Sophomore Justin Selva stands on the beach in Malibu. Selva said he chose to move back to the area for the remote semester because he still wanted to experience being a college student. Photo courtesy of Justin Selva
When Pepperdine announced it would conduct the fall 2020 semester entirely online, about 200 students chose to move back to the Malibu area to live off campus for the school year. Many of these students came from states where COVID-19 regulations and the public perception of the pandemic differ from what they see in Southern California and had to adjust to new conditions since their move back to the area.
Some of the new conditions students adjusted to were the inability to eat inside restaurants, navigating safe hangouts with friends in the area and having the freedom to choose whether to go out and risk exposure.
“It’s nice to be back,” sophomore Justin Selva said. “It’s so different from Texas.”
Selva moved out of his home in San Antonio, Texas, and into an apartment in the Simi Valley in August. He said in San Antonio, businesses were beginning to reopen when COVID-19 case numbers began rising in late July.
“Toward the end, as I was about to leave, it was getting worse,” Selva said. “Restaurants were shutting down and things were closed. People were picking up their groceries curbside and not really even going into the grocery store.”
Before this second wave of cases hit San Antonio, Selva said he and his hometown friends would go out and do typical activities, provided they follow the typical guidelines of wearing a mask and social distancing.
“Places were open, but it was kind of a do-it-at-your-own-risk situation,” Selva said.
Selva said he chose to live in Ventura County because case numbers there were fewer than in LA County, and after seeing how bad cases got at home, he wanted to be in as safe a place as possible. He said the closer he is to LA, the more he sees people following the rules — but in the Simi Valley, people often disregard regulations.
“It honestly just depends on where you go if people are taking it seriously enough to actually wear their masks,” Selva said.
Though the general health guidelines are about the same between Southern California and San Antonio, Selva said the hardest adjustment he’s made with his move back to the area is the noticeable lack of indoor dining options.
“There haven’t been any restaurants I’ve seen in my area, or anywhere in California so far, where you can go and actually sit down inside, enjoy your meal and see other people,” Selva said.
Senior Jolie Lowe also said being unable to eat inside a restaurant was an adjustment for her after spending the summer working as a waitress in her hometown of Hillsboro, Ore. She said she has, however, enjoyed seeing people in California cooperating with mask regulations.
“I work at a restaurant in Oregon, and we would often have people come in and get upset with us for telling them they have to put on a mask,” Lowe said. “I’ve seen less people down here with no masks, and I haven’t seen people get into arguments with workers or anything in the way I was seeing regularly at home.”
Lowe moved into her Malibu apartment in August, and she said it’s hard to tell whether COVID-19 regulations were stricter at home or if people were more intentional about following guidelines in Oregon.
“My mom and I drove down together to Malibu, and we were surprised by the number of people who were out in public areas doing stuff because it’s still pretty quiet in Oregon,” Lowe said.
Since being back in Malibu, Lowe said she’s done several socially distanced hangouts with friends and roommates. She also reminds herself of the severity of the disease and is careful with whom she chooses to interact with so she doesn’t unintentionally infect others.
Both Lowe and Selva said now that they moved back to California, they have seen more people than they did at home, potentially exposing themselves to COVID-19 while hanging out with friends or going to the grocery store. Selva said it’s nice, however, for him to determine his outings rather than his parents.
“I’m by myself, so I make the decision whether I want to go out and risk it by going to the store,” Selva said. “Back home, the rules were a little different because I was with my parents who didn’t want me to go out. They were the ones who were leaving to do stuff.”
Though Selva has seen people refusing to follow rules in both California and Texas, he said he believes it is important for everyone to do their part in stopping the spread of the disease.
“I [follow guidelines] for the safety of others and to be respectable and a good person,” Selva said.
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