Home: Jupiter, a claustrophobic isolation

In this week's Home column, Sofia Paura explains how isolation in Florida during COVID-19 can feel "like a prison." (Submitted: Sofia Paura)

Jupiter. Who knew that a place named after a giant planet would feel so small and claustrophobic?

In Jupiter, Florida where I now live with my family, there’s no place to go. When I am not studying, I work out, watch TV or spend time with my family. We eat together. We share the same space all day. We face this together, but at the same time, we face this alone. 

Sometimes it feels like a prison. 

I don’t see other people. I don’t have social interactions outside of my family. I don’t go anywhere. I can’t go anywhere. I miss coffee shops, libraries and the university campus.  

Sometimes all you can do is stare at the fan and stare at the wall. Stare. 

It just happened that I had to come to a place where I only know my family. My family moved from Brazil to the United States after my first year of university, so I never stayed here this long. I would come for Christmas, but I’d never stay long enough to make friends.

Don’t get me wrong, it is a blessing we are all together during these weird times. We play board games together, we cook together and we are together when millions of people are apart. 

But that doesn’t change the fact that people are dying and that going outside, especially here in Florida, means risking the health and safety of the people I care about. So, I stay inside. We stay inside.

Staying inside is hard. Being let go of work is hard. Moving back with your family is an adaptation. Having nothing more to do than study and watch Netflix by yourself is hard. 

Sofia Paura explains how online classes during COVID-19 don’t make the pandemic less painful. (Submitted: Sofia Paura)

COVID is painful. Surviving it is too and online classes are not helping. Here I am, sharing a living room with two siblings but not sharing moments with them at all. Each of us has their own pair of headphones, their own online learning to worry about, their own assignments to write, their own bubble to live in. Online learning feels like a bubble inside a bubble and I can’t stop myself from wondering if this is worth it. 

Is this really how I want my fourth year to play out? How I want to finish my degree? 

By going back and forth between Moodle pages and Word documents? By staring at my email inbox filling with Moodle notifications I am not going to read? By finishing an assignment just to start another without even stopping to think if I am actually learning something? 

So, I stare into the screen. Feeling I’m not really at St. Thomas, not really even in Jupiter. Just drifting through a universe of pixels and fearing I’m not heading anywhere.