With a view of a field across from her Hampton County home, reporter Mae Bing sits on her front porch and checks UofSC’s website for COVID-19 updates. 

VARNVILLE, S.C.I didn’t expect this to happen during my final semester at the University of South Carolina. I remember when students in the newsroom did stories on COVID-19 as it was sweeping through China and other countries. Now it’s here. 

I got used to waking up to go to the journalism school every morning and taking my place in the newsroom. Now I’m back home for the remainder of the semester.

In my small Lowcountry town, life moves at a relaxed country pace but now it’s even slower. Dine-in restaurants are closed, drive-thrus remain open and schools are closed.  Some shelves in the stores are empty. One of the things I miss is being able to walk in a store and seeing shelves stacked with something as simple as hand sanitizer. 

My family and I are practicing social isolation because some family members, including myself, suffer from asthma and other respiratory problems. Just about every day I video chat with family members including my sister, who lives in Texas. I watch her have mini breakdowns while trying to talk over the noise from my nieces and nephew. It’s entertaining at times and gives me another reason on my long list of why I don’t want to have kids. Thankfully, my family’s jobs weren’t lost because of the virus; however, their jobs are suspended for several weeks.

Other than scrolling through social media and chatting with family and friends, I’ve decided to take this time to work on my photography skills. I started a portfolio of pictures that illustrate how COVID-19 impacted my hometown and how they’re dealing with it.

The media mostly shows how huge cities such as New York and Los Angeles are dealing with the pandemic. So I thought it would be interesting to show how a small town is coping. I’m aware of how things are in my hometown, and showing the portfolio to other citizens probably wouldn’t interest them, but showing how things are may interest people outside of Hampton County. 

Sometimes images can say more than words. My goal for this project is for people to understand what the photos are saying without me saying a word. Besides taking the photos on my Nikon camera, I thought it would add more interest to the piece if I took all photos on my iPhone. I’m excited to see how it all comes together.

I’ll be glad when things are back to normal for our nation and the globe. The virus is impacting us in so many ways, some more dramatic than others. Graduating seniors aren’t walking across the stage  on the day they expected, school events such as proms are cancelled, and people are losing their jobs and trying to take care of their families.

Experiencing something like this was personally life-changing for me. This experience shows me how to be grateful during whatever situation I’m in because someone could be going through something a thousand times worse. And most importantly, try to have a stable mind during this difficult time. 

That means having patience and not allowing people, media and other outlets to get in your head because some things can be over-exaggerated. It’s important to know what to filter out and why. Early on, I sometimes found myself following the wrong messenger, which causes me to go into panic mode. 

You’ll never know what road life decides to take, even though you have your directions planned out. It doesn’t matter how much money someone has or what status they are, this time shows that things can happen to us all.