Turning 21 in quarantine

HAPPY BIRTHDAY: On April 1, rising senior Rebeccah Rojas celebrated her 21st birthday in quarantine on the Brevard College campus. Photo courtesy of Rojas

Brevard College closed its campus in mid-March, sending the majority of its students home to finish the spring term online. But when Rebeccah Rojas determined it was too risky to travel to rejoin her family in California, college administrators granted permission for her to continue living on campus. Rojas became one of roughly 80 students who have called Brevard College home despite the shutdown.

“Initially, we still went to the Myers Dining Hall to pick up our food,” Rojas says. “But once things started getting more serious, they decided to deliver the items to us instead. … As a student from out of state, it was really comforting to know I was able to seek shelter and still be provided meals for the semester.”

Quarantine rules have prohibited Rojas from inviting guests to campus. For the rising senior, dealing with the social isolation hasn’t always been easy. Majoring in business and organizational leadership, Rojas says she enjoyed an active campus life prior to COVID-19 through her involvement in student government and the women’s soccer team.

Yet Rojas says the new reality of her situation didn’t really sink in until her 21st birthday on April 1 (no kidding). Before the pandemic hit, she’d planned to celebrate the milestone with her family in California, not alone inside her dorm.

“It was a little tough,” she says.

But to Rojas’ surprise and delight, some of the remaining students organized an outdoor, socially distant cookout for her big day. “It was a great and memorable quarantine birthday,” she says. “It was really thoughtful and humbling. It felt good to know I had a family here on campus.”

This article is part of COVID Conversations, a series of short features based on interviews with members of our community during the coronavirus pandemic in Western North Carolina. If you or someone you know has a unique story you think should be featured in a future issue of Xpress, please let us know at news@mountainx.com.

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About Thomas Calder
Thomas Calder received his MFA in Fiction from the University of Houston's Creative Writing Program. He has worked with several publications, including Gulf Coast and the Collagist.

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