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Throughout the summer, the ongoing debate over whether college students across America would be returning to campus left many of us unsure of the future. As COVID-19 cases rose, however, many colleges opted to have their students return and hold in-person classes. Even though college-aged students are typically low risk for COVID-19, having an influx of people into major cities is destined to raise cases. Speculation rose whether students would be sent home within the first month or if they would be able to complete the entire semester. Many also worried how college students, deprived of social interaction from quarantine, would follow COVID-19 regulations and cause a spike in their areas. Especially since Northeastern started their semester with 11 first-year students living in the Westin Hotel being dismissed for violating regulations, panic grew over the fate of our fall semester.     Northeastern University developed a strong action plan and testing procedure to keep students and faculty safe. With required testing every three days in a fully-equipped facility for all students living in residential housing and staff on campus, Northeastern completed nearly 500,000 COVID tests with 523 positive tests throughout the entire semester. Those living on campus were encouraged to stay within their living unit with no guests allowed to enter the buildings other than their own. In-person class sessions were limited based on room capacity and students had the ability to attend lectures online. Masks were required everywhere on campus and capacities were set for tables, bathrooms, and entire buildings.  

[bf_image id="rj5pb8f7bb479ph543tkb6h6"]   With all of these regulations, life at Northeastern (and in Boston) was very different for students this semester. Frustration grew as many students were unable to hang out with anyone other than their roommates, limiting their ability to make connections. First-year students, many of whom opted to stay home rather than move to campus, felt disappointed about their first-year experience, not being able to make friends and connect with their teachers. Upperclassman struggled to find co-op positions and grow their resume as opportunities were limited.     Three second-years at Northeastern speak about their fall 2020 experiences and opinions on the university’s COVID-19 response.    

Gianna Mastrion, studying Political Science: “Online learning was much more difficult for me, I require more focus and attention to really learn, and I just wasn’t getting that through Zoom calls. I felt content with how Northeastern responded though. Of course, I miss being able to see my friends and have the same experiences from last year, but I understand it.”   

Nelwin González Barreto, studying Computer Science and Music Technology: “One of the main reasons I chose not to go back was because visits to the dorm were not allowed. In my opinion, I think that if I stayed on campus, I would feel like I was in a prison. I feel like Northeastern did a good job with their COVID-19 response. I was really impressed with the amount of testing they did and are still doing. I liked that professors were always respectable and wore their masks. They did the best they could in the short amount of time they had to plan for it.”   

Skylla Silva, studying Political Science: “I think that NU tried their best to make housing/living situations as safe for us as possible. Looking at it from that perspective, I am very grateful for the strict rules put in place. That being said, it definitely put a damper on everyone’s social lives and well-being. I think it made it virtually impossible to have a social life, and students maybe started looking to unsafe means of getting together to hang out with friends. So basically, I understand the rules were to keep us safe, but I think they were too strict at times and might have had a reverse effect. I think that overall, with regard to testing frequency and the testing centers etc., NU did a really good job. It was comforting to get tested every three days. It absolutely made me feel safer that we were able to do that.”   “They put a lot of effort into making the online learning as smooth as possible and as effective as in person learning was. However, this does not mean that it was. Online learning, no matter how advanced, cannot compare to in person classes. I think more accommodations should have been extended to students. I know of students needing to wake up at obscene hours because of time differences for their classes. I know of many students who had to drop courses because pass/fail wasn’t made an option to students. I also know of students that had to leave for medical reasons (both related and unrelated to COVID) and they really struggled to stay on top of things while still taking care of their mental health. The stress of going to college online during a global pandemic is unparalleled. I think that in this way, NU needed to be a little more understanding of what its students were going through.”

[bf_image id="xc8r5z296k4gbrq4699xrjcz"]   We have finally made it. After weeks of Zoom meetings, endless modules on Canvas and no social interaction, the fall semester is coming to an end. So, what are we to expect for Spring 2021 regarding COVID-19, especially now as the second wave hits and a potential quarantine looms over the country? With a week added to winter break, Northeastern students are finally able to fully ring in the New Year and enjoy the beginning of January with family and friends, rather than returning around January 6th typically. However, that means no spring break, so students should prepare for less time off. An update to the visitor protocol is now allowing essential visitors and accepting cases for non-essential visitors given a reason for an in-person visit rather than a virtual meeting, but most regulations from fall 2020 remain.    I know things may feel hopeless right now and you may be disappointed in your experience this fall. We couldn’t see our friends, we couldn’t hang on campus like we used to, and the academic workload was harder than ever. But all your hard work and perseverance have paid off and the semester is OVER. With the COVID-19 vaccine being distributed within the next 6 months, there is hope and optimism for the future, and the much-needed winter break will prepare us for the upcoming semester!   

Meet the Interviewees  Gianna Mastrion @giannamastrion 

Nelwin González Barreto @elgordo123 

Skylla Silva @skyllasilva 

Johannah Hines

Northeastern '24

Johannah Hines is a second year student at Northeastern University studying International Business and Marketing. She enjoys watching Lost on Hulu, working with kids, and eating delicious burritos.
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