Students adjust to life in locked-down Manhattan

Aggieville shines with rain in the morning. (Abigail Compton | Collegian Media Group)

These days, Manhattan is a “ghost town.”

At least this is how it feels to Jaymes Patterson, junior in management information systems.

“Everyone is pretty much gone,” Patterson said.

Though Kansas State cancelled in-person classes after spring break in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, many students like Patterson have chosen to stay in their Manhattan homes during this time of isolation.

Lilly Schmitz, senior in biological systems engineering, described a similar emptiness to the town.

“Manhattan seems quiet,” Schmitz said. “At first, it was similar to the way it is in the summer, but now it’s far less busy than that.”

Schmitz, who is living in a house with five other roommates, said concern for her parents was the main factor that led her to stay in Manhattan.

“My parents are at a higher risk than I am for COVID-19, and I was already in Manhattan at the end of spring break,” Schmitz said. “I didn’t want to risk bringing something home, especially since some people in my house had traveled recently.”

Patterson said his choice to stay in Manhattan with his three roommates was the best thing for both his finances and his health.

“I’m still going to have to pay for my apartment, so I might as well use it,” Patterson said. “And home is back in Topeka and Kansas City, both of which are more population-dense, so I’m more likely to get infected there.”

Rent was also a consideration for Luke Rupp, junior in mass communications. Rupp said he is currently isolating in Manhattan with four other roommates.

“Since I’m paying rent for this house, I might as well be living in it,” Rupp said.

Riley County issued a stay-at-home order on March 29 prohibiting public gatherings and closing nonessential businesses, but students in Manhattan are still finding ways to get out of the house safely.

For Schmitz, going on long walks outside provides a nice, though temporary, escape from the house.

“I’ve gotten to do a little more exploring lately,” she said.

Rupp said he spends a lot of his newfound free time long boarding around town and playing disc golf. Having roommates also helps curb feelings of isolation.

While Rupp and Schmitz said they’re both limiting their interactions to those in their own homes, Patterson said he does often visit friends from one other house.

“I can’t go to work any more, so I have nothing to do besides school work, play games and visit friends.”

Though campus is currently closed, K-State classes are still in session online. Patterson said listening to his professors through a computer has been difficult so far.

“It’s so easy to be distracted and do anything else besides pay attention to lectures,” Patterson said. “I definitely prefer being in-person.”

Rupp said that while the transition to online courses wasn’t as bad as he expected, he hopes classes can be held in-person again soon.

“Communications is a lot tougher with online classes,” Rupp said. “It’s also weird not being able to ask my professor any questions during class.”

Schmitz agreed with Patterson and Rupp that the transition to online courses has been a tough one.

“It is very hard to be motivated when I just can’t leave my home,” Schmitz said. “I did most of my school work on campus before.”

For many people staying at home, one silver lining has been having time to pick up new hobbies.

Rupp recently started learning the piano.

“I’ve got ‘Hot Cross Buns’ on lock,” he said.

For others, stay-at-home orders across cities and states have served as a reminder to appreciate time spent with friends and family.

“Because I have roommates, I can still be isolated with friends that I love,” Schmitz said. “These are weird times, but it’s been super sweet to have people to go through it with.”

According to K-State’s COVID-19 updates page, the school plans to continue with remote classes and limited operations through the end of the spring semester, and for the time being, Manhattan residents remain under a stay-at-home order.