Our Pandemic Year: UConn students on anniversary of university closing for COVID-19

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On March 11, 2020, University of Connecticut President Thomas Katsouleas announced the suspension of in-person classes due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The last in-person classes were to occur on March 13, 2020, the last day before spring break, and resume on April 6, 2020.  

UConn students are now reflecting on what a year with COVID-19 has felt like.  

Kamila Krawczuk, a sixth-semester computer science and engineering major, said March 13 was the day she realized the pandemic was truly serious.  

“I feel like for me, at least, it was the day before spring break,” Krawczuk said. “There was this surreal feeling on campus that day where a lot of things were closing, kind of like the calm before the storm.” 

Nick Greco, a sixth-semester history major, cited the NBA suspension as the moment he realized the threat of COVID-19. The NBA halted all activities on March 11, 2020 after a Utah Jazz player tested positive for the virus.  

“When the NBA shut down, I realized that it was serious,” Greco said. “Seeing something I was used to watching every day be cancelled as if a major tragedy just occurred was the first sign that we were about to enter a major shift.” 

UConn officially closed for the spring semester on March 17, 2020. All activities at UConn were cancelled, including commencement for the class of 2020.  

Andi Duro is an eighth-semester computer science major. Duro said it was strange to see people react to the pandemic so slowly.  

“I knew this was going to happen since early January, so watching all the public institutions react so slowly felt like watching a car crash in slow motion,” Duro said. “It felt like a blinking match where nobody wanted to be responsible and plan ahead but as soon as one state blinked all the other states went along with it.” 

Since the beginning of the pandemic, UConn has begun to reopen, with some students returning to residential housing in the fall 2020 semester. The campus has remained only at partial capacity through the spring.  

However, the difficulties provided by the pandemic have led to new opportunities for some students. For example, Duro is the lead of UConn Gaming Club’s Minecraft division. Duro sympathized with the class of 2020 after hearing about commencement being cancelled, so he decided to create a COVID-safe space for graduation — in the popular video game Minecraft.   

Duro, along with a team of other students, built a scale model of Gampel Pavilion in Minecraft so students could have a virtual graduation. Duro credited students Norlinda Steward, Mia Jordan, Dominic Martire, Bjorn Kaçi, Sophie Lin, Ryan Marsh, Ethan Shan, Michael Tarby and Nile Keech with helping with the project. However, the Minecraft server didn’t stop there.  

“After we finished we realized, why not go further? So we started building more and more of campus and now we have the U, the School of Business, the fieldhouse, North parking garage, Ted’s, and many other iconic Storrs buildings,” Duro said. 

At time of publishing, UConn is planning for residence halls to be at full capacity for the fall 2021 semester. In an email to students on Feb. 24, Dean of Students Eleanor Daughterty said the university was planning to return to normal operations for fall 2021.  

“Finally, we are all hoping for a fall 2021 that is closer to pre-COVID times. The university has just begun what will have to be a lengthy planning process,” read the email. 

“As you know, the day to day realities of COVID require us to be vigilant and nimble in our plans.  Your patience is always appreciated. That being said, I know you rely on us for information and transparency. We’re on it.” 

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