Socially-distanced college move-in day at Denison University in Granville, Ohio. (Photo by JJ Hoffman)
Campbell Hall School

Column: My experience dropping my brother off at college in a pandemic

Apprehensive, queasy and fearful are just some of my feelings while leaving my brother in his dorm room in August. When I discovered that my brother would be attending in-person classes at Denison University in Granville, Ohio and that my family and I were going to drop him off, I immediately was concerned about wearing a mask on the plane. Sensations of claustrophobia and being unable to breathe soon overwhelmed me and I could not stop thinking of the upcoming journey. I wanted to feel excited for my brother, but I only felt nervous.

However, the plane ride was not as nearly as bad as I anticipated, and the emptiness of LAX was a welcome change from its usually bustling atmosphere. Once boarded, the flight attendants handed out hand sanitizer for us to disinfect our area, I especially noticed that no middle seats were occupied. With rows of empty seats, a sense of eeriness filled the air as we lifted off the ground.

Throughout the flight, instead of the usual beverage cart, the flight attendants handed out prepackaged bags which included water, some bars and chips and another hand sanitizer. The scent of Purell soon filled the plane, and I felt like I was in a hospital.

After a stop in Minneapolis, we arrived in Columbus. In Easton — where we stayed — there were restaurants within walking distance from our hotel and many retail shops. While we had a great first couple of days in Easton, Thursday, August 13 arrived and we had to say goodbye to a member of our family.

As we approached Denison University, a line of cars started forming outside the entrance. One by one each car drove through the gates and were greeted by cheering faculty and students. After stopping at multiple stations on “The Hill,” including a stop for hand sanitizer, we were able to park and unload the car, with assistance from the Denison football team. Throughout the cafeterias on campus, plexiglass barriers shielded students from being too close to one another. 

Many outdoor classrooms were being set up under tents. It was surreal to be at a college campus and drop off my brother who had always been by my side, and it was a little overwhelming.

“It felt bittersweet,” my brother told me. “Like I was leaving my past, childhood behind and stepping into [young] adulthood and starting a new phase of life I was so excited for yet so nervous about. It felt freeing yet it was freedom I wasn’t sure I was ready to responsibly use. So it was overall mixed emotions and all.” 

As we waited for our flight home at John Glenn Columbus International Airport and ate snacks from a vending machine because every restaurant was closed, I was excited and nervous thinking about what my college drop-off would be like in two years, and couldn’t wait to see my brother in a few months.