COVID@College: Julia from Yale University

By Selin Tukel, Posted December 10th, 2020

Selin Tukel

A Note from the Interviewer:

As a college student myself during unprecedented times like these, I found that my whole life at my university has changed drastically due to COVID-19. Though I was experiencing so many changes, I was curious as to what other students across the nation were experiencing as well. I sought out to learn about other students at their respective universities, and how my transition to college during COVID-19 compared to theirs. As I continued these conversations, I thought that they should not just stop here, but should be shared across the nation. I wanted to give college students from all over the opportunity to share their stories with anyone who’s willing to listen. This blog series is a pure and unfiltered version of “COVID@College.”

Teehan McGinness

A Note from the Video Editor:

As plans for college this fall semester moved completely remote at my school, I was excited to hear about the variety of experiences people are having at different universities. Individuals sharing their experiences through stories and virtual interactions provided a rich glimpse into what it means to be a student in higher education during the COVID-19 pandemic. I hope this blog provides the same ease to you as we all still navigate what being a student during this time means, and we continue sharing our own stories.

Video by Teehan McGinness

What is your name, university, and year?

Julia Banas

“My name is Julia Banas, I am a Yale University Graduate Student, and I will be graduating in 2021.”

What course of action has your university chosen to take regarding COVID-19? How do you feel about this?

“For us, they have done the hybrid model, so we have some in-person classes and some online, but all classes are offered online in some way at least. I believe for the undergraduates it’s fully online but they are allowed back on campus as for the fall they have Freshman Juniors and Seniors and for the Spring they have Sophomores Juniors and Seniors. But now, my model is the hybrid model.”

Do you personally agree with this stance?

“As someone who is able to be here and is comfortable taking in-person classes, I am happy they have the option. However, I think in practice It has been a lot more difficult to use a dual-delivery system. For example, I had one in-person class that was using a dual-delivery system and I’m pretty sure we are going to go fully online just because the technical issues have been difficult and the professor having to balance the online and in-person portion of it is pretty difficult. I also just don’t like online learning. I am happy we are still able to have school but it is definitely more difficult in my opinion.”

“There are some things that can’t translate online.”

What is your living situation at your university? On-campus, off-campus, staying at home? What are the safety precautions being implemented?

“I’m off-campus. I think they have testing twice a week (for on-campus students), and for the off-campus professional students, you are allowed to get tested once a week. They don’t make it mandatory but I have just been doing it myself because I can and it is free. Though they have testing twice a week for those on campus, I am not too sure about the other safety precautions they have.”

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?

“Luckily it hasn’t been impacting my course of graduation, I think partly because it is a two-year program, it is a little harder to get in the way of that. I would say I feel like I haven’t learned as much this year as I have in the past just because so much of it feels so independent but also not at the same time. So much is on you to make sure you are keeping up with assignments and going to class and it’s almost less noticeable if you don’t do those things so motivation is a lot harder.

I think there is definitely a disconnect between being online and in-person because you aren’t sitting in class with people. You can’t turn to the person next to you and ask ‘Oh hey, was this assignment due tomorrow?’ I think it is difficult to not have that same in-person connection as you normally would. My classes are smaller, and I think that helps. Some of them that are 15 people or less have been pretty good about feeling more normal. In other classes it is hard with the breakout rooms, as it is always “what are we supposed to be doing?” and no one even knows so you just try your best but there is no accountability. I am not in a large class where we would need to have these discussions, but no one is walking around checking on you as in a normal classroom or you don’t hear other groups talking. I think they are doing their best but there are just some things that can’t translate online.”

“Not having an easy way to make new connections has been difficult.”

Yale University campus in downtown New Haven, CT

What has been the most difficult aspect of your school’s transition?

“I think it is losing those casual conversations or acquaintances that you have. Obviously, you still prioritize talking with your good friends whether that is doing something safely in person or doing zoom calls, but you lose being able to make friends in class or on campus based on just seeing people around or being in the same situation. You can message people on Zoom but I have never done that, it seems kind of maybe not for me. Not having an easy way to make new connections has been difficult.”

How has COVID-19 impacted you/your family’s financial situation?

“It hasn’t impacted us too much luckily. It did affect our internships as they weren’t paid for. At my school, a lot of people had difficulties finding internships as more people had their internships canceled. So it definitely has affected a lot of people and I am lucky that it hasn’t had too much of an impact on me. I am happy that my school gives us resources, for example, our coding programs, at least the ones I needed we have gotten (on our computers) for free but if we had to pay for those on your own computer, where somethings only work on Windows and don’t work on Apple, and a lot of people would have difficulties. If you had to figure out a way to get the program on your computer or get a new computer to do certain things, that would just be another punch in this whole situation.”

How has COVID-19 impacted your friendships/social life at school? Extracurriculars?

“I think so. I think too you get screen fatigue a lot and if you are in a class all day or there is an interesting meeting for an extracurricular seminar, I feel less motivated to go if I don’t have to because I have been staring at Zoom calls all day. I don’t want to keep doing it and I want a break. Even aside from the in-person connections, you don’t have, I get tired of looking at zoom all day and looking at yourself in zoom especially.”

Do you see the situation at your university changing in the near future?

“They are doing the same thing with the hybrid. I am personally really curious if more people will do it in person or less. On one hand, if it is safer maybe more professors will be willing to do it (in person) and the ones who have been doing it in person will have gotten the hang of it. On the other hand, I feel like all the professors will maybe say instead ‘Well we have already done online, let’s just keep doing it online’ or ‘it was too hard of a semester with the hybrid, I’ll just have my class online.’ I don’t really know how that is going to go. They also took away our spring break which isn’t unexpected. Instead, they are giving us break days randomly throughout the semester. They are basically taking the five days you would have off for spring break and putting them randomly throughout the semester.

I get the idea behind it of giving us a break because that is something that a lot of us have been struggling with this semester is not having even a day off. I’m definitely interested to see how all of that is going to be handled. Our (second semester) is also starting later, we are starting in February. It is definitely weird to think about going home from Thanksgiving to February. For our school, after Thanksgiving everything is online to discourage people from going back and forth, so that is why I will probably leave for Thanksgiving and not return until we come back in February.”

“I am happy we are still able to have school but it is definitely more difficult in my opinion.”

What would you recommend for students who are struggling to adjust to this new educational experience?

“Generic advice would be trying to stay connected with the people you are already friends with or family over Zoom and trying new activities. My friends and I have been playing the game Among Us, and it’s that cute little app where you manipulate all your friends. It’s a really good one to play online, so I guess just trying new activities and hobbies if you can. I have been baking a lot too. If anyone has advice too I’d love to hear it. I feel for the freshman too, I was talking to a first-year graduate student and I was asking how everything is coming here and having to be so online. She was saying that this is the only thing that she has experienced here, so she says she doesn’t know what she’s missing. And I was thinking that is so true but so sad. Hopefully, they will know eventually, but it doesn’t seem to be ending any time soon.”

If you are interested in sharing your story, please contact Selin Tukel (selintukel@ufl.edu) for more details.