Getting Tossed Up in the Air by Pandemic

The coronavirus upended life for
Plymouth State (New Hampshire) College student Savannah Scott was utterly unprepared for the impact the coronavirus would have on her life. Photo courtesy of Savannah Scott

I feel like my whole life has been turned upside down.

I am a college sophomore studying nursing at Plymouth State University in Plymouth, New Hampshire. My name is Savannah Scott.

Our spring break started on March 6. I returned to campus from a conference I had attended on March 7, even though most students and staff had left already. Being a former foster youth, staying on campus was the best option I had. I could continue to work while staying on campus and only have to worry about food as an extra expense. I had plans to relax, work and catch up on sleep (and homework) before classes resumed in a little over a week.

At that time, as far as I had heard, each state only had a couple of coronavirus cases, aside from Washington. New Hampshire had one. I didn’t expect it to affect my life too much.

On March 11, I got an email from Plymouth State saying classes would resume as normal after spring break, but I was asked to self-quarantine and not return to campus for 14 days as I had visited New York for a day over break. I said I would, and told them I would stay at an “aunt’s” house – but I have no extended family.

Instead, I hid out in a friend’s apartment for a while. Then, on March 12, they changed their mind – classes would be moved online after spring break until April. I could stay on campus with approval, and dining services would reopen as normal, so I wouldn’t have to worry about food.

Six days later, I got a third email from the president of my university. Classes were going to be online for the rest of the semester, and I was asked, along with the rest of the student population, to move off campus as soon as possible.

I could’ve applied to stay on campus. In my case, that would’ve made more problems than solved the ones I already had. Dining services were going to stay open for limited hours with limited options, and as I had already struggled finding gluten-free options with the full dining hall open, it was unlikely I was going to find much of anything I could eat now. I would have to pay for and make my own food – but I had just been laid off from all three of my jobs, and that combined income kept food on the table and bills paid with barely enough money left over to save. I would’ve also had to move rooms, likely to a different dorm. I didn’t have parents to go to or rely on for food like most other students, so I frantically looked for a place to stay, calling on every single connection I had built. This was especially hard, as I grew up knowing not to ask for help, and that’s a mindset I have struggled to let go of.

Online classes started while I was figuring out housing. I missed every assignment and Zoom class that week while I packed up and prepared to go to my older sister’s house, who had graciously offered me food and a place to stay for the remainder of the semester and summer. She said I could help pay for food, like I did when I stayed with her last summer, once I had a job.

I caught a flight nearly two weeks ago to my sister’s house several states away from my school, and though flights are cheap now, the plane ticket (and the bus ticket to get to the airport) still cost me more than my phone bill will this month and next month combined. The rest of my savings will have to go to my bills, and that will last me another month and a half. With no one and nothing to fall back on, I will have to find a job in May, no matter how bad this pandemic is then.

I resumed online classes last week, and even though I had only missed three days, the amount of work I had to catch up on seemed like I had missed a month. I have been stuck inside, disconnected from most of my support system, hours away from anything or anyone I really know. I didn’t grow up with my older sister, and it seems like we have a world between us.

I’m struggling with adjusting to online classes, because it’s so hard to focus on a computer while I have so many things to worry about – will I not be able to pay some of my bills? Will I continue to have housing, or will my sister get annoyed with me and kick me out? Will my elderly foster mom die from this? Will my mental health stability, which I have worked so hard to achieve after years of abuse and self-hatred and self-harm, survive this? Will my biological parents contact me again asking me for money?

My caseworker initiated a request for me to get Chafee funds to help with my bills. I don’t know if that will come through, because my mailing address was at school and is now inactive, and I don’t know where they are forwarding my mail to. My summer plans included either working at a summer camp or getting a knee surgery I need, and neither of those are likely to happen – besides, even if I could have my knee surgery, I no longer have enough savings I need to cover my bills while I am unable to work.

I feel so unequipped for this – I had to figure out “adulting” by myself because foster care fails to teach you that. Just when I felt like I got the hang of it, everything I have worked so hard to achieve after aging out got tossed up into the air. I feel like my whole life has been turned upside down.

Savannah Scott went into foster care in New Hampshire when she was 15 years old. She experienced both congregate care and foster homes, and both experiences solidified her need to make a better life for herself. She started college at Plymouth State University in August 2018. Savannah is pursuing a major in nursing and a minor in child welfare and family services. She enjoys her busy life, working three part-time jobs, volunteering for various causes, and working to improve the foster care system for current and future youth in care. The impact that COVID-19 has had on her and her normal life is profound, but she knows she will get through this, just like she has overcome every other barrier in her life.

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