blew everything out of proportion, and I understood my health came first. There was no way I would be able to move my whole life from one place to another within a matter of days while still focusing on academics. Professors soon came to realize this as well and made finals optional, and so my gut feeling was right.

I came to college in order to bring a better future for myself and my family, and being a Quest Scholar I would not have to let financial burdens get in my way. Professional career treks, mock interviews, downtown excursions, all were covered in one way or another by my university. The only blockade was my determination to accomplish tasks. Now, at home, I do not have the privileges that were granted to me by my university. Again, I have to return back to a living paycheck to paycheck lifestyle that I worked so hard to escape. With the spread of COVID-19 increasing exponentially everyday, I fear for the safety of my family and myself. The average cost of a treatment for a coronavirus patient is in the thousands of dollars, and my family and I know very well we cannot afford that.

We have to be very careful about who we interact with since there are more underlying fears than just testing positive for the virus.

Emotionally, I have been brought along on a twisty rollercoaster. I was expected to say goodbye to all my close friends within a week and a half, waiting a half a year to see them again. This realization devastated me, and so my friends and I made the most out of the little time we had left. Within the week before school cancelled, we went to our favorite ramen shop a few blocks away from school and decided to have a bowl of their spiciest ramen, which was not a great idea. Since Autumn Quarter, we dedicated Tuesday nights to be work free where we would discuss whatever we wanted to and play our favorite board game, Monopoly. I looked forward to what we decided to call “Vibe Time” every week, being in the company of good friends. But now this has been stripped of me, and I’m left alone in my house with my parents with the only way to communicate to my friends is through social media. Unanimously, we decided that our hangout sessions would continue one way or another. Our main way to hangout now is in Minecraft where we all play mini-games together on a few days of the week. Though my friends are far, they are always close by.

The dormitories at school have each person’s name on a laminated paper pasted to each door, and the style depends on the house you are a part of. I made sure to take mine with me, and I now have it pasted on my door in my home. Doing so gives me a feeling of a split reality I live: when leaving my room I return to a life with my parents, and when entering my room I enter a fantastical rendition of a life that was taken from me so fast. I hope that I can return to a semblance of normalcy soon and continue on my college journey.

Devon Tomas Delgado
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Devon Tomas Delgado is a first-year student, class of 2023, at The University of Chicago, planning on studying Astrophysics and Applied and Computational Mathematics. They are an active member in The Society of Physics Students and the Center for College Student Success, a FLI student focused office, often bringing in outside sources such as ones from The Stanford FLI Conference. While they are not studying, they play piano in the University of Chicago Chamber Music Program with fellow musicians, working out, or enjoying quality time with friends.