Campus and COVID-19: Marquette seniors reflect on a challenging semester

Natalie Maniscalco (from left), Jack Phillips and Madison Perkins

We asked seniors from the NNS journalism capstone class at Marquette University to reflect on the semester. This is what they told us. (Here’s what some of their classmates said last month.)

‘I took a lot for granted’

(Photo provided by Natalie Maniscalco)

If someone came up to me as I was moving into my dorm room in August of 2017 and told me that this is what the end of my journey at Marquette was going to be like, I would have laughed in their face.

Marquette has been my dream school for as long as I can remember. My grandpa and aunt went to Marquette, and I grew up attending every basketball game since I was 5 years old. It was actually the only college I applied to.

In my first two and a half years at Marquette, I created relationships, memories and experiences that will last a lifetime. However, nothing will compare to the relationships, memories and experiences that were created because of COVID-19.

I live in a house on Kilbourn Avenue with seven roommates. Our house is three stories, and boy are there a lot of stories that I could tell. I met all of these girls in McCormick Hall my freshman year and consider them my sisters. They have been there for me through some of the most difficult and most fun times of my life.

In March, we went to Daytona Beach for our spring break trip – this was our last taste of normalcy. I will never forget lying on the beach on our last day and seeing an email notification from Marquette explaining that all classes were going to be put on hold until further notice.

We got back to Milwaukee and had no idea what to do. Within a week of us returning from one of the most fun weeks any of us had ever had, everything was shut down – bars, restaurants, shopping malls, gyms, everything.

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All we had was each other. Countless nights of drinking games, card games, board games, movie nights, playing Wii, long walks, etc. Not to mention the birthdays we celebrated along the way. I will never forget the first quarantine birthday we celebrated. Everyone picked a popular downtown Milwaukee bar, attempted to draw their logo to tape to their door and tried to re-create a signature drink from the bar. I selected Vagabond, a popular Mexican bar and restaurant right off of Water Street and made a very mediocre margarita.

As strange as it is to say, I miss quarantine.

There were a lot of things I was looking forward to my senior year: senior bar crawl, homecoming weekend, float trip, junior vs. senior keg race, National Marquette Day, senior week, etc. However, COVID-19 has changed my perspective on a lot of things. Looking back on the way things used to be, I took a lot for granted. I am now not able to visit my friends in Madison for game days because there are none, I no longer spend up to five out of seven days a week at the Fiserv Forum watching Milwaukee Bucks or Marquette basketball games because fans are not allowed. I no longer go out on the weekends because it is too dangerous.

COVID-19 has allowed for me to open my eyes to what is really important: the people you surround yourself with. I cherish the memories I have created throughout the pandemic because of the people I have made them with, not because of an event or a game or a keg race.

—Natalie Maniscalco

‘Learning not to be selfish’

(Photo provided by Madison Perkins)

“Happy birthday to you. Happy birthday dear Madison,” my family sang to me as my younger brother blew a noisemaker in my ear. A 21st celebration in my family’s home with my parents was not what I had planned, but it was one I won’t forget.

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected every single person in the United States in unique ways. I’ll argue that it has forever changed the way we live as a nation. As a college student, I had to adjust to online schooling, pack up and move back in with my parents and find ways to have a socially distanced social life.

I was sunburnt and poolside in Orlando on a spring break trip with my mom when I received the email from Marquette University that announced all our classes would be online through the end of the semester. I feel guilty now thinking about the excitement I felt at first. I pictured easy online classes that I would sleep through. I was looking forward to all the time I would have to hang out with my friends at school.

The harsh reality set in when my flight home landed in Milwaukee. People were dying all over our country from this disease; It was serious. When the CDC advised we quarantine, I zipped up my suitcase, and my parents welcomed me home with open arms.

As difficult as it was to navigate this new living situation, I feel grateful to have been surrounded by a few loved ones during such a time of isolation.

My father has been a stay-at-home dad since I can remember. He was used to having a peaceful house to himself during the day. Now, all of us were home together 24/7 adjusting to doing school and work from home.

I was worried about not seeing my friends in person. Keeping up with them has actually been pretty easy because of the advanced technology we have. Daily FaceTime and Zoom video calls became my new routine.

As a young adult, the hardest thing for me has been learning not to be selfish. Some bars and restaurants reopening their doors have been tempting to me. I want to have those fun, college experiences. However, it’s important to take a step back to look at the bigger picture.

There have been thousands of deaths caused by COVID and millions of positive cases in the U.S. alone. If that alone doesn’t encourage you to stay home, wear a mask and stay socially distanced, I don’t know what will.

Madison Perkins

‘My “college experience” can wait’

(Photo provided by Jack Phillips)

My father once told me that my time in college would be the best four years of my life. And for the first two and a half years, he was correct. But that was before the world was consumed by a deadly virus.

Of course, there was necessary time for completing homework, studying for exams and expanding my portfolio as an aspiring sports media personality. But it was the parties, the memories I would never remember and the feeling of invincibility that made college the best chapter of my life. Never had I been more humbled than when the world suddenly stopped.

I had heard about the coronavirus since January, reading about the effects it was having on China and in countries throughout Europe as it began to spread. As our president continued to deny the severity of the virus, I was naïve enough to assume it wouldn’t become a problem (because when’s the last time humanity experienced a deadly pandemic?). But March inevitably arrived and with it one of the darkest chapters in our nation’s history.

I want to make it clear that I understand the privileges I’ve had for my entire life. Some people around the country (and the world, for that matter) would dream of even having the chance to attend college, so I’m eternally grateful for the sacrifices that my family has made for me to have the opportunity to educate myself. But it’s easy for us to look at others and want what they have. When my parents and both of my sisters attended their respective universities, the “best four years of their lives” lived up to the hype. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to say the same. I can grumble and ponder the possibilities of a COVID-19-less world, yet that dream will never become a reality.

But even in the middle of a global pandemic, I always put myself in the shoes of my grandparents. My grandfather didn’t ask to be born into a world war. My grandma didn’t ask to be born into a depression. They definitely complained about the world around them at the time, just like I (and I’m assuming most of us) am right now, but they didn’t let it destroy them. They persevered. And even when I ask them about their experiences during these tough times in their lives, they never get bogged down in the negatives. They always smile and “look on the bright side.”

Without even telling me, my grandparents taught me the greatest lesson of this pandemic: Certain circumstances will always be out of our control. It’s how we deal with them and continue to push through the uncertainty that gets us to those better days. This pandemic will subside. We might not know how or when, but we do know that our species has dealt with similar situations throughout history, and we’ve consistently came out the other end stronger.

So, sure, wearing masks and socially distancing in a college classroom stink. And trying to connect with classmates over a Microsoft Teams screen isn’t the easiest task, but it’s not forever. Just like both world wars and the Great Depression, there is an end to every beginning.

I may have lost a year and a half of my typical college experience, but just like the times when my grandparents were growing up, there are more important things happening in the world around us. Continue to push our elected officials for criminal justice reform. Continue to demand equality for all. Continue to make the world cleaner and safer for the next generations. My “college experience” can wait.

Jack Phillips



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