UT-Austin students celebrate 21st birthdays during pandemic

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Photo Credit: Nat Hadaway | Daily Texan Staff

Myra Syed assumed her 21st birthday on Aug. 26 would be just another day stuck inside her apartment during the pandemic. As a gift to herself, she took a day off from schoolwork while her roommates planned a surprise for later that night.

One of her two roommates made Syed stuffed grape leaves, a Palestinian dish arranged to look like a cake. Syed said her day was more meaningful because of the effort her roommates put in. 

“Even though we're all kind of struggling because we just paid a bunch of money for furniture and all that stuff, we (were) still able to get the little bit (of money) that we had left and have a tiny birthday, which I'm so grateful for,” said Syed, an international relations and global studies and government junior.

While taking online classes and adapting to life with COVID-19 restrictions, some students are celebrating their 21st birthdays differently than they imagined by spending time with family or having small gatherings.

“My roommates went above and beyond,” Syed said. “They tried to do their best with the resources they were given because of the pandemic to actually let me have a good birthday.”

 

Steven Morvant, a radio-television-film and journalism junior, celebrated his 21st with family and a night out to Pluckers where he had his first legal drink — the psychedelic frog. 

“I consider (turning 21) a big thing,” Morvant said. “It's kind of a rite of passage in America.”

After being in quarantine for so long, Morvant said he wasn’t surprised he had to alter his Sept. 24 birthday plans. Morvant said he was happy with what he was able to do even though he didn’t get to celebrate like expected. 

“Obviously, I wish things were more normal,” Morvant said. “I don't want to be a spreader (of COVID-19). I want to stay safe (and) I want the people around me to stay safe.”

Finance junior Kayson Craig said her celebration came with a higher risk due to her mother’s immunocompromised system. Making sure everyone washed their hands and didn’t walk through her house, her friends met in her backyard to have a cottagecore themed picnic. They enjoyed cupcakes and a charcuterie board while “Twilight” played on a blowup screen. 

“I definitely had plans before the pandemic to go out with friends and go bar hopping,” Craig said. “Obviously, that's too much of a risk right now. I'm not willing to take that.”

In addition to being safer, Craig said she believes staying in with friends was more meaningful and wholesome than going to 6th Street. 

“You really (can tell) how much you miss your friends (because of) the pandemic,” Craig said. “I hadn't seen any of my friends until my birthday.”

As students find creative ways to make their birthday special, Craig said she would rather take as many safety precautions as possible than put anyone at risk.

“You just kind of have to suck it up and deal with it,” Craig said. “You can always celebrate next year because there's always more birthdays.”