Andre Faria’s ’21 apartment building across from Alpha Delta Pizza feels empty now. “A lot of people’s letters are just piling up,” he said.
Faria lives with his roommate and two friends who share another apartment in the same building. The four of them have formed a quarantine cell, sharing space in both apartments and grocery shopping together. They try to go out for a walk every day. Sometimes they pile into Faria’s car just to take a drive.
The emptiness in their building, though, is echoed by the emptiness outside. On nice days, neighbors sometimes sit out on their front steps. But after dinnertime, the streets empty out. “Nobody’s outside, which makes it really unnerving to walk around,” Faria said. On the 10-minute walk from the New Haven Green back to his apartment, he might see just one other person.
Like many other off-campus students, Faria stuck around in New Haven rather than returning home when the University announced that classes would move online for the remainder of this semester. He had just returned to the Elm City from a spring break visit back home to eastern Kentucky when everything started shutting down. Traveling back seemed logistically tricky. He had friends to live with. His parents are both doctors, working in a hospital with COVID-19 patients. Faria decided to stay.
He had also thought it would be easier to focus on schoolwork in New Haven — the place he associates, well, with school. But things are different in the midst of a pandemic, and it’s been hard. Faria has a history of depression, and the current situation has been particularly tough on his mental health.
“Right now, when there’s no structure, it’s basically impossible for me to actually overcome feeling depressed and start doing schoolwork, because it also feels completely arbitrary,” he said. “There’s so much else going on in the world right now that seems a lot more pertinent to existing than college.”
Our conversation took place before last Tuesday, when Yale College announced its switch to a universal pass/fail grading policy. Faria was hoping for universal pass, though he wasn’t entirely optimistic it would happen. Many universities that had moved towards similar systems announced those changes a week or two before Yale did.
“We’re not bad students — we know we’re not bad students. We’ve done well at Yale for three years now,” Faria said. He noted that when he was struggling with depression in the past, he was still typically able to do well in school. But now, classes have been moved hastily online, and there is the constant stress of tragic news report after tragic news report. Faria was worried that without universal pass, he would need to drop one of his classes and take a five-credit semester senior year — something he’s worked hard to avoid.
Some professors have been understanding, and others not so much. One of Faria’s professors — Leslie Gross-Wyrtzen, who teaches an Ethnicity, Race & Migration course called “Race, Space and Power” — told students before the universal pass/fail announcement that they could choose to freeze their grade at its pre-spring break status.
“The second she said that, doing work in that class became easier,” Faria said.
For now, life in New Haven proceeds, albeit slowly. Faria’s worried about his grandfather in Florida, who wants to buy groceries himself, instead of getting them delivered. He’s worried about his own trips to Stop & Shop, because he doesn’t want to unwittingly expose vulnerable people to the virus. And like most are right now, he’s worried about what comes next.
Talia Soglin | firstname.lastname@example.org
This story is part of a larger series profiling Yale and New Haven community members during the COVID-19 pandemic. To read more, click here.