Photo by Sharon Ko
Due to the ways that Santa Barbara, other regions in the United States, and various nations around the world have responded differently to COVID-19, students, alumni, and faculty members’ experiences amidst this pandemic vary.
Faculty and students who have remained in Santa Barbara have remained relatively constricted throughout the entirety of the coronavirus outbreak. Dr. Jim Taylor, a professor of philosophy at Westmont College, recounted that several major trips were canceled because of the pandemic and that he and his wife came to more fully know Santa Barbara as a result of their extended “staycation.” As stated by Taylor, Santa Barbara started to open up at the beginning of the summer, but quickly locked down in response to a surge in cases. Currently, Santa Barbara remains locked down as a result of its number of COVID-19 cases.
Other regions in the area had differing responses to their respective outbreaks. Tristan Williams, a student at Westmont and a resident of Garden Grove in Orange County, stated that his region resisted the lockdown measures. As a result, he recounted that the beaches were closed to prevent the pervasive spread of COVID-19. Tristan stated that Orange County is just beginning to move to a less rigid category and be able to open up movie theaters and indoor restaurants in a limited and restricted manner.
Contrastingly, regions in New York responded to the virus quickly and have significantly curbed the spread of the virus. Victoria Caton, a sophomore at Westmont College who resides in Rochester, NY, shared that her county locked down in response to the outbreak and that the county’s case numbers quickly decreased. By June, most establishments and businesses were able to open with some restrictions. Moreover, Victoria stated that, to her knowledge, there has not been a single COVID-19 death in their county within the last two weeks.
International students faced unique challenges when the pandemic emerged. Kristi Phillips, who calls Malaysia home, shared that, after COVID-19 exploded, Malaysia closed its borders, and she was unable to return home for the summer. She explained that she faced homesickness throughout the summer, not knowing when she would see her parents in person. Because Kristi was unable to return home, she stayed in South Carolina with a roommate and in Santa Barbara, where she followed the stay-at-home guidelines.
However, not all nations closed their borders like Malaysia. Sara Sivulka disclosed that she was able to return to her home nation of Serbia despite the outbreak of the virus. She shared that Serbia was slow to implement regulations, but eventually residents were required to remain at home and only allowed to go out to buy food during certain hours of the day.
Despite the unique circumstances that our Westmont community has faced based on our geographical areas, soon our community will gather together in Santa Barbara. At that time, we will be able to share our experiences and be together once again.