Keeping in Touch Without Touching Each Other
An exhibit by Carly Bagley, Cristal Mendez, and Victoria Villaseñor
St. Mary's University is a liberal arts university in San Antonio, Texas. After its March 2020 spring break, the university transitioned into online learning in response to the pandemic. For the Fall 2020 semester, St. Mary's has worked to maintain university traditions, services, and programs within COVID-19 precautions.
The 2020 COVID-19 Pandemic affected San Antonio residents in multiple ways. The relationships we keep within our personal, professional, and communal lives have been altered. Many of our interactions have been put on pause and haven't yet quite returned to normal.
Making adjustments to personal relationships
St. Mary's students have had to make adjustments in how they interact with friends and family.
Because of COVID-19, we have had to adjust how we communicate and connect with one another, even within our own households. These sticky notes exchanged between a husband with COVID-19 and his caretaker wife symbolize the significant and consistent ways we have tried to stay in contact during a pandemic.
Even long distance relationships have shifted because of the pandemic. These two friends shifted their contact from monthly visits to a virtual book club.
Do pre-COVID traditions like birthdays hold more significance during a pandemic? These two friends stayed in contact by giving gifts and ritualizing a celebration.
The pandemic has made it more difficult for individuals to connect with loved ones. As a result, many St. Mary's students, staff, faculty, and alumni have had to grieve this year.
The virus has changed how families have dealt with medical issues and death.
We have also had to grieve the loss of our "old life". For some, losing the daily face-to-face connection of co-workers can be especially lonely.
Coping with changing relationships
Even after students have made adjustments with how they interact in relationships, students have found they need other ways to connect and live happy lives.
New pets provided people with something new to love and care for in their homes.
Many of us have had to adopt new hobbies, and interests, like disc golf, to stay connected.
COVID-19 greatly affected public institutions and the communities that they serve. Universities, in particular, have responded to the complex needs of students and staff. St. Mary's University has successfully maintained safe, engaging, and compassionate communication through virtual programs and limited in-person activities.
St. Mary's University first responded to the immediate shock of the pandemic by swiftly incorporating COVID-19 safety measures into campus policy. Then, the university began creating guidelines for campus organizations and events. Campus clubs have gotten creative with the way they've maintained a sense of Rattler Community. Within top-level organization of campus action are individual student experiences. Sharing their experiences gives insight into how this pandemic has created complex situations for young people to navigate, on top of figuring out their adulthood.
Organizations & Events
Through virtual accommodations, St. Mary's continues to keep annual events running, ensuring that the Rattler community stays connected.
The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the freshman experience across the nation. St. Mary's organizations are trying to fill the gap by creating virtual experience.
The St. Mary's Student Life organization has adapted their annual events onto digital platforms, remaining dedicated to facilitating a sense of community.
Individual Student Experiences
Julian Dziuda is a student athlete at St. Mary's University. COVID-19 has impacted the sports experience for athletes and the St. Mary's community.
Throughout her years at St. Mary's, Arumi Ortiz has faced a multitude of new experiences and adjustments to campus life as she is originally from Veracruz, Mexico and moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma when she was 15 years old. However, never did she think she'd have to adapt to a pandemic.
Ximena Barbagelatta has experienced the pandemic in two different hemispheres. Ximena is a foreign exchange student from Lima, Peru studying at St. Mary's University.
The COVID-19 experience is different across the state of Texas. Miguel Ramirez shares his experience living and learning in the Rio Grand Valley of Texas.
San Antonio Community
Just as St. Mary's University students needed to adapt their personal relationships, so did the greater San Antonio community. San Antonio, a popular tourist destination, became a ghost town practically overnight. When Mayor Ron Nirenberg announced closures in March, local residents struggled to adapt to the rapid changes.
Aside from his daily briefings with Nelson Wollf, Ron Nirenberg kept San Antonians informed through social media. From school closures to updates on Covid-19 cases, the San Antonio mayor communicated consistently with the community on the latest changes regarding the pandemic.
Ron Nirenberg issued a nightly curfew for downtown San Antonio.
Ron Nirenberg announced an increase of Covid-19 cases in San Antonio.
Nirenberg encouraged tenants and landlords to work out payment plans to avoid evictions.
Nirenberg announced an extended Spring Break for colleges and universities--the closure lasted much longer.
Staying Connected with the San Antonio Community
With city leaders urging everyone to stay home, it was difficult for San Antonians to maintain their normal routines. Local restaurants were forced to close their dining rooms, students switched to remote learning, and non-emergency clinics transitioned to telehealth services. San Antonio learned to make the most of the situation.
A local restaurant wrote the names of police brutality victims on their take-out boxes—keeping them connected with fellow BLM supporters/customers.
Customers continued to support their favorite local restaurant.
San Antonio high school student, Jacoby Mena, shared his perspective on pandemic life and urged the community to follow safety guidelines.
Christina Mena, a cardiac clinic nurse, reflected on the challenges of staying in touch with senior adult patients.
2021: A New Hope
The St. Mary’s University and San Antonio community showed great resilience this year. They managed to stay connected with their school, community, and loved ones. As 2020 winds down, Texans are facing another spike in Covid-19 cases. However, there is hope for 2021 as prospects for a vaccine are on the horizon. The coming year may bring new challenges, but the community featured in this exhibit will face them with the same strength and creativity they have come to rely on.