Tajrean Rahman, Hannah Thurlby, and Victor Qin.

Tajrean Rahman (from left), Hannah Thurlby, and Victor Qin prepare to leave campus.

Stephanie Mitchell and Jon Chase/Harvard Staff Photographers

Campus & Community

‘Unsteady,’ ‘lucky,’ and ‘overwhelmed’

Students reflect on the shift to online classes and unplanned move home

6 min read

Harvard announced this week that all teaching would go online starting March 23 and, in an attempt to ensure their health and safety amid the COVID-19 global pandemic, asked students not to return to campus after spring break. For undergraduates, it has been a week of saying goodbye (for now) to their dorms, Houses, professors, and friends. The Gazette spoke to some of them about their plans and how they’re feeling in their last few days on campus for the academic year.

Victor Qin ’21

Quincy House

The mood on campus is very weird, like it’s Senior Week without quite being Senior Week. For seniors, it’s their last chance to do things, and for freshmen, they’ll never experience things like Housing Day for the first time, so that’s unfortunate.

I’m trying to get home to Los Angeles as quickly as possible. I think this is going to give me some good time to reflect, and I’m cautiously optimistic.

I’m going to miss my friends, and it’s going to be a lonely time, but I’m hopeful we can all get home safe and figure out next steps. One of my TFs [teaching fellows] sent us an email with the line, ‘Man plans and God laughs,’ so I thought that was a good one.”
Victor Qin stands with boxes by a moving truck.

Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff Photographer

Gayatri Balasubramanian ’21

Quincy House

I live in Carmel, Ind., and I’m moving out tomorrow. I have all my stuff packed, and the University is giving us $200 and the Undergraduate Council is giving us $55 for storage and shipping, but I have one extra box. I’m in ROTC, and we have extra space at the battalion, so I’m going to take a box on a dolly on the M2 shuttle and put it there.

The whole day on Tuesday was this confusing mishmash of things. I’m also on the sailing team and usually we have a roast for the seniors that we do at the end of the semester, but we’re doing it today. We won’t be able to see the seniors in ROTC commission, which is [usually] exciting. Everything is kind of up in the air.
Gayatri Balasubramanian ’21 with a backpack.

Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff Photographer

Hannah Thurlby ’23


I feel pretty lucky because I have my plane ticket since I was going home for spring break, and I have an aunt and uncle nearby where I can store my stuff.

The hardest part for me is saying goodbye so quickly; there are so many seniors to say goodbye to. Last week I was stressed about midterms, and now I’d give anything to be worrying about that. I have friends all over, and travel is complicated enough. It will not be feasible to see them. I’ve made such strong friendships, and I don’t want to lose that.
Hannah Thurlby and Leslie Brunner carry unassembled cardboard boxes.

Hannah Thurlby ’23 with her aunt Leslie Brunner.

Jon Chase/Harvard Staff Photographer

Eliot Min ’23


I am feeling a little unsteady. In terms of shared disruptive power, this is one of the most memorable moments in my life. For me Hong Kong is a 12-hour time difference. I’m not looking forward to getting up at 3 a.m. for class. I’m sure there’s a work-around for that, but I don’t know what it is yet.

I personally benefit greatly from the intimate space of learning in class. There’s a degree of humanness in person in real time. I’m pretty concerned going forward that that can’t be achieved through a screen.

Eliot Min.

Jon Chase/Harvard Staff Photographer

Jose Mendoza ’23


I am overwhelmed sometimes. This is a drastic change. It made me realize how little control I have over my decisions. I’m leaving Sunday night.

I had a trip to Puerto Rico planned for spring break. It was going to be my first time outside the United States. It’s going to be hard to go home and have the same study habits.

Jon Chase/Harvard Staff Photographer

Brian Magdaleno ’23

Grays Hall

Luckily, I was planning to go home for break. But I wasn’t planning to pack in such a short time.

My roommates are international students from Greece and the U.K. I can’t imagine how hard it is for them. I shipped two boxes, but a friend in Boston is storing some of my stuff.

I’m so sad that the Housing Day tradition was taken from us. But I have a little cousin and an elderly grandmother, and I’m not going to have any contact with them [for a while] when I get back.
Brian Magdaleno in dining hall.

Jon Chase/Harvard Staff Photographer

Shlomo Cahlon ’21

Winthrop House

I am flying out tonight. It’s upsetting, but it’s harder for seniors for sure.

I went out last night, so that was fun. But I’m trying to figure out classes because there’s going to be a significant time difference when I go back to Israel, about seven hours. I’m just going to have to record some things.

Everyone coming into Israel from abroad right now has to self-quarantine for two weeks, so I have to work from home. I’m looking forward to being at home for a bit, but if I didn’t have to quarantine, things would be easier.”
Shlomo Cahlon.

Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff Photographer

Tajrean Rahman ’20

Currier House

I am very lucky that I live in New York, and my parents are able to drive in to get me. But at home I live in a one-bedroom apartment and am in one room with my brother and sister, so it will be interesting to go back to high-school Tajrean doing my work.

These last few days are ones I want to remember, so I think we’re all trying to spend as much time with the people we don’t know if we’ll see again. I went to the 10th floor of the Smith Center to see campus one last time, and we’re having a lot of dinners and celebrations. There are a couple of Harvard rites of passage that I did, like I saw the sunset on the river. Cultural groups on campus are also having farewell events, which is really nice. I feel really fortunate [to have those].

Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff Photographer