In this podcast episode, host Samantha Collins dives into what it’s like for college students to go to school during the COVID-19 pandemic. Students from different universities share what it has been like to live on their school’s campuses and go to classes in person and online.
SPEAKER #1, News Channel 5: COVID-19 forced college students across the country to finish their semesters online. But as we rebound from the pandemic, administrators are now looking into ways to welcome students back to campus.
SPEAKER #2, CBS This Morning: Colgate University in North Central New York has managed to open its campus and keep it open so far after some careful planning.
SPEAKER #3, Fox 61 News Broadcast: The president of Wesleyan informed the university community that most students and staff will be back on campus in the fall.
SPEAKER #4, CBS Los Angeles: Thousands of college students in Southern California will continue with remote learning in the fall.
SAMANTHA COLLINS, HOST: The Fall 2020 semester for students around the world is completely different than anything they’ve ever experienced before. For some college students this semester is similar to previous semesters. Their days start with them waking up in their beds in their dorms, or apartments or houses on or near campus. And when it’s time for class, they put on their face mask, sometimes take their temperature, and walk across campus to their classroom. When they get there, they sit down at their desk, which is placed six feet apart from the person in front of, next to, and behind them, and listen to their professors lecture from the front of the room.
For other students, their day starts by waking up in their childhood bedroom with their parents down the hall, or in an apartment near their college campus. And when it’s time for class, they walk from their bed, to their desk a few feet away, or even to their couch in the living room. Then they log on to zoom and listen to their professor lecture through their computer screen. For some students taking their classes online means staying up until midnight or waking up at four in the morning to go to class.
And then there’s me. Each day I wake up, walk to my desk in my room, open my computer and log on to my Zoom classes. My computer has pretty much become my best friend and WiFi has basically become my worst enemy. Without internet connection, I can’t go to class, complete my assignments or go to work. And when the connection is bad, I miss important information in my classes. The risk of my WiFi cutting out is so severe that every interview for this podcast episode had to be done over the phone. Just seven months ago. This was never something I imagined I would be worrying about every day. Now it almost feels normal.
COLLINS: Today we’ll hear from three students who are going to school in person and living on campus. One of whom is playing football for his university right now. We’ll also hear from one student who is living on his college campus but is taking all of his classes online. In this podcast episode, we’re taking a look at college in the time of COVID-19. I’m Samantha Collins, and this is Our New Reality.
LUCAS BAHNER: My name is Lucas Bahner, I go to MidAmerica Nazarene University. This is going to be my third year so I’m a junior and my major is kinesiology with a focus on athletic training, and I might add physical therapy to that.
COLLINS: Lucas is originally from Los Angeles, California. He’s currently in Olathe, Kansas, living in a single person dorm room on his University’s campus, and playing football for MNU. Leading up to the start of the semester and the 2020 football season, Bahner, who is one of the team’s quarterbacks wasn’t quite sure if he would be heading back to Kansas, and playing football this year. When he was finally allowed back on campus. Bahner, along with his teammates, coaches and the athletic training staff, all got tested for COVID-19. Once they were cleared, and we’re ready to play in their first game of the year, that got canceled.
BAHNER: They canceled our first game, first two games. And so instead of playing I think 11 games in a regular season, we’re down to nine. And then on top of that, we’ve had two games that have been canceled so far out of four.
COLLINS: Now that the team is finally getting the chance to play games, they have some new procedures that they have to get used to and follow.
BAHNER: We have to wake up like 30 minutes early, before practice or before the day to get a temperature check. And we have an app that we, it’s kind of a symptom check where you go down and you just click most of the times, unless you have symptoms, it’s just no symptoms and it gives you that green, it’s a green screen and the coaches just look at that before. And once you get your COVID check, you’re good for that day, until the next day. Game Day is a little different. And I can only speak on home games, because that’s all we’ve had, we’ve only had two home games so far. But we have to get our temperature checked, before we even get to the field. And that is actually done, on game days it’s done, instead of it being the coaches that do the temperature check, It’s the athletic training staff. They do that and they write down and mark everybody that’s going to be on the field, on the sideline. And that goes for both teams. And then just during the game, you either have to have a helmet on or you have to have a mask on at all times.
COLLINS: When he’s not on the field, Bahner typically spends his time in class or in his room. The one place that he knows is completely COVID free.
BAHNER: It’s just me in my dorm. I opted for a single room. I just decided that I wanted to do that. I’ve done it in the past and I’ve enjoyed it, even before COVID. Just having that safe space where I could go and I don’t have to worry about my roommate coming in. I know that once I lock that door this is my safe space and I feel safe once I’m in my room like I, my room is a COVID free space until I get it. And if I don’t ever get it, then I’m never gonna have to worry about it in my room.
COLLINS: Although he’s traveling to different schools for games and is surrounded by different people each day, he feels more safe being at school in Kansas than he did when he was home in LA. However, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t a few things he would change about his current situation.
BAHNER: Just because of my major, the type of classes that I have are very hands on. They haven’t been so far, but like last semester, I remember when we made that change, the online was super hard. So I kind of would want to be in person still. The only change, I probably wouldn’t want to live on campus just because even though I do feel pretty safe in my room and stuff like the reality is I am living with a bunch of other guys in my hall and I don’t know what they’re doing and I like I hope they’re being safe and wearing their masks and social distancing and all but in reality, I don’t know if they’re doing that so I would feel more safe if I was living off campus, but I do like the aspect of being able to ask, like talk to my professors in person and just having that in person interaction with other students and all that. So I would still be in person, I just would move off campus.
CARA HEVERLY: My name is Cara Heverly, and I’m a psych major at Colgate University in Hamilton, New York.
COLLINS: Cara is also from Los Angeles, California, and just a few months ago, she packed up her things, headed to New York and moved into her University owned sorority house on her college campus. She has a room all to herself, but she shares the house with 30 other girls. Like Lucas Bahner, her classes are in person. She did, however, have the choice to take her classes online this semester and stay home, but being on campus felt like the better option for Heverly.
HEVERLY: One of the reasons was timezone differences makes it difficult to go to class on East Coast time. Because like when I was back home, I had class at 5:45 in the morning when we came home after the pandemic. So it was partially an issue of accessibility. And then also, I just wanted to be like with my friends and on campus because they all live on the east coast.
COLLINS: When Heverly first got to campus, walking around freely and meeting up with a few people wasn’t allowed right away.
HEVERLY: We’re actually doing like a stages of reopening. So we started off in like gate zero, which was mandatory universal quarantine. So everyone did the quarantine in their residence for 14 days. And then we moved to gate one, which was very limited outdoor time basically just like going to class and like going back and forth. You weren’t allowed in other residences. And now we’re in gate two which is like actually starting to see some more life on campus. You’ll see people hanging out outside. We can’t have any groups, like group gatherings bigger than 10. So you’ll see people walking around and like doing stuff. But all with social distancing and small groups.
COLLINS: For Heverly, being on campus means following a whole new list of rules.
HEVERLY: So like we can’t have more than like 10 people in our living room at once because then you can’t socially distance. We have to wear a mask whenever we’re not like in our individual room. So even just going downstairs you have to like be wearing masks at all times. We check our temperature every morning before we go up the hill. Obviously if you have a fever or any other symptoms don’t go to class, call the health services number. We’re also like required to wipe down anything that we touch so we have like Lysol and like sanitizing wipes.
COLLINS: Since the beginning of the semester, Colgate has had to send home a number of students because of their decision to not follow the safety guidelines on campus. And when this was going on, Heverly was concerned she would be sent back home. But now that the number of students testing positive for the virus on campus has gone down significantly, Heverly is feeling a lot safer and is glad she chose to go back to campus this semester.
HEVERLY: I can’t say there hasn’t been moments where I kind of wish I was home. But I do think that it was the better choice for me to come to campus this semester. Having in person classes is just like much more meaningful to me than like Zoom class.
JACKIE GARCIA: My name is Jackie Garcia. I use she/her pronouns. I’m in my third year at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut. I’m studying American Studies and Latin American Studies so I’m double majoring.
COLLINS: Jackie, like Bahner and Heverly, is also from Los Angeles, California. She’s currently living on Wesleyan’s campus in a freshman dorm and she’s working as an RA this semester.
GARCIA: I’m currently living in a freshman dorm with about 30 residents on my floor and another RA. I don’t have any roommates. I have like my room for just me. But I do live on like a hall with multiple people. Me and my co-RA, we’re the only people in the hall with a like single room since we’re the RAs.
COLLINS: When she signed up to be an RA last year before the pandemic, she had an idea of what her job would entail. But being an RA now that everything’s changed, isn’t exactly what Garcia expected.
GARCIA: It’s an interesting dynamic because I think also right now the RAs kind of have this role to be like the COVID police. And I don’t think a lot of us want to do that. But also like a part of our job is also like enforcing like, you need to be wearing a mask at all times when you’re not in your room even if you’re going to the restroom, you know. You need to be like following the limit capacity for special common rooms, and lounges and study rooms in the dorms. When I signed up to be an RA, we didn’t know this is happening, so I didn’t expect to constantly be like yelling at people to like keep their masks on. That’s kind of been what my job is kind of like entailing now, is just kind of like keep your mask on, make sure there’s not like more than like, a certain amount of people in certain rooms in the building. And like, it’s just been a very interesting time.
COLLINS: Although being an RA is a bit different than what she expected, taking the position and living on campus was really Garcia’s only option this semester.
GARCIA: I was put in a place where like I kind of had to come back because like I do depend a lot on like the income that I make from like my RA job to come to Wesleyan. So like my options were either come to Wesleyan, stay at home and do remote classes, or take the semester off, and taking the semester off would have kind of like messed with my financial aid and my housing situation cause I would have to do like the different housing placement coming back, and like I don’t know how financial aid would have looked like. I didn’t want to stay home because if I did I wouldn’t be able to afford coming to Wesleyan without taking like, huge loans. So I like I was like, You know what, I think I should go back because I kind of like financially that’s like the better option.
COLLINS: Like Heverly and Bahner, when Garcia’s in a classroom or walking around campus, she must wear a facemask, sit six feet away from other people, and wash and sanitize her hands regularly. But unlike the other students we’ve already heard from, Garcia and the rest of the students at her university must get tested for COVID-19 twice a week.
GARCIA: You either get tested Monday, Thursday, or Tuesday, Friday. So everybody’s on that schedule, to kind of like keep it under control.
COLLINS: Having those weekly tests makes Garcia feel pretty safe on campus. And because of the various measures Wesleyan has put in place to make sure all their students are safe, she’s happy she went back to Connecticut and is enjoying being back on campus this semester.
GARCIA: I think, in general, I think especially like our testing system has been really helpful, um, to how we kind of are doing well. I think the two week quarantine at the beginning of the semester also kind of helped. So I think for the most part I do feel pretty safe and I am glad to be back on campus because I think being back on campus has let me like do work better. Like I think doing school remotely from home was like a terrible experience for me. And it sucked so much. So like being back on campus in like this, like academic environment has definitely helped a lot. So I am glad to be here. And it’s been working out pretty well, which I’m happy about.
DAVID RIDER: Hello, my name is David Rider. I’m a marketing major. I’m technically a senior this year, and I go to Loyola Marymount University.
COLLINS: David is originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, and is one of the few students living on LMU’s campus this semester.
RIDER: I live in O’Malley 407, in my own apartment. I have no one else living with me. And it’s a six person apartment. Which is kind of nice, but also kind of lonely. It’s three bedrooms, and then a like double size bathroom with like two showers and like double everything you could need. And so it’s kind of cool, but also a little bit, I feel like I have like a mansion to myself a little bit.
COLLINS: For the 200 to 300 students living on LMU’s campus this semester, having a whole apartment to themselves is standard. And while it may seem like the perfect situation to have a few friends come over and hang out, that’s not allowed.
RIDER: It’s one person per apartment. So they want to reduce the spread as much as they can. And nobody’s allowed to go in anyone else’s apartment. So it’s very, it’s a little bit isolating at times, to be honest.
COLLINS: Like Garcia, Rider didn’t really have a choice when it came to where he was going to be living this semester.
RIDER: It wasn’t a huge choice of mine. Like obviously, I wanted to be in Los Angeles, but I didn’t really have a great option for me this semester. So I kind of needed a place to stay and work. And LMU then let me in.
COLLINS: While he’s extremely grateful to be one of the few hundred students who have the opportunity to live on campus this semester, it’s not always as great as it may seem with the lack of people walking around.
RIDER: It’s very empty, very quiet. Usually, like every day, I go on, like a one hour walk maybe even more. And I feel like I’m the only person sometimes I feel like I’m like a janitor, that’s just like checking up on everything, making sure everything’s okay. So it’s, it’s a little bit sad sometimes, it’s also obviously like really cool being able to be here and enjoy LMU because not a lot of people have been able to, I guess live here and have, you know, just completely like the entire campus to yourself. But the overwhelming feeling, to be honest, is loneliness a little bit, which I’m sure like most people can attest to.
COLLINS: Along with it being pretty quiet on campus, most of the time, some of the rules LMU has put in place for its students can be considered a bit strict.
RIDER: I think LMU could change up the rules in some ways that would make it better for the students on campus and still be COVID safe. I mean, I know why LMU has to say, you know, no people in these apartments and things like that. But it obviously just seems a little unnecessary. But I would say in terms of if I were LMU I would probably set similar rules. Maybe a little less strict just because they have to do what they have to do, They have to follow rules that are set for them.
COLLINS: Rider, like every other LMU student, is taking his classes online this semester, which he isn’t very fond of. But since it is one of the few times during the day when he gets to see people, he also kind of enjoys it.
RIDER: For me honestly, like, online classes are insanely difficult for me to focus. Like, I usually never have problems focusing in class ever, and just this semester, I’ve just noticed, like, wow, I don’t know what’s going on at all in some of my classes. And yeah, it’s just the weirdest weirdest feeling. So I definitely don’t like it that much. I like seeing people’s faces, you know, so I like it more than asynchronous classes. But I actually, I mean, I really, really look forward to all my classes, I made sure all my classes were synchronous classes. You know, I could be seeing people and talking to people, even if it’s on Zoom.
COLLINS: Living alone on LMU’s campus right now can be pretty hard. And taking classes online can be even harder. But for Rider living on campus, while going to school online, has some perks.
RIDER: Being here, you know, as much as it’s like a really fun place, it’s also like a place where I have gotten work done in the past. So it’s like, okay, you know, this is a place where I do work. So my brains like, Alright, let’s get some homework done.
COLLINS: So what do you think? What’s better, going to school in person, living on campus, and having to wear a face mask, and sit six feet apart from your classmates, or going to school online, living on campus, or at home with your parents, or maybe near your campus in an apartment with some roommates? Either way, students around the world are slowly adjusting to the new college experience they’re getting this semester.
COLLINS: From Los Angeles, California, I’m Samantha Collins, and this is Our New Reality.