Students, alumni in D.C. cope with quarantine during pandemic

As D.C.’s shelter-in-place order continues into another month, students and alumni are trying to find ways to cope with the isolating effects of quarantine. As of April 25, 2020, more than 18,000 D.C. residents have been tested, and about 3,800 of them tested positive for the coronavirus.

The Hatchet spoke with nine students and alumni living at Columbia Plaza apartments in Foggy Bottom about how they are spending their time indoors and how they are reacting to the effects of the pandemic. Some said they have picked up new hobbies like cooking or reading, while others are trying to hunker down on work and job applications.

Officials canceled on-campus classes after spring break, and all students were required to leave their residence halls and move off campus unless they received an exemption.

Click on a photo below to read more about their quarantine stories.

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Vedika Jajodia, second-year graduate student, master of business administration and master of science in information systems and technology
"I have been isolating in my apartment for almost a month now. It isn’t all that bad, but I definitely miss meeting people every day. I miss running errands, I miss discovering new places in the city, I miss sitting down at a bar and grabbing a drink for myself. While my work schedule hasn’t changed much, it’s funny that I also miss being at the library and gaining some motivation as I watch the productive souls hustle. I was extremely inefficient during the first week of isolation but I managed to catch up after. I am trying to cook as much as I can and eat healthy as I am home. Still have to figure out a way out to work out consistently during this phase."
Akash Pamarthy | Staff Photographer
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Preethi Kathiresan, second-year graduate student, master of science in biomedical engineering
"Before quarantine, life was normal with regular outings with friends and stuff. I was on the run just like everyone else. Now during quarantine, since the outside world is shut down, there’s more time to think about other things like rediscovering your long lost hobby, testing your cooking skills, dancing for a TikTok video and a lot more crazy stuff. That’s the positive side of quarantine. On the other hand, as a graduating student, I find it really difficult in terms of job searching and attending interviews. Online classes were also kind of fun."
Akash Pamarthy | Staff Photographer
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Maniki Mathur, second-year graduate student, master of forensic science in forensic molecular biology
"Not a lot of things have changed for me personally because of quarantine. I am an essential employee at a forensic science lab and I can’t do my job from home even if I tried. So unlike most people, I’m still going to work. I am really annoyed by the irony of it because I would be one of those people who would enjoy being inside and like alone time. Going to work has been challenging in itself because of the increased risk of exposure for me, which is scary. The positive thing to come out of this is I guess that life has finally slowed down a bit. I get really anxious about a lot of things, but things getting canceled or postponed have actually had a calming effect on me. Online classes are sometimes fun. We got to meet our professor’s dog virtually one time."
Akash Pamarthy | Staff Photographer
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Harshvardhan Verma, second-year graduate student, master of science in cybersecurity
"[The] major portion of my day was spent outside home, from going to the gym to going to work or class, being in quarantine has affected this, I still wake up at the same time and work out at home. The work is done from home and class is online. It is a major challenge working on our group projects for class remotely. Since I am not able to go outside, I have taken up reading more strongly. I wouldn’t use the PlayStation 4 before the lockdown, but now I play on it too. All the extra time has allowed me to do some online courses as well."
Akash Pamarthy | Staff Photographer
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Devarshi Pandya, second-year graduate student, master of public health in in environmental health science and policy
"This entire experience has been heartwarming and sad at the same time. [I’m] sad because I can’t see [or] hug my friends. It’s heartwarming because I’m appreciating life a little more now. I feel today I can control what I feel and how deeply I want to feel a certain emotion. I’ve become more mindful of the present moment and it feels liberating to be honest. Turns out I really like being on my own."
Akash Pamarthy | Staff Photographer
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Deivanayagan Varadhan, second-year graduate student, master of science in electrical and computer engineering
"There are days when you feel like doing something productive and keeping your mind engaged the whole day. And there are days when you are restless, impatient and don’t feel like doing anything. Before the lockdown started and when life was going on as usual, I used to feel so insecure if I broke my routine. But now I have realized that it’s OK to feel lazy at times or break your routine and do something different to get back your energy. Life has always been like a race or like running on a treadmill and fearing to get off from it. Now I feel it’s OK to slow down and think for a while about why I am doing something to have clarity."
Akash Pamarthy | Staff Photographer
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Ankush Wadhwa, Class of 2019, master of science in computer science
"After two rigorous years of university, now I have to jump into a job market that has sunken to such a shallow extent that job firings exceed hirings. The bright side? I have got time to think. To think about my preparation, to think about my applications, to think about my end goals and most importantly, to think about my priorities in life. It gave me time to think about my health which I had been neglecting since the past months, worrying about graduating and looking for jobs. I started cooking again. Neglecting outside food made my lifestyle better. I was able to set up a routine for myself, which at this point of time was the most crucial thing to do. Oh, and I gave up smoking! So yeah, that’s something good that came out of it."
Akash Pamarthy | Staff Photographer
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Amaan Kidwai, Class of 2019, master of business administration
"Life has changed dramatically due to [the pandemic], and these are unprecedented times. Having built the habit of regularly going to the gym, the one thing I miss most is working out at gyms. I have tried several other home workouts but nothing comes close. I miss my Saturday morning schedule of biking to a cafe in Dupont Circle and reading a book while enjoying coffee and croissants. I miss hanging out with friends, traveling, going to pubs, social events, among other experiences."
Akash Pamarthy | Staff Photographer
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Shritama Sengupta, second-year graduate student, master of science in computer science
"On normal days I immerse myself in the works of Sax Rohmer, binge on American Dad and Brooklyn 99, work out for one to two hours – be it yoga or indoor exercises – and study a bit just to make sure I do not completely lose my touch with the academics. My workout schedule helps me keep track of what day it is and prevents me from drowning off into the lethargic abyss of binges that last all night and sleep that lasts all day. Honestly, I’ve been there and done that, and I know we all have experienced this at some point in our lives. But the feeling that I come out with after such a debauchery against my body and mind is far from positive and pride-inducing. My yoga and once-a-week meditation sessions prevent me from this and help me stay grounded."
Akash Pamarthy | Staff Photographer