COVID@College: Lawrence from Johns Hopkins

By Selin Tukel, Tracy Huang, and Yujia Liao Posted March 11th, 2021

Video by Yujia Liao and Tracy Huang

What is your name, university, and year?

“My name is Lawrence. I am currently a sophomore at Johns Hopkins, and I’m studying computer science.”

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

“Right now, campus is open to students, but it’s completely optional, so students can choose whether or not they want to be on campus at the moment. For those that are on campus, we are required to get tested three times a week, just for overall safety and for contact-tracing. Masks are obviously required, and we also had to do some online COVID-awareness training, sort of these modules that everyone had to go through and complete. Most classes now are online. All my classes are online, but there are some people who have optional in-person classes. For those sorts of classes, they are in a room with a max of ten people, I believe, so I feel like my school in general is taking precautions pretty well. When we do our COVID testing, they get the results to us pretty fast, like within a day usually.”

Do you personally agree with this stance?

“I mostly agree with it, but I do have some reservations. Obviously, mental health suffered a lot for most people, especially since our semester was completely virtual fall semester and half of the semester before that, so a lot of people were sort of feeling isolated. I can understand why they would open it back up for the mental wellbeing of everyone. But I do believe that they should be more strict with students who are living on-campus. I know there have been cases of in-person fraternity parties and also complaints of students not maintaining social distancing, which worries me a bit for the wellbeing of everyone, but, you know, they’re college students and it’s hard to manage them.”

“Mental health suffered a lot for most people.”

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

“Currently I’m living off-campus in an apartment with a few friends of mine, so the apartment is pretty strict regarding masks being worn in all areas besides your own apartment. They do have an open gym but it has a one-person limit, and also you’re required to wipe down all the gym equipment you use after a session. Just in general among my friends and I who are living in the apartment, we’ve made a verbal agreement to clean up after ourselves, wipe down groceries and packages that get brought into the house, and only leave the apartment for necessary activities like COVID testing, buying groceries, and some in-person classes.”

“I think feel safer off-campus, because I’m living in an apartment with close friends of mine and we all trust each other to not be stupid, not go out to parties and get caught, but I know currently some people in on-campus housing dorms are not really adhering to COVID guidelines like I kind of mentioned earlier. And there have been spikes in cases in the previous days which the university has addressed, so I definitely feel a lot more safe here than on-campus.”

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?

It doesn’t affect me too much. I am a Computer Science major, so I guess the ability to work remotely is an important skill. In general, it hasn’t had too much of an effect on me.

“They’re college students and it’s hard to manage them.”

Gilman Hall, at Johns Hopkins University, in Baltimore, Maryland.

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

“It’s really difficult to motivate yourself. Self-motivation did take quite a big hit when stuff transitioned online. It was hard to get out of bed and sort of force myself into that mentality of “Oh, I should be taking this lecture at this time.” A lot of times, since most classes are recorded even after each session is over, it’s really easy to convince yourself that it’s okay to skip a class since you always have that notion of watching a recorded lecture afterwards.

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

“It really sucks to not be with friends in-person. I am living in an apartment with a few friends now, but while it was virtual last semester, we often did video calls with each other where we’d have virtual game nights and we’d just generally chat with each other so that was sort of keeping us together. But obviously with friends you have in a different group, like maybe there are people who you play music with or go to the gym with, those sort of friendships are harder to maintain because you can’t really do those activities virtually, so it’s kind of hard to connect like that. Hopefully when stuff calms down a bit, I’ll be able to connect with those people again, but currently I’m just living in an apartment, so general social life has been pretty interesting and I think I like it.”

“I was in a few clubs. I was involved in my campus’s chamber orchestra group which did chamber music. I played the clarinet there and when COVID hit, we had to cancel our performance dates and we all just went our separate ways. They cancelled the performances at the end of the semester, so that was kind of rough. Obviously latency issues make practicing in groups extremely difficult, so that just wasn’t feasible. I think the club at some point decided they would have recorded parts of everyone’s chamber orchestra piece, and splice that together to play but it just wasn’t the same for me so I just opted out. I was also involved in a RC plane club where we essentially build competition RC planes to compete in a competition, but that was also cancelled. We basically built the majority of the components and we were doing test flights, but then they had to cancel the competition pretty abruptly so that also kind of sucked. I feel like just in general, extracurriculars are kind of sad right now. I know the large majority of clubs suffered as a result of COVID. I’m not really involved in any right now, but I am the treasurer of my school’s piano club, so we do meet weekly to present topics of piano, maybe sight-reading or maybe a specific period of music and engage that way. And for people who do have access to pianos, they can also perform for the club members. It still kind of sucks [though], since audio quality is obviously an issue.”

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

“Currently my school is administering the COVID vaccine to the majority of in-person staff such as teachers who might be holding in-class sessions and course assistants, and also people who are over 65 or 75 are also getting the vaccine at the moment. So I feel like in a few months, the general student body might be getting access to the vaccine which would be nice to have. But I feel like in general, they’re keeping a good job monitoring COVID cases. We do have to install these apps on our phones to monitor how many times we’re getting tested, and they’re also doing a pretty good job with contact-tracing. I’m pretty optimistic for the coming months.

“I’m pretty optimistic for the coming months.”

What would you recommend for students who are struggling to adjust to this new educational experience? Do you have any other personal stories you would like to share?

My biggest advice is to definitely try to attend live class sections as much as possible, because it’s just easier to stay on top of things. When you’re there in-person, you’re kind of forced to follow along with the class and not screw around and procrastinate later on, so that just makes your life a lot easier. One more thing I would suggest is to keep your camera on if possible, as long as you can. I just find that I don’t get distracted as much when I have my camera on. It’s like I’m kind of being watched to pay attention during class, so that does help with motivation.”

If you are interested in sharing your story, please contact Selin Tukel ( for more details.