College, COVID-19, and Me
July 1, 2020 | View PDF
By Beth Thomas, Alabama Gazette Summer Intern
As I sat with my friends in the campus library in mid-March at the University of Alabama-Huntsville, we heard a rumor that changed the rest of our semester: school was closing, and we were all going home. Of course, it was a rumor, and we immediately began asking professors if they had heard anything. They gave similar answers: “I heard something about it, but nothing is confirmed. If I hear anything, I’ll let you know.” Then, within a blink of an eye, not only were classes all going online, but everyone had to leave campus due to Coronavirus. and to paraphrase administration: “Don’t expect to come back for at least a month.”
I said goodbye to my friends, packed all of my essentials, and drove home as quickly as possible. The change wasn’t incredibly difficult for me, as most of my work was already done on my computer anyway. The most challenging issue was groupwork, but with programs like Google Docs and GroupMe, I was able to overcome any initial problems.
What was most difficult for me was keeping in touch with all my friends. I value my small circle of fellow students, and I enjoy talking with them between classes or getting lunch together under the excuse of “doing homework,” even though we all know we were just going to talk instead and procrastinate as a group. Who cares about literature theory when we can talk about how awful our teams were at communicating? We texted regularly, sometimes about schoolwork and other times to just keep in touch. I really struggled with the lack of face-to-face communication. Texting and calling my friends is nice; I’m able to check in on them and make sure they’re all okay, especially as we’re well into our fourth month of social distancing and quarantine. I miss seeing them, though. There’s just something about looking at someone in the eyes while you’re talking, which I miss.
With the fall semester coming ever closer, the school has every hope of opening for in-person classes. However, the looming possibility that classes will still be online provides an interesting situation for me. On the one hand, being able to stay at home and not drive back and forth to campus all the time avoids many of the expenses college can bring. On the other hand, I value my independence and the experiences that college provides to me. Chatting with my friends and discussions with my professors were an integral part of my day. I miss that along with lunch with classmates, and meeting up with people for a quick break or to do fun things, which was a big stress reliever.
This year will be my senior year of college, and it is supposed to provide the foundation for me to jump into my career. My school provides multiple opportunities for students to make connections with companies and find jobs, but if those events aren’t being held, where does that leave me? How am I to make those connections over the Internet, when there is still something important about meeting someone face-to-face and making a good impression? I was fortunate and blessed enough to receive this internship with the Alabama Gazette during this difficult time, when many of my friends are struggling to find openings at all. It gives me a chance to learn things that my professors can’t teach me: real-world experience. If I’m unable to return to campus in person, I’m grateful that I will still be able to learn things in this position, where I am free to ask questions just as readily in the classroom.
I’ve always loved school and learning, and college has provided me so many opportunities to learn and grow as a person, but I’ve discovered through this experience that school truly holds a very important place in my heart. The connections I make with my classmates and professors are invaluable, and all that I have learned have given me a new perspective of the world, I wouldn’t have otherwise gotten in my small corner of the world. This time is uncertain, and news seems to change in the blink of an eye, but I can say with certainty that I want to return to campus in the fall, if only to get those experiences back. If it comes to light that the fall semester will also be online, I can’t say that I won’t be disappointed, but I will accept this course of life as it comes. All I can do, is do the best with what I have and learn as much as I can while I’m here.