In early March, word started buzzing across Cambridge: things were about to change. It was more than two months after the novel coronavirus had begun to spread through Asia, and mere weeks after the first community transmission in the U.S. For Yiran He and her peers, graduating seniors at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, it was the end of an era — and the end of certainty about what was to come next.
First, prospective student visits were cancelled. Then, on March 10, MIT’s administration announced that the university, and its student dorms, would be closed for the duration of the crisis. Students with safe homes to return to started packing their bags; others, who relied on the university for food and shelter, leaned on community support. Yiran He attended a senior gathering at her department, had one last dinner out with friends, and then — like thousands of other students across the country — headed home.