Life as a College Student in Philadelphia During the Coronavirus Pandemic

Life during the coronavirus pandemic has most definitely been a whirlwind! With social distancing protocols being enforced and encouraged, many of us would not even think to go to a city during this time. On the same token, there are many people like my friend Violet who are students and/or live in a big city regularly. With our current precautions being put in place to slow the spread of the novel Covid-19, city life has definitely changed, but it is most definitely still a thing. Today, Violet will be sharing her experiences living in a city *something that is unthinkable to some* during the coronavirus pandemic.

Tell me a bit about yourself!

I am a junior biology major at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania!  I also have minors in Spanish and history.  Some of my favorite things about going to college are being a part of organizations on campus and exploring the city!  My favorite organizations are Irish Dance Club and Phi Sigma Pi.

Where is your hometown?

I am from Fairfax Station, Virginia.

What city and school are you attending?

I attend Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

What is your living situation like in Philadelphia?

I live in an off-campus house with my three other roommates.  We are within walking distance from campus!

Describe to me what life in Philadelphia was like before Covid-19

Before Covid-19, I really enjoyed both on-campus and off-campus activities.  At our school, we have had many events such as concerts, plays, basketball games, formals, etc.  Unfortunately, these events have been cancelled or a select few have been virtual.  I also have enjoyed going into the city to go thrifting, out to eat, or explore different areas.  One of the great things about the city is that I never run out of things to do- one of my favorite spots is South Street!  I used to take public transportation or an Uber fairly often, but I have not done this much since the pandemic.  Additionally, I used to attend in person classes every day.

Now, describe to me how life in Philadelphia is during the Covid-19 pandemic once you came back

Life in Philadelphia during the pandemic has been an adjustment!  Like I mentioned, we are no longer having on-campus events.  Thus far, there havebeen a few virtual events such as a Q&A with John Mulaney (which was awesome).  I have gone into the city as well!  Luckily, one of my roommates has a car this year, so we have not had to take public transportation as much.  This has been great because we were concerned about possibly contracting Covid-19 while taking public transportation.  I have taken an Uber a couple of times, but the drivers have always been great about wearing masks and not allowing passengers to sit in the front seat!  In the city, most people wear masks and keep themselves socially distanced.  In addition, I have a course schedule with online classes and few in person classes.  My in person classes have much less students and are socially distanced!

What are some of the key changes to Philadelphia life during the pandemic?

In Philadelphia, people have been taking the pandemic very seriously.  For example, most restaurants are still only allowing outdoor seating.  There has also been a mask order for many months, which has helped Covid-19 cases remain relatively low in comparison to other parts of the country.

How are people reacting to the current social distancing guidelines in Philadelphia and on your college campus?

For the most part, students have been compliant with mask mandates and social distancing guidelines.  There have been a few instances of students having large gatherings, but they have faced disciplinary action and/or sent into a mandatory quarantine.  My school is taking the pandemic very seriously, especially because other Philadelphia schools have already had to send their students home.  In general, people in Philadelphia have also been cooperative with social distancing guidelines.  Throughout the spring and summer, the city was able to keep the rate of transmission moderately low, but there has been a recent spike in cases.

How does life during Covid-19 in a city differ from life outside a city?

There are not too many differences, or at least in my experience.  Both Virginia and Philadelphia have mask mandates and enforced social distancing.  The main difference is that Philadelphia is much more crowded.  When I go into the city, I am always sure to distance myself from other people.  I have also noticed that there are longer lines to enter stores, because stores reach capacity very quickly.

Do you feel that it is easier to practice social distancing protocols outside of a city?

In certain situations, it is definitely easier to practice social distancing protocols outside of a city.  For instance, social distancing with public transportation or in busy areas can be difficult.  Overall, social distancing is not too difficult because places are very strict about not exceeding their capacity so that people can easily social distance.  In my opinion, the hardest part has been socially distancing in college.  I have definitely not been able to see my friends as often, but it is much more important that we keep everyone safe!

How have you gotten creative with taking precautions in Philadelphia?

Fortunately, one of my roommates was able to bring a car this year so we do not have to take public transportation as often!  I have also been trying to spend more time outside- especially when hanging out with other people (small groups only and masks on!).

Do you feel that the importance of wearing a mask, especially in a big city like Philadelphia helps when taking precautions?

Absolutely, masks always help!  Philadelphia has actually been very cautious when it comes to masks and precautions.  The city has be good about enforcing mask orders, which has allowed Philadelphia to be one of the cities with the lowest rates of transmission in the country.

What would you tell somebody who is considering visiting a city during the pandemic?

I would tell someone who is considering visiting a city to take every precaution in their power. Cities can get quite crowded, especially when taking public transportation.  It is important to always remain aware of your surroundings so that you can keep yourself distanced from other people and stay safe during the pandemic.

What would you tell yourself before this pandemic?

I would tell myself to not have any expectations!  Obviously, at the beginning of this pandemic, I did not expect it to last this long.  I now know that this pandemic has the potential to last much longer, especially if people do not socially distance themselves!

What are your most important takeaways to living in a city during a pandemic?

Most importantly, I would say that it is still possible to have fun while taking important precautions.  There are so many safe activities like having a picnic in a park, going for a hike, or exploring less crowded areas of the city.  Finding ways to relax is important (especially in a pandemic!).  Life is so stressful right now, so it is great to find some sources of enjoyment!

Life is definitely crazy in these times and living in a city does not help alleviate that fact. However, there are many ways to still cope with the new changes in our lives and adapt to this new and temporary way of living just as Violet described. City life will definitely look different after the pandemic, but however we choose to make our life on this planet is the outlook that we will bring. If the coronavirus hasn’t taught you anything so far, then I hope that Violet’s experiences in Philadelphia shine some light into your life.

XOXO – Katie <3

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