About the series
The "Auburn voices from the pandemic" series is an oral history from The Plainsman of COVID-19 and how people are being affected by the disease.
As told to Collins Keith
Emily Williams, a spring 2020 graduate in social work, was driving home from Washington, D.C. with her friends for spring break when she heard about the University's closure. While she continued work as an intern for a few weeks, she eventually stopped altogether as her senior year came to a halt. She is hopeful about her graduation and future plans obtaining a master's degree in social work from Auburn.
The transcript from Williams' interview with The Plainsman has been slightly edited for clarity and rearranged for structure to produce the following piece.
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I was on my way back from spring break with two of my friends, we’d gone to D.C. We got the email saying that campus was going to be closed for a month and that we’d come back April 6 or something, so we were kinda excited. We were bummed … but we were like, 'this could be a good time to rest.'
Last semester I didn’t take traditional classes. I was doing an internship and so it was kind of confusing. In order for me to graduate, I had to have so many hours, and I didn’t know if I’d continue going to my internship so I could keep getting hours so I could graduate. Thankfully, I talked to my internship and my professors … so I was still able to go, and the professors reduced the number of hours that we had to have.
It was weird because most of my friends were taking online classes and doing homework and stuff online, and I was still getting to do what was normal for me at the time: still getting to go to my internship and stuff. It didn’t really feel like things were changing, until they reduced our required hours for a second time, and so at that point I had already exceeded the hours I needed, and so I stopped going.
When we went up to DC, that was kinda when it was just getting started. It was right before things really got bad, I guess. We were kind of oblivious to it, so we didn’t really think anything about it.
Then we were on our way back, and it was like, 'What the heck is going on?' We were in our own little bubble, we were leaving and it was like the world was going crazy. None of us ever showed any symptoms, though.
Thankfully, this didn’t affect anything post-graduation for me. Everyone who was supposed to graduate, who met all of the graduation requirements, is technically graduated right now, but [Auburn] is combining the August and May ceremonies, so anyone who technically graduated in May and still wants to walk can walk in August.
I think [Auburn] is trying really hard to make sure that the seniors felt not validated, but recognized, I guess. They sent us these little boxes, and they had a diploma cap, two programs for what should have been the line-up for graduation, an alumni pen; it really was just a nice box. There was a letter from the president, too.
In my mind, the whole time, I was like, 'it’s not going to be a big deal, I’m going to get to walk in August, I’m not missing out on anything.' Then, it was after it happened when I realized that there were people that I’m not gonna ever get to see again, you know, cause things ended so abruptly, and I didn’t think about until after it was over with, almost. So that was really sad. College is when you meet some of the most important people in your life, the people that have such an impact on your life, and not getting to tell some of them bye in person is heartbreaking.
It's definitely — it’s just weird.
Read previous stories from The Plainsman's oral history series:
- Sushil Bhavnani, mechanical engineering associate chair, shares how he adapted to a new teaching schedule in India during the spring semester.
- Debra Hudmon, an intensive care unit nurse at East Alabama Medical Center, describes life on the frontline of the COVID-19 pandemic.
- William Andrews, owner of The Auburn Popcorn Company, on what operating a business in a mostly shuttered Auburn is like.
- As business operations come to a stand still and entertainment venues close, local drag shows and LGBTQ activities including Pride have been put on hold.
- While essential businesses like grocery stores remain open during the pandemic, some workers who interact with customers are concerned for their health and the health of others. The impact and stress from the pandemic and personal circumstances is different for each of them.
- Sadok Aounallah, an RA for the Village dorms, talks about living alone on campus and his fears about COVID-19.
- Dr. Fred Kam, medical director at the Auburn University Medical Clinic, on what a day in the office entails during the pandemic.
- Jarious Avery, freshman in biomedical sciences, is one of many first-generation college students returning home after experiencing a sliver of college life.
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