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The 2020-2021 Fall Semester just started and COVID-19 is still the news of the day. After all the changes that this pandemic has brought to our lives, and the chaotic experience of transitioning to online classes, we all were hoping things would've been back to normal by now. Oh boy, were we wrong. 

 

Up until this day, the precise model for online courses that colleges have adapted remains a jigsaw puzzle waiting to be solved. The pieces seem to fit together, but no one really understands it. Here’s a collection of testimonies that students from a variety of different universities have offered about the subject.  

 

1. "The University of Iowa will be offering both online and in-person classes. So basically, a blended model. If the class is bigger than 50 students, then it will be online. If it’s smaller, it will be in person. Personally, I don’t like online classes because they don’t engage my attention like in-person classes, so that is definitely one of my worries. That has been a problem since last semester when we transitioned online. I’m also worried about the whole virus spreading across campus and the university sending us home early again."

  • Miguel Jacobo, University of Iowa

 

2. "My classes were going to be hybrid, but they’re all pretty much online except for one that meets three times a semester. However, my school did give us the option for not coming back at all and just doing it remotely. The main issue I see is with rent. It’s not really the school, but more of the companies that have apartments and they’re being really inconsiderate of international and domestic students that can’t return to campus, yet still forcing them to pay their rent unless they find a sublease. I’m hoping to see some friends and stuff when I return, but I, of course, want to be super careful. My school offers several locations within campus to get tested and you can get results in under 24 hours."

  • Sidra Sah, University of Illinois

 

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3. "Well... this new semester's virtual. I honestly don't like it at all, but due to the situation, there's just no other way. A part of me doesn't want to take classes because I didn't have the best experience the past semester. However, there's this other part of me that wants to take classes to not fall behind in my studies. The stress is real; [online classes] are more exhausting than in-person classes. I don't really have expectations for this semester, because things just keep getting worse. I don't want to be a pessimist, but add to the pandemic a hurricane season, where you're left without electricity and all the resources needed to operate. This will affect the students, and some professors will probably show no empathy. So yeah, my expectations for this semester aren't that high, but I hope everything turns out alright."

  • Fernando Torres, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Puerto Rico 

 

4. "If this pandemic situation starts to improve by September, maybe we could start face-to-face classes, with the necessary measures to meet social distancing and thus prevent the spread of the virus. It also depends on the instructions given by the relevant authorities. Sincerely, I expect a very rough semester. Attending online classes isn’t an easy task, because we, the students, are used to face-to-face lectures, socializing with our classmates, and handling any doubts with the professors at the moment. Computer Science is a degree that can be handled remotely, but sometimes, it’s necessary to chat in person with the professor about some specific concerns related to the class or a project. Also, keeping in mind that every student learns at a different pace.

This last semester, I was living my exchange student experience in Spain at the School of Engineering in Bilbao, Basque Country.. Sadly, on March 23, I made the decision to fly back to Puerto Rico. I was living in uncertainty, all due to the pandemic. I had a week to change my schedule, routines and everything, when I was getting used to the north-Spanish lifestyle. I decided to continue my studies online in my university in Puerto Rico. I took two classes online. It was overall a good experience, but it could be better. I know that everyone is assimilating the situation, but I still believe that we must be more empathic and think about the differences in every student. Not everyone has the privilege of having all the materials to take online classes and, for some, it is a sacrifice. I hope that this semester will be more organized and easier to follow through. I’m preparing myself mentally and physically to overcome this semester in order to be near my deepest goal, which is graduating university."

  • Paola Figueroa, Universidad Interamericana 

 

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5. "VCU will offer classes in four different course modalities. So there's in-person, hybrid-synchronous, synchronous, and asynchronous, and I believe the way it works is if the class has less than 50 students, it was more than likely going to be in person or hybrid-synchronous. The only problem is that even though some of my classes are less than 50, for example, Advanced Writing Poetry or Biochemistry, they're all going to be taught online. The professors reached out to us and said that, although it's listed as something other than online, it's going to be that way until the foreseeable future.

My expectations for this semester are for it to be exactly how the rest of the spring semester went when COVID-19 started to ramp up. It made everything less stressful, I will admit, but the only problem is that I won't be able to enjoy a lot of my more interesting classes that are going to be in person. The past semester was the same way, there were some classes that I really enjoyed and I would have loved to have had in person, but it just wasn't the case or it couldn't happen. And I guess one worry I have for this semester is my rate of retention. I'm also a little worried about my engagement in class because some classes that I'm going to have won't have Zoom meetings but are still just completely online. As far as building a relationship with the professor and such, or with, like, the person that would probably sit beside me or something like that, I just won't get it. So, yeah."

  • Isaiah Hicks, Virginia Commonwealth University

 

This quarantined summer has been a chance for students to look back into their online semester experience, and emotionally prepare themselves to face yet another unusual semester. After discussing this topic with a few of my peers, I think we can all agree on the fact that there are many concerns and expectations in mind for this fall semester we can all relate to.

Mariangelie Torres Maldonado is an Information and Journalism student at the University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras Campus. She's an adventurous soul that loves to dance like no one is watching and owes all her energy to coffee. She aspires to become a Public Health Journalist and travel the world to learn about other cultures.
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