Students at the University of Connecticut are expressing their concerns regarding unforeseen challenges due to COVID-19’s disruption of daily life on campus, and are worried about the remainder of the semester.
Jessica Ortega, a third-semester animal science and pathobiology major, said that she is doing okay so far but had the misfortune of her computer breaking down, which is a challenge considering that most of her classes are online.
“Classes definitely have a different vibe than they did when everything is normal. There is a distance how I feel with the professors being online than in person,” Ortega said.
Shenelle Shaw, a third-semester biology major, said that as a commuting student, she appreciates in-person classes more since the switch to an online format by most courses. There is more structure to those classes, Shaw said, and that helped her take the in-person classes more seriously.
“I get more from those classes even with the new systems in place,” Shaw said.
Shaw said that she felt pretty good about her classes and that the professors are doing as much as they can to make classes accommodating. However, even with these accommodations, she said that she feels the effects of the distance, including not being able to effectively reach out to professors.
Carly Saindon, a fifth-semester environmental science major, said that the most annoying aspect of the semester so far has been professors that do not have access to the resources they need to know how to teach classes online.
“There’s been problems every class where the people online can’t hear or then all of a sudden we can’t see what’s being presented. And I feel bad for [my professor] because there’s nobody around to help him,” Saindon said.
Joe Zavorskas, a first-year chemical engineering Ph.D. student, said that in his case as a graduate student, he has been taking fewer classes and trying to get into research labs. He said that one big aspect of online courses that he has noticed is that his professors have not stuck to the modality of courses that were advertised on the student administration system.
“I’d had a couple of classes that were displayed on StudentAdmin to be hybrid blended that were changed to entirely online through Webex or ‘I’m gonna post a recorded lecture and you have to do it,’” Zavorskas said. “I know UConn has kind of harped on that to their professors, and they said they’d be better about that next semester.”
Zavorskas also said that in terms of his research lab study, it has also become more difficult because getting to know the professor, meeting students and seeing the lab space is important in selecting a research group to work with, “especially because the program is five years.” He said he has found ways to work around it by talking with advisors and working around the lab restrictions.
Students said that they feel it has also become harder for them to hang out with others due to the social distance regulations.
Ortega said that hanging out outside is really the only thing a student can do. As a student living on campus, she feels that there are far less interactions with students than there were last semester. She said that the atmosphere of the campus also feels very different. She would usually see students walking across campus in and out of classes, but now it feels “very quiet.”
Saindon said that the campus vibe has felt very depressing since there are no people around.
“I’m a junior and I’ve been here for two years before the pandemic, so I already have a good idea of what campus is supposed to look like and how many people are supposed to be around, even spaces like this and the Union library and what purpose those are supposed to hold,” Saindon said. “Now there’s just not as much campus spirit. There’s not as many people walking around.”
She also said that it is a bit of a struggle to study at the library because she would need to reserve a space, whereas before she could study there with other students freely.
“I’m fortunate enough to have an apartment, so when I have to do homework or when I have to do anything online I have a nice big space to go and sit and do my school work,” Saindon said, “but I feel for people who are stuck in dorms because spaces like the library aren’t really accessible to them.”
Shaw said that she feels nervous because she doesn’t know what could happen in the next week.
“I think a lot of things are changing constantly and I don’t know what could be around the corner. It’s unpredictable. We just have to hope for the best,” Shaw said.
Shaw said that she commends the efforts that the university has taken to make her feel safe as a student.
“When I go to take the buses, you need to make sure that you have on your facemask, and I see people constantly cleaning surfaces that are touched. I think they are doing a good job,” Shaw said.
Saindon also said that she feels that UConn has done a “pretty good job” and feels safe in a lot of the spaces that she enters, and appreciates that places like the recreation center have equipment spaced out and hand sanitizer dispensers everywhere.
Saindon said she is optimistic that campus life will hopefully go back to normal by the spring semester.
“I’m looking forward to sports events opening up again. I hope at some point, even next year, we can have on-campus events again,” Saindon said. “I think that is at the heart of our school and where a lot of our school spirit comes from.”