COVID-19 Stories: Hansen’s Dairy, Hudson, Iowa: Feeding Our Community during the 2020 Pandemic

This post is part of the COVID-19 Stories: Agriculture, Food, and Rural Stories project. This submission is from Jordan Hansen of Hansen’s Dairy.

We’d love to hear from you! Please visit the COVID-19 Stories webpage for more information about our projects and to participate.

Woman standing next to an open trailer with seats for people to sit in that is attached to a tractor. In the background is a farm with two silos and other farm buildings.
Jordan Hansen. Image provided by Jordan Hansen.

My name is Jordan Hansen, and I’m telling the story of how Hansen’s Dairy, a small dairy farm in Hudson, Iowa, adapted to business changes during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic.

My family’s farm is designated a Heritage Farm, and the land has been in our family since 1864. Dairy cows have been milked here since the 1950s. In the early 2000s, Jay and Jeanne Hansen and their four sons decided to add value to the operation by beginning their own on-farm creamery. The first gallon of milk was produced and sold to the public in 2004. Our product line now includes milk, butter, heavy cream, cheese curds, ice cream, egg nog, and beef. We opened two retail stores, Hansen’s Dairy Waterloo (2006) and Hansen’s Dairy Cedar Falls (2007), where we sell our own products plus a variety of food and goods from other local farmers and entrepreneurs. We also offer farm tours, where we teach visitors how milk gets from the cow to their table. In 2019, we welcomed 9,100 visitors, a record high.

Farm with silos and farm buildings surrounded by empty fields form the background and middle-ground. In the foreground is a sign reading "Hansen's Dairy Tour Center" and a tractor pulling a trailer loaded with people in seats.
Hansen Dairy Tour. Image provided by Jordan Hansen.

In 2020, that will look very different.

Mid-March was very unsettling as COVID-19 became the main news story. The World Health Organization declared the virus a pandemic on Wednesday, March 11; I knew things were serious when the NBA and NCAA suspended their basketball seasons on March 12. States began to lock down and shelter in place. That weekend, people all over the country began hoarding groceries.

Gallon-sized milk cartons being filled and capped by factory machinery. Cartons have label indicating Hansen's Dairy skim milk.
Hansen Skim Milk. Image provided by Jordan Hansen.

While Hansen’s Dairy milk is available at Fareway and Hy-Vee grocery stores in the Cedar Valley, people were quickly finding that panic buying left dairy shelves empty in those stores. That led to customers either rediscovering or visiting our stores for the first time, looking for milk. We enjoyed a surge in demand for our milk as people stocked up on essentials. Being that our business is vertically integrated — and the cows don’t stop producing — we were able to keep processing milk and distributing it without issue. Things were chugging along.

A week later, things had ground to a halt. By March 17, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds had ordered bars and restaurants to close. Being that we supply dairy products to restaurants and coffee shops, that part of our business began to see reduced demand. Eateries had to decide if they would continue to stay open with carry-out and delivery only, or temporarily shut down. Schools in Iowa also closed.

As unemployment soared, so did the need for food assistance. Unfortunately, this was also about the time that word spread across the country that some dairy farmers had to dump their milk and fruit/vegetable growers had to plow under perfectly good produce because there was no way to get it to consumers. There were two primary reasons for this break in the distribution chain:

  • Production employees couldn’t — or wouldn’t — work due to a virus outbreak or fear of outbreak.
  • Processing plants who typically supply restaurants and schools suddenly had no buyers for their end product and couldn’t easily change their production capabilities to retail sales.

Most of the time people don’t think about the path food travels to get to their table. The ability to get food from the farmer to the American consumer has become so consolidated, streamlined and efficient that it’s usually taken for granted. But when there’s a crack in that process, things also go downhill quickly. Suddenly, Americans were seeing how interconnected the food system is, and how a broken link in the chain has a rippling effect. Plants that typically supply schools or the food service industry package foods differently than they would for retail sale. These specialized production lines are tweaked and calibrated for maximum efficiency. They can’t just flip a switch and change their packaging and distribution to go to retail buyers instead of commercial buyers. Who wants 5 pound bags of mozzarella cheese, 8 oz cardboard cartons of milk, or individual pats of butter in their homes?

Here at Hansen’s Dairy, we feel fortunate that we process our own dairy products and have an established history and loyalty with our customers. Our plant is diversified enough that while our restaurant demand diminished a bit, we were able to put more products on the retail shelves and accommodate a different demand. Sometimes a small producer has an advantage over large-scale facilities — the ability to adapt quickly.

Another way we quickly improved our services was to offer online purchasing through our stores. Since we sell groceries, we were able to stay open as essential businesses. But as people became hesitant to venture out of their homes, we wanted to provide online grocery delivery and curbside pickup options. We were able to get our 200-plus items online and offer these services at both stores by March 30.

Meanwhile, our tour season would have opened April 1, but people were not permitted to gather in groups, so we delayed the opening until June 1.

A person wearing a face mask stands in the back of a delivery truck and hands a gallon carton of milk and another product to another person standing on the ground who is also wearing a face mask. The truck appears to be in a parking lot within a town.
Truck sale. Image provided by Jordan Hansen.

As quarantine measures ramped up and people were being told to “just stay home,” we had another idea. Instead of customers coming to us, why not go to them? We decided to take our delivery truck to small towns in the area and sell groceries off the truck. We sold all of our dairy products and beef, plus eggs, ground chicken, potatoes, onions and yogurt from other local producers. We parked in a large parking lot in each town and used a drive-through format, allowing customers to stay in their cars and pay via credit card for a contactless experience. We wore masks and gloves, as did many of the customers who pulled up. The benefits of these events went both ways: The sales would provide additional income to make up for the tours we weren’t allowed to host, and customers would have a convenient, safe way to get some of those perishable essentials between larger grocery trips. The small towns and neighborhoods we visited — Grundy Center, New Hartford, Wellsburg, Jesup, Dike, Buckingham and Sunnyside Country Club in Waterloo — were very appreciative, and the community exposure rejuvenated interest in our brand.

I believe this pandemic was an eye opener to consumers, and hopefully people are now better able to connect the dots between the farmer and their table. ​When COVID-19 becomes a distant memory, I hope people will remember how we small producers rose to the occasion. When the large meatpacking plants shut down and meat became more scarce, people went to small hog and cattle farmers to inquire about buying directly from them. The pandemic illustrated that while the U.S. has one of the most efficient food systems in the world, problems can arise faster and hit harder when large, consolidated plants fail. They certainly have their place in feeding the world, but I hope people remember that during the pandemic, we small producers were out there feeding our neighbors.

Family portrait of 3 generations wearing color coordinated Hansen’s Dairy t-shirts showing nuclear families. In the center at the back are a man and woman (grandparents) with their adult children and spouses on either side. Seated in front are 16 children.
Hansen family 2018. Image provided by Jordan Hansen.

Announcing COVID-19 Stories Project

What began in March as an activity for library student employees to record their experiences with COVID-19 has expanded into a project with a much broader scope. Special Collections and University Archives (SCUA) is inviting not only the ISU community, but also folks throughout Iowa and the Midwest, to participate in COVID-19 Stories, a group of projects that ask people to record their experiences with the pandemic on specific topic areas:

  • ISU Stories: Open to the entire ISU community, this project seeks to record how faculty, students, staff, alumni, and others are responding to and dealing with the effects of COVID-19.
  • Agriculture, Food, and Rural Stories: Open to the broader community, these projects focus on the effects of COVID-19 on rural and small-town life, people’s relations to agriculture and local food systems, and cooking during the pandemic.
  • Chronicling Race and Ethnicity During COVID-19: Open to the broader community, this project seeks to record the experiences of communities of color that have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19, and/or have experienced harassment and stigmatization.

Stories can take a many forms, such a journal, notes, essays, photographs, or creative works. They can be submitted digitally or physically. If you need inspiration for what to record, prompts are given on the website.

Black and white photo of a large gym acting as a hospital ward. Beds with patients fill the entire space in six rows. Cloth barriers are set up between each bed. Nurses and men in uniform wearing masks across their nose and mouth stand throughout the room.
State Gym converted into a hospital ward during the 1918 influenza pandemic.

The COVID-19 pandemic is a significant historic moment. Just as today historians look back to see how the University responded to the 1918 flu pandemic, so researchers in the future will want to know how students, faculty, and staff, as well as alumni, are handling the challenges of this historical moment. ISU Stories helps to add these current narratives to the University Archives.

Text reads: Serving Our Community. East Poweshiek Ambulance Service. Community Cookbook, Brooklyn, Iowa. Call 911 for Emergency. Images include a bald eagle in front of an American flag, a 9-1-1 graphic, a caduceus symbol, a red cross, and an ambulance.
Cover of the East Poweshiek Ambulance Service community cookbook. Call number TX715.2 M53 E27x 2002.

The Agriculture, Food, and Rural Stories project includes three components, and participants can engage with one or more of these:  Rural and Small-Town Life, Gardening and Local Food Systems, and Cooking During COVID-19. These aspects of the project correspond to the some of the existing strengths in the Agriculture and Rural Life area of Special Collections. The cooking component also ties in with the Iowa Cookbook Collection, which gathers together community cookbooks from around Iowa. We know many people are doing “quarantine baking,” trying new recipes or sticking to old favorites, and adapting recipes when staples are not available on grocery store shelves. We hope that many of you will capture your experiences in these areas and donate to the COVID-19 Stories project.

Across the country, communities of color have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19, as Black, Latinx, Asian, and American Indian individuals make up a significantly higher proportion of confirmed cases of and deaths from COVID-19 compared to their percentage of the population. Additionally, Asian Americans have experienced harassment and xenophobia in relation to the pandemic. Here in Iowa, a high percentage of the Latinx community has been exposed to the virus as the result of negligent labor practices in meatpacking and meat processing plants throughout the state. The inclusion of these stories in archives is  critical to keeping an accurate historical record of this period. Historically, and still today, institutional archives such as this one have routinely failed to adequately include the perspectives of people from a range of marginalized groups. The Chronicling Race and Ethnicity During COVID-19 project is a step towards rectifying this. If you are a person of color living in Iowa or the Midwest, we welcome your stories of your experiences during COVID-19. If your stories include sensitive content, we are more than happy to work with you to determine an appropriate amount of time to keep your story restricted (not available or advertised to the public) until it is safe to release it. We also welcome feedback and suggestions for ways to make this project more inclusive and welcoming.

For more information, please check out the COVID-19 Stories webpage. Please send any questions or comments to archives@iastate.edu.

CEAH partnership

As part of our #COVID-19 Stories Project we’re happy to announce a partnership with the Center for Excellence in the Arts & Humanities (CEAH) to archive faculty responses to the pandemic. CEAH is offering mini grants of up to $250 to faculty to create a local record of their experiences during these trying times. We will work with Digital Initiatives to preserve and provide access to these narratives in the ISU Digital Repository. Read more on the CEAH funding site.

For more info about our COVID-19 Stories Project visit: https://specialcollections.lib.iastate.edu/about/projects/covid-19.

Out of the Office but Still on the Job

Daniel Hartwig, Head of SCUA

These are challenging times for us all. They require us to revisit our priorities, rethink how we do things, and envision new possibilities. We in SCUA would therefore like to provide an update on how we are meeting the teaching and research needs at ISU and beyond in our remote environment. First and foremost, we continue to provide reference and research assistance, as well as support for courses and student projects. Part of that support includes select digitization of collection materials. Thanks to our capable staff, as well as staff in Preservation, we are proceeding with remote digitization projects in support of high priority reference, teaching, and research requests. Included amongst these digitization projects are ISU lectures, publications, and theses, as well as oral histories and photographs.

Second, we are utilizing this opportunity to greatly enhance the accessibility of our collections through crowdsourced transcription, translation, OCR clean-up, and audiovisual captioning. ISU students are engaged in transcribing The Bomb—ISU’s yearbook (1893-1994), as well as captioning oral histories and sharing their stories about the COVID-19 crisis. Library staff are helping us transcribe, translate, and clean up OCR for more than forty SCUA collections via From The Page. Initial collections we have made available include: Iowa seed Catalogs, Curtiss-Wright Engineering Cadettes, We are ISU—Snapshots of Student Life, and Iowa State Parks. Once, these collections are completed, we’ll roll out the next batch for user contributions. Staff are also helping us caption oral histories and audiovisual recordings for use in Aviary, a platform for syncing audio and text.

Third, to document these historic times, we are engaging the ISU community in a collaborative project to share their experiences as part of ISU COVID-19 Stories Project. Every member of the ISU family is encouraged to share their story through written accounts, audio or video recordings, photographs, artwork, and/or oral histories. Visit the site for more information, to submit content, or sign up to be interviewed for an oral history.

We thank you for your patience and welcome your thoughts and ideas to help us all work together better during this crisis and in the future.

Matt Schuler, Stacks Manager

I have been working on opening up a range in the Library Storage Building (LSB) by removing the beat-up overstock Bomb yearbooks.  Also, have been working through and proofing the Lectures Committee collection, which has so many errors, I can’t even describe them all.  I also had a sizeable stack of materials to file into LSB collections, along with a couple boxes of “to-be-filed” things already in our processing room.

Olivia Garrison, Reference Coordinator

I have been getting more reference questions than I was expecting, and I’m very grateful for that! I love being able to help people find useful information.  Of course, there are struggles and frustrations that come with trying to do this in a remote environment, but we’re actively trying to get more items digitized so we can be as helpful as possible for our patrons!  Please feel free to keep sending your questions to archives@iastate.edu. We may not be able to answer your question right away, but I’m keeping track for when we’re back in our department with our beloved materials.

Rachael Acheson, Assistant University Archivist

I have been attempting to pivot on a few projects that may or may not end up in the form for which they were originally conceived. I had been looking forward to presenting on my first panel at the Midwest Archives Conference Annual Meeting, slated for May in Des Moines. But this, like many other professional conferences this summer, was cancelled, so my group is looking at a few alternative routes for sharing the presentations. Similarly, I have been working with Amy Bishop to develop both concepts and contingent alternative avenues for sharing SCUA’s Fall 2020 exhibit. I have also been helping out with the departmental project on collecting campus community COVID-19 experiences, communicating with current and potential student donors, participating in the newly-online version of our DEI committee’s annual book club (reading and writing short essays on How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi), developing outreach programs for next school year, and organizing some back-end clean-up for our web archiving system, Archive-It.

Laptop and tablet in background, grey cat sleeping on laptop.
Image courtesy of Rachael Acheson.

Rosalie Gartner, Lead Processing Archivist

Like the rest of the department, I started working from home full time on March 18. Thankfully, a lot of my job can be done remotely, so even though I won’t be able to do as much as usual I’m still working to make as many of our collections accessible as possible.

I’ve been working to update our existing processing procedures, as well as continuing work on developing our digital processing procedures. I’ve also been working with my colleagues to make as much of our digital records available as possible, which is something we can all do from home. We’re also taking this time to update and improve our descriptions, which is something that often gets overlooked.

Work continues on with the same basic goals, the view from the office is just a little different these days.

Little black dog on green lawn, trees in background, bringing back stick.
Image courtesy of Rosalie Gartner.

Amy Bishop, Rare Books and Manuscripts Archivist

I am the Rare Books and Manuscripts Archivist. What does this mean? One, my job involves bringing in collections materials, interpreting them, and managing their care. Two, the collections I work with document entities other than the university. In spite of working with largely physical collections that I cannot access right now, there is a lot of work that I can do from home!

Amy at her home office. It is nice to have windows for daydreaming breaks. Image courtesy of Amy Bishop.

Given the historical nature of the current COVID-19 crisis, I’ve been putting together a documentation project to capture how the crisis is affecting the communities relevant to our collecting areas—rural areas and small towns, agriculture and food systems, and cooking during quarantine. Look for more information about this in a future blog post from me. Besides that, there are plenty of back burner projects that have suddenly come into their own. Here are a few examples: Finalizing metadata guidelines for websites captured in our Web Archives; reviewing finding aids for recently processed archival collections; reviewing existing collections to identify which organizational donors I should follow up with for additional donations of material. All that to say that, although I am at home, I’m still working to be sure that we are continuing to document and provide access to collections that are of interest to researchers!

Color coded columns representing steps in workflow.
Kanban board for finding aid review workflow. Red arrow indicates Amy’s ever-growing list of finding aids to review. Image courtesy of Amy Bishop.

Carson, Processing Archivist

Moving out of the office and into my living room has certainly been an adjustment—unfortunately, I don’t have any amusing or adorable new “coworkers” to talk about, but I do have a succulent slowly growing toward the plant light.

 

What does processing look like when you’re working remotely? Well, some of it looks like this.

 

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The collaborative parts of my job haven’t stopped, they’ve just moved: being on a call with a colleague while we both edit a document, for instance, or discussing how to link digital records to physical collections in the finding aids. Connectivity is more important (and network sketchiness more of a hassle) than ever while we’re geographically dispersed, and being away from the stacks and collections is certainly focusing my attention on our digital resources.

Greg Bailey, University Archivist

Since starting to work from home on March 17th , I have been engaged in a few projects. I am working with colleagues to clean up our internal electronic files as we are migrating to a new system. I have been surveying University Archives collections to identify areas that need expansion. Finally, I am overseeing the “Tell Your Story” project that documents Library student workers experiences during the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Kahlee Leingang, Processing Archivist

As a processing archivist, a large portion of my job depends on access to physical collections. Since that is not possible at the moment, I have been writing the description for finding aids and editing old finding aids. To increase the accessibility of collections, I am working on adding digital records to finding aids so that researchers are able to access a small portion of our materials remotely. I have also been working with Carson and Rosalie to write documentation and procedures for accepting and processing born-digital records.

Rachel Seale, Outreach Archivist

I have a lot of variety in my work and it was hard to focus at first. Now that we are about 7 weeks in on working from home, I have figured out I just need to schedule out my day in 2 hour chunks between meetings. This allows me to concentrate on my to do list instead of hopping around it and feeling like I’m not getting anything done. I have been attending a lot of webinars, group meetings, and online presentations. Many of these have been hosted by groups, such as Society of American Archivists or the Rare Books and Manuscripts Section of the Association of College and Research Libraries, a division of the American Library Association, and are centered around how to teach about primary sources online or  how to continue to serve our community and researchers while we are separated from our collections. It is helpful to see how our colleagues around the world are dealing with this crisis and it gives me ideas on how to provide instruction and programming related to our collections.

I have also been editing an ebook that should be out in the library’s digital press next month — Cardinal Tales: Highlights from 2018.  It’s a compilation of blog posts from SCUA’s blog in 2018 that best demonstrate the work we were doing that year. I’ve been reviewing current research guides created by our department and putting together new content that will reflect how SCUA can assist with instruction and research online. Most of our research assistance and instruction has been in person but we are refocusing how we can best serve our community during this pandemic.

My home office is a mess, but it works. I have taken over my coffee table and take different seats around my living room depending on how I feel that day and what I’m working on.

 

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The constants in my day are my demanding pets who refuse to practice social distancing and want to join in on my video chats. They do remind me when I need to get up and move and I appreciate that. I have also added plants to my space. Now that I’m home so much, I could see that my apartment really needed plants. And more art on the walls. And a map of the world. But — plants first.

Before You Donate: A Few Quick Tips on Caring for Your Heirlooms at Home

Preservation Month begins in May, but I wanted to get a head start on sharing some basic, practical tips-and-tricks on caring for your family heirlooms at home (or prepping your papers for archival donation!), as I know that many of us who are stuck inside have turned to organizing and de-cluttering. Believe it or not, there is a lot you can do from home to get your treasures ready for future donation to the archives and/or generally ensure that they survive long enough to wow your great-grandkids.

1. Inventory

The best starting point, even for a private collection that you have no thought of donating, is always to create some kind of written inventory. SCUA has a template Excel spreadsheet for this purpose linked from our Donation and Transfer Guidelines webpage. But even a handwritten list is better than nothing. It’s hard to make plans for what goes where if you’re not entirely sure what you have, or where it is now. Or what format it’s in: for example, if you actually have a physical copy of that photograph of Great-Aunt Lucy that you remember seeing around here somewhere, or if you only have a low-resolution .jpeg of it that you snapped on your flip phone ten years ago at your cousin’s house and then stored on an unlabeled CD-ROM. If you know, you won’t have to guess.

InventorySpreadsheetScreenshot
Screenshot of the ISU Donation of Materials Inventory Form

 

2. Document the Context

We’ve all been at one of those family gatherings where someone brings out a photo album and spends 15 minutes narrating each image, trying to remember if that kid in the glasses is their niece’s friend’s ex-boyfriend or adopted brother, or whether that portrait behind the old barn was taken before or after they renovated the inside. You may know why each you kept each one of your photographs, and where and when they were taken, or who the people are in them. You may know that that old restaurant menu in your bureau drawer was from the night your husband proposed to you. But would your friends know any of this? Your grandchildren? The stranger who processes your papers in the archives a decade or so after your death? If you want your papers, your family heirlooms, your collection of bobble-headed cartoon characters to carry any real meaning in the future, when you may or may not be there to explain their significance, you have to record the who, what, when, where, and why of items — particularly images — that cannot speak for themselves.

RS2107147b001i003_pg from Lorris Foster scrapbook
RS 21/7/147. Page from the scrapbook of Lorris Ann Foster.

 

3. Improve Your Items’ Immediate Environment

Advice for this point will depend a lot on what you have and what shape it’s in. If in doubt, or if you have specific questions about unusual artifacts, you should get in touch with Sonya Barron (sbarron@iastate.edu) from our library Preservation department, and she will be able to provide more expert guidance. Here are some very general tips, though:

a. Dark, Dry, Cold

There’s a lot we could unpack around this recommendation, and the Library of Congress and other resources document more details. But, generally speaking, you want any storage location you select to meet all three of these specifications the majority of the time. A dark, dry, and cold(er) environment, if also free of more obvious contaminants like mold or bugs, will make your paper, film, and other historical documents happier than pretty much anything else. Aligning your storage environment with this “DDC Rule” (a term I just made up, but which should totally catch on) may mean something as simple as draping a curtain over that bookcase that gets a full blast of sunlight from a southern-facing window, or installing a shelf in your basement so you can raise boxes off of a floor that sometimes floods. It may, however, also mean reckoning with the need to take your photos off the wall and replace them with scanned replicas (because the originals will fade over time with light exposure) or with the reality that a rented storage unit might suit your particular collection better than your attic or garage.

b. No More Mr. Clippy

A lot of people don’t realize that most common, everyday office supplies and/or packing materials actually harm documents and artifacts in the longrun more than they protect them. Anything metal (paperclips, binder clips, three-ring binders) will rust within a few decades and either transfer that rust to the paper or else stick to the paper so that a document cannot be handled without tearing. And don’t even get me started on rubber bands. These dry out after a few years and can stick to the surface of whatever they are holding together, and in general become incredibly gross. In short, processing archivists of the future will bless you if you take the time to remove and replace these sorts of things now.

If you need to hold documents together, it’s best to use plastic clips (aka Plastiklips, which are standard in most professional archives), but you can also substitute stainless steel staples or coated paper clips if this is impossible.

office supplies
Some office supplies in my work-from-home workspace. Not for long-term use!

c. Wash Your Hands!

And, no, not only because you are trying to flatten the coronavirus curve (though that’s a good reason, too). When you are handling your documents, photos, or artifacts, your hands become part of these materials’ immediate environment. Clean AND dry hands are the best way to go. Obviously, this means no jam-hands, but it also means no lotion or hand sanitizer right before you work with your collections.

In addition to minimizing exposure to dirt or moisture, you’ll also want to be mindful about anything that could leave a permanent mark on your treasures. Save snack time and happy hour for after your sorting session, and only use pencil or electronics in that vicinity (as opposed to pens, markers, highlighters, etc.).

 

And that’s all for now! If you have more questions, feel free to contact the archives at archives@iastate.edu. We’re all social distancing at the moment, just like you are. But we are still here to help.

ISU Stories – Kaelyn Swetala

I feel like the coronavirus was on my radar earlier than most people, at least in the US. I knew people who had been in Wuhan, China over the summer and I, personally, had gone to Vietnam during that time. I made friends there and I had seen some of their experiences before it occurred here in America. When I first heard about it, though, I was confused. My parents own a dog daycare and they have required shots that dogs need to have before coming in. One of them is for a version of the coronavirus, also known as kennel cough.

I can remember a phone call with my parents around the beginning of January. They mentioned the coronavirus and said they weren’t sure why, but they were more concerned about this disease than others they’ve heard on the news in the past. They weren’t necessarily worried, they were just more aware of it. I am a part of an organization called International Friendship Connection, so after this call, I talked to my friends in this group. There are a few people from China in that group and others from different Asian countries. I talked with them over the course of January and February about their families at home and how they’ve been affected. Most of their families have been safe, even up until now, so that has been good news.

I was also planning on going to China this summer for a research internship. That was the first thing to get canceled. This happened before the coronavirus really hit America. I was already missing out on experiences before people here really understood what was going on.

Then it came to America. It had seemed like we were going to be fine for a little bit and then all of a sudden we were not. I kept hearing about more and more cases in the US. Suddenly it was all anyone ever talked about. I got really tired of talking about it. I still hadn’t known anyone personally affected by the disease and I had seen a lot of different information on the low death rates. Even though I knew there was a high infection rate because of the incubation period, I thought the reaction was a little over the top. I didn’t understand the point of flattening the curve at first, but I soon learned its importance.

When I first heard the news of schools being cancelled, I was in disbelief. I wasn’t aware at the time that my Vietnamese friends had already had their schools cancelled for a month at that point. I thought it was crazy that our university would go online for two weeks. It blew my mind that other schools were already doing that for the rest of the semester. As I thought about it more, I realized it would probably happen with our school too.

I think it finally hit me when my spring break trip was cancelled. I was going on a roadtrip to CA with people who had been living in Ames (there were no confirmed cases in Ames at that point) and we would be camping outdoors for the trip. That was such a low-risk trip compared to how spring break could be. But it was through the school, and they made their decision. They really

held out on giving us that verdict, though. I didn’t find out until 2 days before it was cancelled. That’s when I started realizing how serious it might be. I decided to go to Indiana with some friends just to do something rather than nothing for the break. Every day on that trip, I was learning about more closures and developments. We even had tocome home early because we heard Illinois might be closing its borders.

I made the decision to bring my plants home from my college apartment when I went back to Minnesota for the rest of spring break. I also brought all of my clothes home and my more important items. I’m glad I did becauselater I found out school would be online for the rest of the semester. I haven’t been back to Ames since spring break. I still have a lot of things I left behind and will need to get at some point.

The things I miss the most are the clubs I’m a part of. I am very involved in campus life and it’s been hard not being able to do them, especially because I’ve been doing most of them since Freshman year. I choreographed a dance for Orchesis II and the show got cancelled. I can redo it next semester, but all of my dancers were graduating seniors except for 2. It won’t be the same. I have continued to keep contact with people on Zoom calls, but that’s still not the same.

Now, I’m finally adjusting to working at my parent’s home. I tend to have the “it’s just a break” attitude because I’m only ever home when I’m on a break. Classes haven’t been too terrible online, but it’s hard to concentrate when you have a dog jumping on your laptop and your family is having fun while you need to work.

It’s also hard to do labs. The best part of labs are putting theories into practice and now all I do is watch videos of it and do technical report write-ups. I chose mechanical engineering because it was more hands-on, so this has been a bit of a letdown. My professors and TAs are doing the best they can, however, and I am grateful for the chance to complete them this semester. I already am graduating a semester later due to a co-op. It would be such a bummer to have to push it back even farther. I never thought I would say this, but I am glad that I didn’t graduate this semester. I would’ve missed out on a lot of last moments as a college student and I wouldn’t be able to walk for my graduation ceremony.

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