Student Voice: College Life During the Next Stage of the Pandemic

By Ruth Anderson | National Louis University Junior and former PCC Student Advisory Council Member

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On September 21st, I will be starting classes again. I will be a junior this term studying psychology and minoring in criminal justice. Currently as of writing this my school is putting a “TBA” on our classes. They’re not fully sure of whether it will be online, in-person, or hybrid. Like my school, I find myself to be uncertain of what actions to take and have so many things that I question as the days get closer to the first day.

On the one hand, I would definitely be ok with staying home. As much as I love downtown, I love the factor of being able to relax at home in my cozy room and not have to take the train from place to place. I can make food, have a cup of coffee and if my teachers are kind enough, I don’t even have to turn on my camera, which is a massive bonus for an introvert like me. However, I do miss my friends a lot, and part of me wonders what adventures we would get into if school was open. College, in my view, is supposed to be that place where you really spread your wings and get out there. You shouldn’t only be studying something you love, but you should certainly have the chance to find yourself and your own individuality. These are crucial moments that somewhat stabilize your life and help you to think about what you may or may not want in it. It’s hard to think about those crucial moments and have growth when you’re stuck inside all day.

Another thought that plays in my mind is not having much free time anymore. Having three months of summer seems so long but once you’re in it, it seems to go by so fast. I don’t normally get to see my family as much as I would want to. I saw them this summer and I really enjoyed my time. Going bowling, eating with them, sleeping over, going for walks, enjoying birthdays, even simply talking with them meant the world to me. I don’t know when I will have those special moments again, and now I find myself trying to give them comfort over the possibility of me going back to school in the middle of the pandemic. I’m nervous myself, seeing the virus being talked about everywhere and seeing how many people have succumbed to it is scary. All I can do is to be vigilant and keep myself and others around safe to the best of my ability from COVID-19.

Lastly, the worry of what’s going to happen is a compelling thought I think all of us can imagine in our own lives. I have two years left of school, and worrying about all the possibilities of what I could do is nerve-racking. It’s something I can reach out for but I cannot grasp right now. Sticking to the present and working my way up is the only thing I can do. I’m eager to see how things will change as school opens up. I’m enthusiastic about learning more from my classes, making new friends, and reuniting with some of my favorite teachers and friends. I’m hoping things will change for the better for everyone. Although I want things to go back to normal, I feel the key lessons for us through this time is for us to be observant and to make a change. Appreciate what you have more, spend as much time as you can with the people close to you, take care of yourself and those around you, and most importantly, do your best to make a difference each day even if it’s small.

Student Voice: More Student-Centered Decisions are Needed Past the Pandemic

By Ta’Mya Jarrett | Recent Graduate of University of Illinois at Chicago and PCC Student Advocate Board Member

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The year of 2020 changed life as we know it. Families everywhere suffered from tragic losses. Corporations shut down due to budget cuts and educational systems failed many students. I went from living on campus to campus being completely shut down. The switch from in-person learning to remote learning was very challenging for most students including myself for many reasons. One being the environment I was forced to learn in. A place called home. For some, home is a sanctuary; for others, a chaotic environment.

For me personally, alongside the structure of my home, the adjustment to teaching myself was very difficult. As a math and computer science major, relying on my professor’s notes alone wasn’t enough. Pre-COVID, each one of my major courses had a mandatory lab/discussion classes. During the labs, I would ask all the questions I had curated throughout the week, because the student-to-teacher ratio was significantly less than the lecture ratio. Asking these questions in-person helped better my understanding of the subject, however COVID took that away. I found myself YouTubing everything because our lab sessions were shortened.

But this was only the beginning. As the year went on, I began to adapt and learning became easier. I developed an algorithm that worked for me. This algorithm consisted of a few things. First, I changed my environment so I created me a small quiet office place, known as my Zen room to concentrate. This is where I’d watch my lecture videos three days out the week, the other two days I went on campus for one to two hours to study concepts and do homework all while following COVID guidelines, of course. This way I still felt as if I was on campus getting in class experience. This is what worked for me even as it was very tough for me to keep going because of personal tragedies happening in the mist of my educational transition. But I was determined to finish and be more than a product of my environment.

My school helped with this determination as well. They really worked with students. They changed the grading scale to make it easier for students to receive credits, they awarded students COVID funding for personal hardships, and they offered online mental and educational services to every student at any time. I think UIC should continue to make more of these types of considerate decisions as we go back to pre-pandemic life.