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Quarantine Diaries: Tales from two long weeks of law school in Canada, USA

Kayla Molina and Lisa Dahlke

Law students across the United States, and the world, are faced with an unprecedented crisis: the learning the law and coronavirus. In this series, The Quarantine Diaries, law students will detail their experiences during the global pandemic. Follow us as we try to finish Spring 2020.

March 5, 2020: Thursday

Canada: So this coronavirus thing is officially in Canada. And in Alberta. I’m not worried yet, but Iran looks like it is not having a good time. I’ll keep you posted.

Oklahoma: I just got back from New York. Wow. Moot court competitions are stressful. My moot court partner, and New York roommate, has the flu. I hope I don’t catch it! Back to the usual: studying for law school every hour of the day (aka: reading while watching Netflix).

March 9, 2020: Monday

Canada: There are officially four people in the province with coronavirus. I’m immunocompromised. I should be staying home, right?

Someone on the bus won’t stop coughing behind me. I knew I should have stayed home. I’m going to die of coronavirus.

The stock market crashed this morning. I’ve never had extra money, so I know next to nothing about stocks, but all I can say is RIP job prospects.

Oklahoma: No one is infected here. We are fine. I’m worried, but when I mention it my law school friends and family look at me a like I’m a little too one-flew-over-the-cuckoo’s nest. I just wish the people sitting behind me in my Evidence would stop coughing on the back of my head—I just got over being sick.

March 10, 2020: Tuesday

Canada: I’m staying home. No more going out. I’m not taking chances. I have too many immunosuppressant drugs coursing through my veins and it is making me NERVOUS. 7 cases in the province. I don’t plan on being the next.

My classmates are sending me their notes, which I will look at in two weeks when I’m done panicking. To distract myself, I’ll work on posters for my upcoming law school events. They’re in three weeks, so this should be all settled down by then.

Oklahoma: I woke up with a fever. My head hurts. It must be sinuses. I cannot be sick again. I skipped Evidence and IP Law anyway. The university president sent out an email saying that they’re considering moving classes online. This is getting scary. But they’re monitoring the situation—next week is Spring Break, so hopefully it’ll blow over by then. Surely.

March 11, 2020: Wednesday

Canada: I have adopted a work schedule that consists of 5 minutes of absent-minding reading followed by 2.5 hours of scrolling tweets about coronavirus. It seems to be going well. I have successfully increased my panic by 143%.

Oklahoma: They cleared out a full NBA stadium in Oklahoma City tonight—twenty minutes north of here. Well, now it’s in Oklahoma. Awesome. My fever is still here. Should I be worried? Probably not—I’m being paranoid. It’s really hard to focus on Evidence with a fever.

March 12, 2020: Thursday

Canada: Okay, I don’t have a choice today. I have to break the quarantine to go get extra-strength immunosuppressant drugs infused into my veins DURING A PANDEMIC. Normally, this is not an issue. I zip into the clinic, sit in a comfy chair for a couple hours hooked up to a machine, and go home. Easy peasy. But today, I have to get a prescription refilled. My stress level is at a 12/10.

We’re gonna be fine, right???

(Note – the Prime Minister’s wife just tested positive for coronavirus. We are not fine.)

I’m in my neighbourhood co-op now. There are way too many people here. Touching things. Buying all the toilet paper for some reason. It’s making me nervous. I grabbed 2 bags of crispy minis, 5 bags of chips, and 3 packages of wafer cookies for my apocalypse stash while I wait for my refill. I’m not coming back for a while.

Oklahoma: The fever is still here. This is odd. I’ll be fine. I called the school’s clinic anyway. They have no open spots for me until a week from now. I can wait it out. I went to Walmart to pick up more water and some more highlighters. It’s odd, I can feel the nervous energy. Wow. There’s no Tylenol on the shelves. The cold and flu medicine shelves are empty. Luckily, the highlighters are fully stocked.

Update: the University just announced that it’s moving classes online from March 23 to April 3. Wow. I’m laughing thinking about my Complex Litigation professor trying to teach online classes and keep up his ‘I have never seen a cell phone’ shtick.

Friday the 13th

Canada: The hammer dropped. Everything is shutting down. Classes cancelled for the day. No large gatherings. Nervous event planners are pulling the plug on everything. I have to cancel my own law school events. Panels. Pub nights. Volunteer appreciation events. All I’ve done today is send and receive emails about events. It hurts. I know it’s probably the right choice, but it hurts.

I’ve made exactly zero progress on my law school assignments that are due next week. How can anyone work in this situation?

UPDATE: The University of Calgary has officially cancelled all in-person classes and exams for the rest of the semester! I won’t be the only weird one at home. WHAT IS HAPPENING?

Oklahoma: Wow. This fever won’t go away. But it’s officially Spring Break. I call a local clinic. They tell me to stay home—I can’t get in for testing anyway. Besides, I don’t know anyone that has diagnosed it. I just got back from New York two weeks ago—is that relevant?

March 14, 2020: Saturday

Canada: Woke up with a stuffed nose and scratchy throat. Paranoia, or coronavirus? Who knows. Keep calm. Bake pie. 39 cases in the province, but we won’t think about that.

Oklahoma: Okay, the fever has dropped. But every time I get up, I feel winded. Luckily, Professional Responsibility is still here—and doesn’t seem to mind my occasional cough.

March 15, 2020: Sunday

Canada: Some of my classmates have offered to do supply runs for me so that I don’t have to go outside in my immunocompromised state. Bless their hearts.

Oklahoma: Someone at the University just tested positive for COVID-19. They’re not releasing any details. Seems like an important detail. Suddenly, I’m worried that classes will be online for the rest of the semester.

March 16, 2020: Monday

Canada: Welcome to Zoom School of Law. I still somehow got cold-called three times today, so that’s a bummer. These Socratic method profs will stop for no man. Or global pandemic. At least we got a two-day extension on our civ pro assignment. This is the new normal.

Oklahoma: I have not heard anything from the University. I’m still sick. In fact, now I’m starting to feel worse. I call the clinic again. They have no room for me. That’s fine.

March 17, 2020: Tuesday

Canada: I’m learning what I already know. I cannot work from home. I’m too distracted by my cat and quarantine snacks. I will emerge from isolation with a body composition of 70% seltzer water, 15% Cheetos, 9% carrot sticks and 6% chocolate covered almonds.

Oklahoma: Wow. Evidence Hearsay rules are the actual worst. This, and my fever, are I can think about.

March 18, 2020: Wednesday

Canada: Is it even day 9? Everything is blending together. I was going to work on homework, but instead I fell down an internet hole and started reading about how to take care of pet rats. Alberta is a rat-free province. How did I get here?

Our province has done over 12,000 tests. We have almost 100 cases. Compare with Louisiana which has only done 531 tests with 196 confirmed cases and four deaths. Today I am grateful to be an Albertan.

Oklahoma: Today, the Canadian-U.S. border closed to all nonessential travel. Indefinitely.  Also, the University made the call—it’s all online for the rest of the semester. This past week has felt like a year. I’m physically sick and emotionally exhausted. How will they grade us? Will there be online tests? Will they change it to papers? This is ridiculous. There are no details. I’ll stop panicking tomorrow.

March 19, 2020: Thursday

Canada: I have officially set up my work from home station. By work from home station, I mean I spent an hour last night trying to hook up an old smart TV to my laptop with a faulty HMDI cable. I will have to settle for my laptop sitting atop some old law textbooks with an external mechanical keyboard and a wireless mouse. Not bad.

Oklahoma: I don’t have reliable home internet. That’s fine. I have food. Wait—I don’t have food. I should go the grocery store.

March 20, 2020: Friday

Canada: My admin law paper has yet to write itself. We pre-ordered groceries online and picked them up. They may not have had half of the stuff on our list, but at least we got two packages of toilet paper. Score. That alone was worth missing this afternoon’s Zoom class.

Oklahoma: Nothing from the law school. Cool. I’m happy with that. I need to start on my outlines, for everything. But I’m way too worried about family losing jobs. Cool. Everything has changed in a matter of a week.

March 21, 2020: Saturday

Canada: The morning was a blur, but I’m done. My first paper written in the middle of a pandemic. 0/10 would not recommend. My cat got hungry and kept jumping on my work table while I was trying to finish my citations. Not helpful.

But I’m done nonetheless. I will celebrate by eating some wafer cookies and playing free online poker for the next four hours. I actually get to sleep in tomorrow.

The University is considering adjusting evaluation criteria moving forward. My paper may have been “just for fun”. Go me.

Oklahoma: I have heard nothing from the law school about its grading policy. I hope they move to pass/fail. Law school is not my priority right now. Hopefully the law school will let us know soon!

About the authors

Kayla Molina is a second-year law student at the University of Oklahoma College of Law. She’s the ABA Law Student Division Editor-in-Chief. She is currently trying to read casebooks and learn the Hearsay during a global pandemic—it’s not going well.

Lisa Dahlke is a second year law student at the University of Calgary in Canada. She’s currently trying to survive the apocalypse, so don’t even bother asking her what type of law she wants to practice yet.

Join us for more law school diaries and new student voices as we move through the semester during the Coronavirus outbreak.

Kayla Molina and Lisa Dahlke Kayla Molina is a 2L at The University of Oklahoma College of Law and Student Editor for the Law Student Division. Lisa Dahlke is a 2L at the University of Calgary Faculty of Law in Alberta.