A college experience like no other: what it’s like being a college student in a pandemic

Believing the pandemic would be short lived, University of Oregon student, Claire Petersen forgot all of her shirts in her dorm at school. Life changed for everyone in march 2020; it changed completely for college students who moved home at the start of the pandemic. Across the country students returned home for what they were told would be an extended spring break, but over the course of the first week more and more schools introduced distance learning plans for the rest of the semester, and in schools using the quarter system, plans for their third quarter. 

University of Oregon shared March 12th that students would take their winter term finals remotely, adding that they plan to have students return to campus mid-April. It wasn’t till after the start of Spring term that the university shared that the remainder of the term will remain remote. “It was traumatic,” said Petersen, “Our school didn’t rip the bandaid off, they led us on for three weeks before telling us we weren’t coming back.” Petersen was a Freshman last year, and had spent fall and winter terms living on campus. “We had just started to form a community, it got ripped away. Keeping up with friends was so hard, zoom isn’t comparable to face-to-face interaction.”

Students started spring term 2020 being told there was hope of having most of the term in person. Petersen shared that it took a long time to resiliate that she wouldn’t be returning to her dorm. “I didn’t want to believe it so I didn’t pack well, I left all of my shirts,” Petersen said, “I had a false sense of hope for three weeks, it was like going through the stages of grief, I was just waiting for the email that we would be back on campus. Even though I knew deep down, I was clinging on to the hope of returning to campus.” 

It was difficult to grasp what the full impact is having classes be remote, for what is now at UO four terms online. “It was depressing doing classes at home, I couldn’t look forward to anything, assignments dragged on forever, there was nothing but schoolwork,” said Petersen. While some students thrived performing classes in an online environment, others struggled with classes that would have been easier for them to grasp in person. “Only one of my classes did zoom. I struggled to watch pre recorded lectures,” Petersen said. “I have ADHD, it’s hard to pay attention to asynchronous classes when I don’t want to. Zooms make you feel like you have some form of human iteration.”

Between the pandemic and Black Lives Matter protests last spring, it was difficult to process everything for students, including Petersen. “It felt dumb to feel bad for myself when at the same time spending so many hours on my phone and seeing too many problems and huge issues that I had no way of fixing. I felt even more trapped realizing that there were issues I couldn’t fix. The entire summer was a continuation of that cycle, I felt like that time of my life was erased.”

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