COVID-19 Creates A New Normal for College Students

Allyn Haynes
Apr 22, 2020 · 4 min read

By: Allyn Haynes

The University Systems of Georgia notified students that all 26 institutions will move to online instruction on March 16 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This came weeks before Gov. Kemp’s statewide shelter-in-place was enacted on April 2. Since then college students across the state had to adapt to a new normal: their homes are now their classrooms.

Initial responses to campus closings came as a shock. Most students couldn’t understand the severity of the situation until they received that email.

“I was like, Oh, this is for real. I definitely got more serious about it,” said Davia Campbell, a third-year Accounting major.

Most students described themselves as feeling happy, then sad when the news came out.

“I had been gone for spring break that whole week so I hadn’t really gotten time to just chill,”, said Zion Walker, a first-year intended Entertainment and Media Studies major.

But when she realized that her first year in college would be cut short it felt like that time had been taken with her.

“It’s hard,” she said. “You can’t build those connections always through Zoom, FaceTime and through text. Some people need that beginning in person.”

Davia Campbell also felt for seniors losing their last moments in college.

“I also started to feel a lot of secondhand sadness I guess for all the major events that had to be canceled such as graduation,” she said.

On March 17, the University of Georgia cancelled spring commencement. Many seniors felt disdain for the closure of campus for their last semester and not being able to walk across the stage.

But most students welcome this new time spent at home. During this time, many students have found solace in picking up a new hobby, exercising and spending time with family.

“I have tried to be more consistent with my working out so exercising, and sometimes I’ll have my sister do it with me. And every so often, we’ll take a walk around our neighborhood. We’ve also gotten into beauty. We’ve had more time to like tend to our hair and try new things,” said Campbell.

Others find themselves spending more time with their family than they had in a long time.

Leesi George-Komi, a UGA grad and a current graduate student at the university, said, “We’ve been getting together and making food, and just trying to find time now that we’re all together to do fun things.”

Students are finding the most difficult part of the transition is adapting to the new online setting. Many are now having lectures through Zoom calls, pre-recorded videos and online modules to continue instruction.

Many students feel there is a disconnect. Lesson plans don’t seem to fit the circumstances of students. They feel the workload is the same as if they were back on campus, and some professors aren’t understanding that this is a drastic change for them.

“I think the expectation is the same academically. They didn’t adjust the grading scale. They just slapped down work, and expected that everyone had the same resources,” said Walker.

Many majors, like those in STEM programs, have found it hard to understand lessons without face-to-face instruction.

“I feel like the nature of my classes are really math-based and so it’s kind of difficult, like learning math over a PowerPoint, not being in real-time, to ask questions and stuff, even like if I go to virtual office hours having to see (problems) typed out versus written as I mean like, you know, that’s been a challenge,” said Campbell.

The most common problem among students has been the struggle with self-discipline. There are no more class schedules to keep you on track for the day. Unlike in a classroom, there also isn’t anyone to remind them when assignments are due. Self-governance has seemed extremely important, now more than ever for students. Many have said they have started to use a planner to make schedules for themselves and keep track of when assignments are due.

“Keeping the schedules that you have to do for all the things you have to turn in online. I think that is probably the hardest part,” said George-Komi, who is also a teacher’s assistant in the kinesiology department. “Balancing then making sure like I read all my students submissions, and do my own, so like just keep it on schedule.”

The semester is coming to a close but the pandemic is far from over. The decision to go back to in-person instruction in the fall is still up in the air. Some projections show the COVID-19 pandemic lasting until 2021, and its effects stretching until 2022. It is unknown whether students have signed up for this new normal for the time being, or they should prepare themselves to continue online instruction into the fall.

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