Quarantine Catch Up: How Our Writers’ Lives Have Changed Since Quarantine #Since2020

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Published February 28, 2022
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The Montclarion
Junior journalism and digital media major Bernice Ndegwa (left) and junior journalism major Emma Caughlan (right) reflect on quarantine. Emma Caughlan | The Montclarion

During the first week in March, The Montclarion will be publishing content related to the two-year commemoration of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and the effect it has had on Montclair State University’s campus community #Since2020

March of 2020 is a time in our young adult lives we will never forget — empty shelves at stores, constant fear looking at the news and a two-week quarantine period that was supposed to end the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Two years later, we are still faced with those same challenges from the beginning but in a different way.

Juniors Bernice Ndegwa and Emma Caughlan, who were freshmen at the start of the pandemic, wrote about their experiences through the first two months of what we would now call, the “new normal.”

Ndegwa, a journalism and digital media major, wrote and captured photos of what it was like to live with two essential workers at the height of one of the scariest times of our lives. Caughlan, a journalism major, wrote about how her’s and her family’s day-to-day lives were affected due to COVID-19.

A selfie of junior journalism and digital media major Bernice Ndegwa and her family featured in Ndegwa's article. Bernice Ndegwa | The Montclarion

A selfie of Bernice Ndegwa and her family, featured in Ndegwa’s original article.
Bernice Ndegwa | The Montclarion

Ndegwa’s parents both work high-risk jobs as a nurse and a contractor. Her parents’ jobs, particularly her mom’s, affected the way she has looked at the pandemic.

“I feel like that made me more self-aware of what was going on,” Ndegwa said. “Seeing what [my mom] went through every day, it definitely makes me a little more nervous and more skeptical about [COVID-19]. I feel like having that connection to a person so closely related to patients, definitely makes you a lot more grateful to be safe and alive, to be healthy.”

Junior journalism major Emma Caughlan's family on a hike during quarantine. Emma Caughlan | The Montclarion

Emma Caughlan’s family on a hike during quarantine.
Emma Caughlan | The Montclarion

Since writing her pandemic piece, Caughlan has only gotten closer with her family so coming back in person for school this year was a big change.

“I was always really close with my family. But especially now, we’re very, very close,” Caughlan said. “And it [has been] really weird within the last couple of months or so leaving. My sister left the house because she graduated high school [and] I left the house again. So, it was really odd at first being separated from each other.”

The beginning of the pandemic made a lot of people feel stuck in life, unsure of where they were headed and how to get there, even unsure of who they were as a person. Caughlan felt similarly when she was sent home for good during her spring break of freshman year.

“I felt like all through freshman year [of college], I had one foot in high school, back home and then one foot in college. And then [COVID-19] just kicked both feet back [home],” Caughlan said. “I was hanging out with the same people I was [in high school]. So being pushed back there, that was hard.”

Those two months of quarantine introduced many people to new things, hobbies and even new aspects about themselves. While it was a scary time, there were equally as memorable and fun times mixed in there as well.

The Caughlan family quarantine movie list. Emma Caughlan | The Montclarion

The Caughlan family quarantine movie list.
Emma Caughlan | The Montclarion

Caughlan’s family focused on movie marathons where the family would collaborate on which movie they would watch each night they were at home. Her top three most enjoyable films were, “Knives Out,” “The Half of It” and all of the film series she and her family went through: “Harry Potter,” “Lord of the Rings” and the Marvel cinematic universe.

To go along with the movie marathon, Caughlan had her sister dress up like the Joker and recreate the dance scene on the stairs from the 2019 film.

Emma Caughlan’s sister recreates the infamous scene from the 2019 film Joker.
Video courtesy of Emma Caughlan

“It was just something fun … We spent a couple of hours doing it. I’ll never forget that,” Caughlan said. “And I wish that we had done it more as well. It was nice to sort of use my creative skills to make something.”

Now that Montclair State University has resumed in-person learning, our two quarantine writers finally feel like they have the “normal” college experience. While they might have preferred online learning due to convenience, nothing quite compares to being back here at Montclair State.

Ndegwa hanging out in her room during quarantine.

Ndegwa hangs out in her room during quarantine.
Photo courtesy of Betty Wachira

“Being in person, nothing tops that. I mean, [just] having this connection that we’re having right now,” Ndegwa said. “Being able to be in person and seeing my friends again and living away from home [is great].”

Caughlan makes it clear that although remote learning gave her more free time, she enjoys being in a different atmosphere.

Caughlan doing schoolwork remotely with her cat and dog. Emma Caughlan | The Montclarion

In 2020, Caughlan does schoolwork remotely with her cat and dog.
Emma Caughlan | The Montclarion

“[During virtual learning], I had a lot more time to myself. I would get my schoolwork done around [5 p.m.] no matter what,” Caughlan said. “But it definitely needed to end at some point and I’m glad to be back in person and in a new environment.”

Both Caughlan and Ndegwa are looking forward to life after the pandemic, or life being as normal as it can possibly get. They both have learned a lot about themselves and the world over these last two years.

Bernice Ndegwa on set at Montclair State University filming her anchor coverage of VP Harris' visit to campus. Photo courtesy of Bernice Ndegwa

Bernice Ndegwa on set at Montclair State University filming her anchor coverage of Vice President Kamala Harris’ visit to campus.
Photo courtesy of Bernice Ndegwa

“I feel like I became a lot more sure of myself and a lot more confident in myself. And I really appreciate that,” Ndegwa said.

Emma Caughlan, the managing editor of the Montclarion newspaper, in office for a production day. John LaRosa | The Montclarion

Emma Caughlan, the managing editor of The Montclarion newspaper, in office for a production day.
John LaRosa | The Montclarion

Caughlan shared an important lesson she learned.

“Having those [real] relationships wasn’t something I think I appreciated as much until the pandemic,” Caughlan said. “With my family, with my friends and knowing who my real friends are and who I can count on and just being with those people and how important that is.”

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