The COVID diaries for a room advisor – Andrew Rydinski

I still feel like this whole thing (the pandemic) is just a big joke. I’m waiting for Ashton Kutcher to make a PSA that says we were pranked. “We just wanted to see what would happen if we shut down the world for a couple of months.” That’s what Id imagine he would say. But he won’t, and we are all living in an almost completely digital world.

When my partner Kameron Ramirez and I got tasked with reporting on a student who is still living on campus and to tell their stories during this pandemic, we had a couple of thoughts go through our minds. 1) No matter who we find, this story is going to be horrible. No one is going to want to voluntarily talk to us for hours on end and provide us with b-roll that we are normally supposed to film. 2) Kameron and I are both seniors, how in the world are we even going to find someone who is still living on campus if neither of us are even in California.

We proceeded to put out some social media engagement on any Facebook groups and Instagram stories we could use. There were a couple of responses that seemed somewhat promising, but most of the comments were people saying how our project was “really interesting.” It was nice to have the support of the SLO community but we were still at a loss.

Insert Weston Fitzgerald, aka our knight in shining armor. Kameron had sent out a text to one of her friends that is a room advisor but was no longer on campus. She (Kam’s friend) said that she knows someone who is still working on campus who might be willing to contribute to our project. Kameron reached out to him and sure enough, he was more than happy to be apart of the journey.

Weston on the right. Courtesy of Weston Fitzgerald

The project came together right before our eyes thanks to Weston. We accumulated around three hours of interview time on Zoom, but none of it really felt like an interview. It was all so organic, and Kameron and I were kinda surprised by that. It was apparent that there were a lot of struggles all of the room advisors were facing, dealing with new residents and university housing. Weston became the voice for them, and that’s how we knew our content was going to be solid. He even went out of his way to shoot b-roll and an adventure he went on to get ice cream.

After around three weeks, Kameron and I produced our first part of the COVID diaries. A written portion that consisted of the major topics we needed to address. This was in a Q&A format. There was also a feature video that brought the viewer into the life of Weston, and an interactive component showing areas around SLO that have changed due to this pandemic.

In the end, we all had fun contributing to this project. “I really enjoyed working with Weston. He was a great source of information about campus life. He brought great charisma and optimism that we can all take note from during this time” said Kameron. There was a little bond that was made from this project, and Weston was very grateful because of it. “It’s been really fun, and I really appreciate the opportunity for you to bring me on to this project and to include me wherever you can.”