By Selin Tukel and Teehan McGinness, Posted February 10th, 2021
Video by Teehan McGinness
What is your name, university, and year?
“My name is Charli Holstein, Tulane University, and I am a senior so I am graduating in May 2021.”
What course of action has your university chosen to take regarding COVID-19? How do you feel about this?
“We are doing a hybrid version, so we have some classes in person and some classes completely remote online. They’ve been pretty communicative I will say, they made tents as outdoor classrooms so it is more spaced out and bigger so we can all sit six feet apart in classrooms. They are also giving us testing twice a week which is really nice but, I feel like the incentive to be back on campus is causing a lot of people to be unsafe. I don’t think that they should have held in person classes in general.”
Do you personally agree with this stance?
“I think that we should have just been all online. They shouldn’t have opened the dorms because most of the COVID cases have been sophomores and freshmen who still live on campus.”
“It is hard when you are trying to be safe and do the right thing when you are surrounded by people who aren’t.”
What is your living situation at your university? On-campus, off-campus, staying at home? What are the safety precautions being implemented?
“I live in a house off-campus with eight people which has been good and bad for COVID because they’re my closest friends so it is nice that I won’t get sick of them and we get along and can spend time together. But also because there are so many people we really have to be aware and limit who we see. I think that [the dorms] would be an inevitable hot spot, especially with all the incoming freshmen. Originally off-campus students were getting tested only once a week, and they just moved it to twice a week. I think it has in part to do with their not having people who have tested positive and finished their isolation period get tested again for the rest of the semester. They are going on the belief that they have the antibodies, so now they do have room for more testing because that is 900 people who have tested positive and do not need to test again. Now they have opened testing and made it more frequent for off-campus students. Grad students and staff also have to get tested every two weeks when originally it was once a month. Tulane has a medical center downtown so they do the testing directly through the lab there. “
How has this transition impacted your educational career? (Online, limited in-person classrooms, etc.) Will this impact your track to graduation and how has using online learning changed your educational experience? How do you feel about this?
“I feel like professors have taken this opportunity to give us more work than ever before. I feel like they have this idea that we aren’t doing anything, but we are still going through it. They have piled on the assignments and it’s hard to pay attention in Zoom class. It can be really easy to get distracted when you are just watching a professor lecture on your screen. Some of my classes are a combination of synchronous and asynchronous sessions and then some of them are completely synchronous and they are live lectures. I have been able to take every class I need to stay on course to graduate, but it hasn’t been in the same way. I feel like I was more affected last semester because it was really hard to go from all in-person classes to all online. That was a rough transition. It hasn’t affected the credits or courses I need to take, it has kind of made everything more confusing. That is just me personally.“
“It has been pretty isolating mentally.”
What has been the most difficult aspect of your school’s transition?
“It has been pretty isolating mentally and lonely. There are still people going out and doing things and acting as if we aren’t in a pandemic. When you are seeing it on social media, the pressure towards doing that though they are having scares and risks. It is hard when you are trying to be safe and do the right thing when you are surrounded by people who aren’t. I am also in New Orleans which is a big party city, so it is weird being here and feeling very confined and limited in what I am able to do.”
How has COVID-19 impacted you/your family’s financial situation?
“I am very lucky that my dad’s job was not affected by COVID. I have a single father and his mom tested positive and she lives in a nursing home, so that has been strenuous on us. He does home health care, so actually he has one of the few jobs that have benefited from this because people are now deterred from sending their parent’s into facilities so they call him instead to live in aid to minimize risk. Luckily that hasn’t been the case for me but I know a lot of people obviously have been affected. I worked in a restaurant at the beginning of COVID and we got shut down obviously, but luckily we were allowed to reopen.”
How has COVID-19 impacted your friendships/social life at school? Extracurriculars?
“My friends and I are a group of eight and we have lived together since our sophomore year, and we never have had problems. Not that we have problems now but I think that there is an elevated level of tension because we are only spending time with each other. We all get along but when you do not have an outlet to see other people and you’re just with the same people constantly, it can get tiring and redundant and tension can build. I think it is better now we all have calmed down, but there was a point of high stress. Everyone is mentally having a rough time. We all have mutual respect for COVID and each other, and other people have reached out but I just want to be careful. Sometimes I see people who I really like and trust going to indoor bars, and not doing smart things and I think ‘this is showing me your true colors right now.“
Do you see the situation at your university changing in the near future?
“They have not yet. I think they do view their approach as a success. I think if people were compliant with the rules that Tulane sets, then it would be seen as a successful approach. I do not feel like I will get COVID from a classroom personally, I feel like they are safe and the way that they conduct classes. It is just the students that don’t care and are going to frat parties still are the ones who are getting COVID. I think that we will do a version of this next semester, but they have not come out with anything officially about it.“
“Surround yourself with people who support you.”
What would you recommend for students who are struggling to adjust to this new educational experience?
“Make sure that you are leaving your house, even just me and my friends go on a walk once a day at least. Go on a walk, make sure you are taking care of your mental health because that comes first. I think a lot of times when we are doing school it is really hard to get sucked in. Make sure you are taking care of yourself and prioritizing what you need and also be safe and smart. Surround yourself with people who support you. Right now if you’re in a situation where you’re with people who are not helpful or understanding it is going to make things a lot harder.”