When Mississippi State University students packed their bags and left Starkville for spring break a few weeks ago, they did not know they would not be coming back.
"I'm sad that I didn't get to say goodbye to some of my senior friends and some of my friends in general for the summer," said Kelly Kramlich, a junior marketing major from Atlanta, Georgia.
While many students were disappointed they would not be able to see their friends or return to MSU for the semester, they agreed the university made the decision it needed to.
"I do think that Mississippi State did make the right choice in having classes online to better protect the health of all the students and prevent the spread that's been happening," Kramlich said.
Mollie Adams, a sophomore social work major from Madison, Mississippi, was in Portugal for a mission trip with First Baptist Church Starkville over spring break. When Trump announced the European travel ban, Adams said she was awakened in the middle of the night by her phone blowing up with texts and calls from family and friends.
"It was scary, but for some reason, I felt like we were guaranteed going to get home before Friday," Adams said. "Then the next day Trump clarified — if you're a citizen you can still return, you just have to go through a screening."
Adams said that, while they were very grateful to have made it back to American soil, the traveling and screening process was long and arduous.
"Saturday was the first day the CDC started screening," Adams said. "Two planes ahead of us had to go off row by row to get screened."
Adams said while they were in Portugal, the country had a very low number of cases and everyone there was very calm, so in comparison, it seemed like a lot of people in the United States were panicking.
"Whenever I was in Portugal, I thought that it was an overreaction, but now that I'm back and seeing how it's spreading, I think that's a really smart thing to do. And with things like this, I think it is better to air on the side of caution," Adams said.
Adams said she is very disappointed that she will not get to see her friends and participate in campus groups she is involved in.
"All campus organizations are done, I'm pretty sure, which really sucks. I'm on New Maroon Camp and don't know what that's going to look like for the rest of the semester," Adams said.
One of the groups of students most uniquely affected by all of the changes and cancellations is this year's senior class. Joshua Hopkins, a senior computer engineering major from Meridian, Mississippi, said he was disappointed he would not get to graduate in a traditional ceremony or say goodbye to some of his friends.
"It sucks. I really wanted to because you know you work hard for four years, and then, you want a celebration or something to commemorate it. And you can't do that now, and it's kind of a goodbye to your friends. You don't get that anymore," Hopkins said.
On the other hand, Hopkins emphasized that, while the class of 2020 may not get the traditional graduation ceremony, no one can take away their years of hard work.
"At least you get to graduate. It may not be the ending you want, but we all had a good four years," Josh said.
The university announced on March 17 that it would be conducting classes via online methods for the remainder of the semester. Kramlich said while she does not have much experience with online classes and prefers in-person instruction, she is hopeful that teachers will work with students to help them succeed during this time.
"I'm just a huge person for in-face communication and just for learning that way, and so I feel like one of my harder classes, called financial management, may be a little difficult. But I do think that teachers should be more available and hopefully easy to answer questions, and I think, as long as I set a time each day and get stuff done and really study and plan it all out that it will be feasible," Kramlich said.
Even with all the sudden life changes, students are adapting quickly and finding positives in their new normal.
"It's okay; we've gotta make the best out of it," Kramlich said, who celebrated her birthday on March 19 at home with a few people and take-out, rather than in Starkville with friends as she had originally planned.
Kramlich said the extra time that comes from social distancing can be beneficial.
"Use this time to learn something new. Whether that's a new hobby or a new skill or even just enjoying time getting to know yourself, I think maybe this is a way the world is telling us to slow down because we're all just so busy all the time," Kramlich said.
Adams agreed, urging fellow students to stay productive, but she also emphasized taking this time to rest.
"It's just a time to rest and do things that you don't get to do whenever you're in class. It sucks, but at the same time, there are ways to make the most of it," Adams said.