Candace Gallardo, a freshman communication and social influence major, stands outside of her house in Oley, Pennsylvania on Dec. 16. | CANDACE GALLARDO / COURTESY


Gallardo, a freshman communication and social influence major, found herself moving multiple times during her first semester of college.

andace Gallardo started her freshman year at Temple University as close to normal as it could be during a pandemic. She moved into 1940 Residence Hall and deemed Philadelphia her new city to explore and call home.

Little did she know that less than three weeks later, she’d be calling her parents to bring her back home to Oley, Pennsylvania.

Gallardo’s first semester of college was filled with relocation, a cycle of packing and moving to new destinations as the semester unfolded. Learning how to adjust to new environments dominated her first experience with college, but she was still able to find what most freshmen seek out: independence. 

Moving to Philadelphia, Gallardo looked forward to being able to learn in person and experience living at Temple University. A freshman communication and social influence major, Gallardo was excited to be taking all six of her classes in person and living with three roommates, despite knowing the year would consist of wearing face masks and staying six feet apart on campus. 

“I don’t know any different, I don’t know the norm, so it’s been pretty okay,” she said on Aug. 25. “Just the social distancing and everything is different, but it is for everyone.”

When Gallardo learned all her courses moved to an online format for the remainder of the semester on Sept. 3 due to an outbreak in COVID-19 casess among students, she planned to stay on campus with her roommates. Even though refunds were being offered to students who moved out before Sept. 13, she could stay around and hang onto the social aspects of a mostly-typical freshman year of college.

But a few days later, Gallardo’s roommate was exposed to COVID-19 from their boyfriend, so Gallardo and her roommates began to quarantine in their rooms until they could get tested. 

On Sept. 6, Gallardo’s roommate received a negative COVID-19 test from an off-campus testing center. Even though the roommate was also still waiting on a test from Temple’s Student Health Services, Gallardo stuck with the first test’s negative result and began seeing people on their residence hall floor again.

Two days later, on Sept. 8, Gallardo’s roommate received word from Temple with their worst fear: a positive COVID-19 test. 

“We were all just like, ‘Oh my gosh,’ we were around so many people, like our neighbors and stuff, everyone on our floor,” Gallardo said on Sept. 23. “What do you do?”

Initially, Gallardo wanted to stay on campus, but decided moving home would be worth it for the refund and to be near family instead of alone in quarantine.

“We were just so confused,” Gallardo said on Sept. 23. 

Overwhelmed and nervous, Gallardo called her parents and asked if they could pick her up the same day. She walked to CVS Pharmacy on Cecil B. Moore Avenue near 12th Street to buy trash bags and began throwing all of her belongings into them, packing as fast as possible. 

“I was out within hours finding out, so a lot of people probably like, ‘What even happened to her?’” Gallardo said on Sept. 23. “But, I mean it sucked, it wasn’t really fun. It was sad. I miss it there.”

She and her family drove home wearing masks and Gallardo moved into her bedroom to quarantine for two weeks. She never showed symptoms of COVID-19 and her other roommates tested negative, she said. 

At home, Gallardo woke up each morning in her dark bedroom and struggled as hours blended together during her days of completing Zoom courses and online assignments. 

Every Tuesday and Thursday, Gallardo spent three hours in Zoom classes back to back, followed by three to four hours of classwork. Although she only had one class during the other weekdays, she had difficulty focusing because her brothers were also taking online classes while living at home. 

“It’s definitely, like, louder here,” Gallardo said on Sept. 23. “I get texts, like, ‘Can you walk the dog? Can you empty the dishwasher?’ Just stuff that didn’t happen when I was at school.”

Through September, Gallardo would sit outside doing classwork to get fresh air. She also took walks or rode her bike to stretch her legs after sitting at her desk for most of her day.

Two weeks into September, family friends from Fort Lauderdale, Florida called Gallardo and, knowing she was at home and that she disliked Pennsylvania’s cold winters, asked if she wanted to spend the rest of the semester living with them.

Gallardo packed up and flew to Fort Lauderdale on Oct. 16 to get away from the incoming cold.

“I get a little seasonal depression, so I’m leaving for the winter,” Gallardo said on Oct. 6.

While living there, Gallardo went to brunch with her family friends most weekends and would hang out on weeknights after she completed her schoolwork. She lived about two miles from the beach and enjoyed the 80-degree weather in October, despite it raining for the first four days she arrived, she said. 

“I was like, ‘Oh I left the rain to go to the rain,’ she said on Oct. 27. “But now it’s pretty nice, but it’s like 86.” 

Then, Gallardo wanted to vote for her first time in person, so she needed to find a way to get back to Berks County on Election Day to cast her ballot rather than request a mail-in or absentee ballot. 

“I’m fully capable of going in person, so I figured I’d just do that,” Gallardo said.

With Thanksgiving at the end of the month, Gallardo decided to fly home on Nov. 3 and later stay with her parents for the holiday. She voted at her local township building and waited only a few minutes to cast a ballot. 

“It wasn’t bad,” Gallardo said on Nov. 7. 

Two of her classes were canceled on Election Day, but Gallardo was worried about missing an exam leading up to voting and her flight. Luckily, her professor allowed her to take it later that night.

Gallardo was relieved when her brother announced in the car that former Vice President Joe Biden won the presidency on Nov. 7. Because the race was over, she felt the country could take a deep breath and relax.

As numbers of COVID-19 cases rose to a seven-day average of 5,265 cases a day on Nov. 17, Gallardo was also relieved that her family’s yearly Thanksgiving tradition, a big celebration at her family friend’s house, was canceled. 

“We usually go to like a family friend’s house, but she’s not doing anything,” Gallardo said. “She doesn’t want anyone at her house, so we’ll probably just do, like, something with my close family.”

She had a smaller, more relaxed Thanksgiving dinner, complete with the usual turkey, stuffing and mashed potatoes, with her immediate family and one other family. Gallardo found she enjoyed this more than past traditions because it was smaller and quieter than usual. 

On Dec. 6, just four days before finals, Gallardo was rushed to the emergency room for swelling in her lymph nodes and neck, something she has struggled with for years, but has yet to be diagnosed.

She spent hours alone in the hallway waiting for treatment because there wasn’t a room open for her in the emergency room, she said.

“It’s a different scene with [COVID-19] and everything,” Gallardo said on Dec. 10. “I’ve been in there a few times, but never like that.”

She was given a bed in the hospital later that night and had to stay for four days. Because final exams began on Dec. 10, Gallardo had to study and complete final projects while she was there. 

Gallardo came home feeling better on Dec. 10, ready to sit down and prepare for her last two exams on Dec. 15. She felt confident as she prepared for her exams and looked forward to completing her first semester.

Gallardo plans to stay home to take courses online for the spring semester because the classes she was interested in were offered online. After leaving campus so quickly this semester and watching COVID-19 cases continue rise across the nation, moving back to Main Campus doesn’t feel worth it to her. 

Looking back, Gallardo couldn’t have imagined moving out of 1940 two weeks after she moved in in August or taking her classes from Florida, but she was glad to be almost done with her freshman fall semester.

“Definitely not how I imagined my first semester of college, but I feel like I’ve gotten better with coping and just going with the flow,” she said on Dec. 10. “It’s not like things can change, it is what it is.”

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