What is your name, what university did you attend & what is your major?
“My name is Jordan Coleman, I am attending Simmons University as a graduate student, studying for my Masters in Public Health.”
How did your college handle COVID?
“I am an online student. I do know that they shut the campus down completely, and I do believe it is still shut down until students come back in the Fall. As far as for my program specifically, really nothing changed, because we were already online. So there was not the need to try to get classes and coursework online, it was already there. So the expectation for us was that things should proceed as normal.”
“I definitely experienced some burnout this year, just from tring to juggle so many things and having little help.”
Did you agree with how your college handled COVID?
“I agreed with what Simmons was doing, as far as closing down the campus. I think that was the safest method. It seemed like COVID was spreading rapidly amongst colleges across the US. Especially since in the beginning, a lot of younger people kinda thought that they were immune to COVID. Or, like it wouldn’t affect them. So we still saw a lot of students going to class, having parties, and taking spring break trips. Once universities and Simmons specifically did shut down, I thought that was for the best to keep everyone safe.”
Do you think you had a different experience because you lived off campus?
“I do think my experience was different since I already had a home, and was off campus. I did not have to worry about essentially being thrown out of my home. And that is something that I read a lot about when universities did start to shut down. A lot of international students couldn’t get home, but they also had to leave campus, their dorms, apartments and try to figure out a place to live. Which I think that is definitely a struggle.
And I think that is where the university should step-in and provide some kind of funds, especially if they were not reimbursing students for room and board that is already paid at the beginning of each semester. [They should be] reimbursing them with funds to stay at some nice hotel in the area, to give them a place to live. But even students who live in the US at Simmons, it could still be hard to get home. I don’t know what their living situation would have been [like] back at home. But If it wasn’t ideal, that can make it difficult, especially if they are still trying to do their classes online.
[Overall,] I do think that my situation was a little bit different doing an online program. And already being established in my home, did make the transition a little bit easier.”
How did you handle motherhood, academics and a pandemic?
“I was on maternity leave for three months after my son was born. And then I [went] back to work full time. And then, three months after that, my classes started back up. So this is January of 2021, and it was extremely difficult [because] my son was not in daycare at the time. Just because that was like when cases were out the roof, and the vaccine really hadn’t been widely distributed yet. I think at that time, it was really [only] for a select few healthcare workers. So I had a 6-7 month old son, [and] was trying to work full time while he was at home. While also trying to take evening classes, finish my assignments, and just trying to get back in the groove of working and being in school. So yes it was extremely challenging, and I did not know how I made it through.”
Has COVID affected your learning in graduate school?
“Absolutely, I definitely experienced some burnout this year, just from trying to juggle so many things and having little help. My husband and I do not live in an area where we have lots of family. So it is essentially just me and him that are around to take care of our son. It does primarily fall on me, as [my husband] also works full time, but he works outside of the home. He is not home very often, except for a few hours in the evening while my son is still awake. So it was definitely a challenge as far as trying to balance all that, and you know, figure out how I am going to do school and work on top of COVID. If COVID would not have been a thing, he would have been in daycare during the day. So even though I work from home, I would have had some time during my day to pursue school, and readings, and things like that. But with him being at home, any free time and breaks that I did get from work were all spent catering and tending to him, because he needed so much of my attention.”
“It was extremely challenging and I did not know how I made it through.”
How did COVID impact the social aspects of your graduate school experience?
“Even though the program is online, and most of the students are all over the country, we were supposed to have an immersion experience. Where everybody would have gotten together in person, and gone down to the borderlands of Arizona. Obviously it was not safe to do that, this was supposed to happen back in April. It wasn’t safe to do that at the time, there were not many people vaccinated. And the CDC had not come out with the recommendation that masks aren’t mandatory for people fully vaccinated, so instead they did the immersion virtually. So we didn’t get that chance to meet in person, like we had all been hoping to do. We had been together now for quite some time and seeing each other inside zoom classrooms. But we really wanted to meet each other in person, and say “hey” and hang out. But that didn’t get to happen. While we are all still good friends and keep in contact, none of us have ever met in person. Which is kind of weird to think about sometimes.”
What advice would you give students about how to handle a pandemic in college?
“I think some of the things that really got me through, even though I didn’t really have time for it, is scheduling time in for self care. So I love taking baths, and doing my skin care routine and things like that. And even though realistically I should have been doing homework instead of taking a bath. I knew my homework wouldn’t have been good, it probably wouldn’t have gotten me a good grade, just because I was so exhausted and tired of dealing with school. I just told myself, if you have to put it off for a day or you have to ask for an extension, which most of our professors were pretty lenient about just given the circumstances, that’s something that I needed to do to preserve my mental health. And I would hope that professors at other universities would also be understanding. There is a lot going on in these student’s lives. And to have the expectation that every single assignment should be turned in exactly when they want it to be, I do not think is not very realistic during this time. So hopefully their professors are as understanding as [those at] Simmons, and allow them, if they need that one or two day extension just to have a mental break, that they are able to get that. It definitely made all the difference for me.”
“If the dream is still to get a degree, whether that is an undergrad, graduate or a doctorate degree, even with a child, it can definitely be done.”
Any final thoughts you want to share about your experience?
“For students who are in school, who happen to get pregnant, a lot of people will look at you and think that you are crazy. You know because it is like, why are you having a baby, whether it is grad school or undergrad. And while it seems impossible and very very hard at times, it is possible. And you can do it. I didn’t even have much support, I didn’t have my parents around to just watch my son whenever. Thankfully my husband is pretty supportive and takes on that role when necessary. But it can be done. And if the dream is still to get a degree, whether that is an undergrad, graduate or a doctorate degree, even with a child it can definitely be done. It won’t be easy though.”