College during Covid: QV Alumni provides Look into Freshman Year During a Global Pandemic
By: Drew Huddleston
For many, 2021 is a year of uncertainty. With COVID-19 still running rampant, and the vaccination beginning its distribution, it’s impossible to predict how the second half of the school year will unfold. Despite all looming on the horizon, the time has come for seniors to look beyond it, and towards college. However, the coronavirus has forced students to question and consider what their freshman year will look like.
To answer some of these questions, I interviewed class of 2020 graduate and former Quaker Quill writer, Will Torrance, who is currently majoring in screenwriting at Point Park University.
While the curriculum to Will’s major is certainly unique, he has seen a variety of approaches to college courses. “Certain classes are still in person, and certain classes are not. Most of my classes were over Zoom or Microsoft Teams, and in-person classes have the option to not show up in person,” Torrance told me in our interview. Similar to Quaker Valley, the virtual format has affected how the assignments are handled, “I haven’t gotten a physical paper in a very very long time. All the tests are online, have a time limit, and are available for a certain period of time. You don’t have the surveillance of a teacher, so if you printed out their notes and had them there with you, you could do pretty darn well on a test.” From what I learned, the new approaches are certainly different but do not allow students to fall behind, despite changes such as open notes tests.
While this academic approach may seem reminiscent of Quaker Valley’s own virtual curriculum, the freedoms of college life are a new luxury that students can look forward to. Universities such a Point Park offer campuses containing an array of amenities and resources to which students have immediate access. Yet, due to COVID-19 restrictions and guidelines, schools have been forced to prioritize safety. “A lot of stuff is still open, it’s just socially distanced. But there are things we can’t access, like lounge areas and such. All in all, it’s very accommodating to the current Covid environment,” Will said. Necessities such as the gym and library are still available to students, but the scope of the campus’ offerings has been reduced.
With many accommodations being removed to ensure student safety, students have been forced to question what a college social life would look like in the middle of the pandemic. Will was able to speak to these issues, saying, “It’s weird because we’re all in the same boat, in the sense that we’re all social distancing and we’re all trying to avoid Covid. The people you meet are the people you’re comfortable taking your mask off around, and you find places where you won’t be around other people.” Torrance described how he never had an issue making friends, but rather finding things to do with them, “We don’t have a lot of activities to do because a lot of stuff isn’t available.”
It goes without saying that so much has changed in college. Yet, students should remain optimistic, as the changes aren’t the end of the world. “I’m having a lot of fun. Despite all the restrictions from Covid, I’ve met a lot of cool people, and found ways to do a lot of great things,” Will said about his freshman year so far. Despite everything that’s different, the core attributes of hard work and time management remain essential to surviving college. When asked what advice he had for the class of 2021, Will had three words to offer: “Balance your time. You’re going to have a lot of free time. Prioritize your assignments, and make room for friends.”
(Cover image courtesy of CNN)