Zoom university

An overview of the COVID-19 college experience, from the perspective of former LM students.

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Brian Ungar ’19 attends an online meeting in a socially distanced study hall. | Photo courtesy of Brian Ungar ’19

The education of children and teens worldwide has been drastically compromised due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Although it was difficult for high schools to adapt to an all-new learning system so quickly this past spring and fall, colleges have faced even greater obstacles during this time due to the unpredictability of a pandemic, the likes of which no one has ever experienced. With millions of college freshmen boarding away from home and making their own decisions for the first time, they are more free than ever before, but COVID-19 restrictions still limit their academic and social interactions at school. As a result of college students returning to campus, cases of COVID-19 are exponentially increasing; colleges are sending students home and students are missing out on their freshman year.

Various LM graduates expressed mixed emotions on their experiences at college thus far. Alex Haas ’20 states, “Covid protocols have forced a lot of my classes to be over Zoom when they would normally be in person. It makes it harder to interact with my classmates. I can’t have normal social interactions unless I am off campus without RAs or faculty around. It makes it more difficult to make friends and participate in activities on campus.” At her school, the University of Miami, only one guest is allowed in each room or students are placed on probation. However, many students have been finding ways to bend the rules without severe consequences. Similarly, Zoe Pearson ’20, a freshman at the University of Maryland, says, “My school drastically decreased the amount of students living on campus. Everyone lives in single dorms. They are very strict with not allowing guests in rooms and if you get caught there’s a chance of suspension. Despite these protocols, cases are still rising very quickly.” The rise of COVID-19 cases on college campuses is apparent in many different areas with the media broadcasting many
college outbreaks showing the variety of ways that administrations have been handling quarantines and treatment. For example, according to Brian Ungar ‘19, at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, “Students with in-person classes get tested twice a week and if tested positive, are put in the hotel above the campus center to quarantine.” Additionally, a 2017 LM graduate stated, “My school’s protocols are about the same as every other college, but more on the looser side since we don’t have any crazy rules. There are rules about the size of gatherings: ten people inside and 25 outside. The school is only super strict on campus where they have already suspended a lot of people for being in a room with more than a few people.” This student lives off campus this year, entering only for one in-person class, and noted that protocols are certainly different based on where you live.

In terms of academics, this year has undeniably been a tough transition for everyone. While one 2020 graduate recalled being surprised by how much effort and time management was necessary to succeed in their classes, others mostly described struggles due to being socially isolated: whether from home, a dorm room, or a socially distanced classroom. Dahlia Levine ’20, who is attending Brown University, is staying home this year, as are all of the first year students at Brown. “The biggest difference is that it’s harder to collaborate with other students in your classes because you don’t interact with them at all unless you choose to. This is because most classes are asynchronous, where the lecture is prerecorded so students mainly work on the material on their own.” A college education is generally very individualized and specific to each student, so everyone has faced their own challenges. For Ashlyn Fiorellini ‘20, “Basically all of my classes are online. Some classes are run via Zoom and the others are self-paced lectures/activities. Finding an environment to work in that was not my room was very important for my mental health and work ethic.” Despite the way these students took their own paths, they have all adjusted to 2020’s challenges, using the skills from LM to make their mark in the future.