Campus ConversationOpinion

Opinion: My experience testing positive for COVID-19 as a Boise State student

Photo courtesy of Amanda Niess

My mornings begin with a double shot of my favorite espresso. I especially love the aroma that comes from the espresso machine as the bold coffee slowly drips into my cup. But, today was different. I couldn’t smell the coffee at all. When I took the first sip of this very familiar drink, I realized it had no flavor. I knew something was wrong. After sharing my concern with my roommates, we decided I should get tested for COVID-19.

Two days later, I received a phone call confirming my worst nightmare; the test came back positive. I, like many college students, didn’t know what to do. Immediately, I felt overwhelmed with so many questions and lost all sense of control.

[Photo of Amanda Niess standing by the Boise State ‘B’]
Photo courtesy of Amanda Niess | The Arbiter

After going through a plethora of feelings, like helplessness, fear and the frustration of the uncertainty for what was to come, I knew that self-isolation was inevitable. At that point, I reached out to my professors and my employer to let them know I was required to self-isolate for two weeks. 

Then, I called my parents to let them know, but I decided not to inform everyone I knew both back home in California and even from some of my friends here. I didn’t look forward to telling my roommates because I was uncertain about how they were going to respond. One of my roommates was very worried once she heard my news.

“I was a little shocked at first because I thought you didn’t have it,” she said. “I was also scared because I had been in close contact with you and I had just started working too.”

This not only took a toll on our relationship as roommates but also created a shift in the dynamics of our household. Two weeks of self-isolation caused me great despair and loneliness due to the fact that I wasn’t allowed to socialize with my roommates or anyone else. However, I knew I had to follow the protocol in order to restore my health and for the safety of others.

My other roommate was even more concerned with the news, given that she had been around her immune-compromised mother and many coworkers. She did not have any in-person classes, but expressed a greater concern for the health of those she had been around.

“I thought that I was going to contract [COVID] for sure,” she said. “I started cleaning a lot and avoided touching any surfaces to see if [we] could dodge it.”

Although I got support from the Health Services office on campus and the Fellowship Program Coordinator, BJ Lewis, who organizes mental health support for students with COVID-19, I wanted support from my friends during this time. The truth is, I felt unsupported during the whole process and I felt alone. Being cooped up in my room for more than a week took a large toll on my mental state, nonetheless.

The Dean of Students and a staff member from the Public Health Office emailed me and provided me with many great resources for mental health support and general health support.

“We focus on the immediate condition of the student and what they have been doing to cope with the experience and how they have been connecting to friends and family,” Lewis said. “As far as a mental health perspective goes, we are just trying to open as many doors as we can to make sure that access to our services is as easy as possible.”

I was worried that when I tested positive, I would become just a number to the university, but the Health Services Office proved me wrong. I could tell that the staff truly cared about my mental health. The amount of compassion they showed towards me during my self-isolation period gave me so much hope.

“We were kind of building the ship as we were trying to row it and so there’s a little bit of trial and error,” Lewis said in regard to creating the system that Health Services utilizes to check in on COVID-positive students. “The support is here and if anybody needs help, please contact us so we can figure out the best way to get them integrated into care.”

After two weeks of isolation, I finally received a phone call from the Central District Health (CDH) to tell me the good news. “We would like to release you back into society.” 

Although my symptoms were mild compared to many others, I learned a lot about myself during this difficult time. Boise State has wonderful support systems that were there for me when I needed them the most. Despite being 1,000 miles from my hometown, this experience has taught me to be patient, to be compassionate and to be resilient.

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