Right now, USC is on its spring break, but with online classes until April 14 and the uncertainty whether or not this will extend until the end of the semester, it definitely does not feel like a normal spring break. Rather than spending time with friends, traveling to fun places, or relaxing at home, this spring break is being spent worrying about what’s to come in the next few weeks and focusing on social distancing. If you told me last week, when I was at USC, working in a research lab, going out to eat with friends, and planning events with clubs for the rest of the semester, that life would change so dramatically in just a few days, I don’t know if I would have believed you.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, USC has suspended in person classes, activities, and events until April 14, and possibly beyond. As a student, this means a dramatic change in day to day life, the most significant of which involves moving home for a month of online classes, the cancellation of in person laboratory research work, and the postponement of all extracurricular events and activities.

So… what now? That’s definitely been the question on my mind. In the three days before spring break, USC tested the online classes system, and it was an adventure. Some classes proceeded mostly as usual, like my fluids mechanics class, where after we verified that the professor could write on a white board and we could still read it, we were able to lecture through webcam as if it were a usual class. Other classes had to change their format entirely, like my environmental engineering principles class, where my professor who hates using PowerPoint slides and only uses blackboard and chalk in class made a presentation to compensate for the online format. With online classes, things have definitely been strange, but after the three days of testing, it seems manageable for the next month.

Outside of classes, social interactions are the most significant part of a college experience. At USC, I never go a day without multiple interactions with friends, classmates, coworkers, and roommates. Extracurricular events, movie nights, study groups, and dinners are an everyday thing, and the abrupt change to social distancing has been very odd. It’s only the third day of spring break, but I’ve found myself texting and calling my friends every few hours, checking in and trying to gain back a sense of normality as we all isolate ourselves in the hopes of preventing the spread of the virus.

All of these abrupt and intense changes to daily life, along with the distressing news alerts we’ve all been receiving, have been pretty alarming, but it’s been good to talk with friends and know that we’re all going through this together. USC talks a lot about the “Trojan Family”, but I have never seen it more clearly than this past week, where my friends have come to comfort me in times of distress, and I’ve found myself continually reaching out to my friends to make sure everyone is ok. Hopefully things will get better soon, but until then, I’m reassured by the fact that I am part of a strong network of individuals all looking to get through this together.

For updates on the COVID-19 situation at USC, please refer to the university’s official website: sites.usc.edu/coronavirus/

Christina Najm

Christina Najm

MAJOR: Environmental Engineering YEAR: Class of 2021 HOMETOWN: Los Angeles, California PRONOUNS: she/her/hers INSTA: @cnajm5 On campus I conducted undergraduate research in wastewater treatment technology through the environmental engineering department and am involved in Alpha Omega Epsilon (a social and professional sorority for women in STEM), the American Academy of Environmental Engineers and Scientists, and the Society of Women Engineers.