Everyone feels the impacts of the coronavirus on their lives, but college students face a unique set of challenges; the sudden end of the semester, leaving their homes, moving online for the semester, amongst other issues. College students lead vastly different lives from the general population. They live constantly surrounded by peers and have a steady stream of commitments that cause strange schedules.
Life at home under quarantine feels leaps and bounds from their usual lives.
College doesn’t last forever; the four years go by fast and students miss out on their plans, limited time with their friends and once-in-a-lifetime experiences. Despite their college’s best efforts, many students feel stressed by the amount of online schoolwork, midst dealing with mourning the semester and coronavirus fears.
Not a Typical Freshman Year
Each college student feels the impact of the coronavirus on their lives in different ways. “I feel like we’re so lucky that we have three more years to do all the things that we didn’t do,” Penn State freshman Gwen Boe said. “But at the same time, I feel like it came at a really bad time for us as we just got used to living away from home and we just moved out and I feel like to move back in with your parents for longer than a typical college student is used to have kind of interrupted that transition process from just getting used to being on your own.”
For many freshmen, they were just getting into the swing of things on campus. Freshmen, most of whom live in dorms, also have to handle the logistical struggle of moving out. Penn State’s closure of campus, like many other schools, lined up with when students had left campus for spring break.
They went from sharing a floor with 40 other students to now being trapped inside, under the roof of their parents, just as they were a few years ago, anxiously waiting for the day they don’t have to text Mom “I’m here!” each time they arrived at a friends’ house. “I’m not getting social interaction and kind of going crazy,” Mississippi State freshman Will Jamison said.
While students cope with the loss of the semester, they also need to adjust to taking all online classes, which has its own host of issues. Some schools hit the ground running when it came to online classes and started immediately after spring break. Others took a week or two to let staff and students adjust to the online environment.
The University of Kentucky began online classes right after spring break, which left some students feeling strained. “It was kind of hard to adjust that fast, like immediately be thrown back into schoolwork,” University of Kentucky senior Autumn Paine said. Other students struggled with the quick turnaround to online classes. Some universities choose to throw the students right in, almost overloading them with more work than they would have been given during the regular week.
The coronavirus has a very nuanced impact on a college student’s life. Some experiences many college students can relate to, like missing friends, campus or classes. But some traditions, broken plans and struggles transitioning to the rest of the semester specifically impact individual students. “I kind of wish that I had that moment where I was like ‘Oh, this is the last time I’m going to sleep in my freshman dorm or this was the last time I’m gonna walk to this class in this location or the last time I’m going to get food in the dining hall. I feel like a lot of people are kind of just mourning the fact that they didn’t get a last,” Boe said.
Seniors especially mourn the loss of these last moments, because they won’t get the chance to make them up. “We have had to lose a lot of things like stuff is being pushed back and everyone faces little losses. Yeah, there’s like big problems going on, obviously, with, you know, death and illness, horrible stuff, but it’s okay to grieve like little losses that we have to face too,” Paine said. Whether diagnosed or not, COVID-19 effects everyone.
Despite the hard transition and many, many struggles, college students make the best out of the social distancing situation. Trying to adopt positive attitudes, set schedules and put the situation in perspective has helped them cope. “For me, I know that that probably would have been a problem if I hadn’t tried to like, implement it. And I think really keeping a positive attitude about everything has been really helpful,” Paine said.
Despite the physical distance, we’re all going through this together. Everyone is facing losses. Everyone is missing out on graduation or they’re first finals week of spring semester. “It’s kind of nice to know that everybody’s going through it at the same time like there is a sense of community,” Boe said. As the world looks to the future after the impacts of the coronavirus, college students begin looking forward too–just after mourning the loss of the end of the semester.