COVID@College: Natalia from Suffolk University

By Tracy Huang, Teehan McGinness and Selin Tukel, Posted April 6th, 2021

Video by Teehan McGinness

What is your name, university, and year?

“My name is Natalia Rios. I am a student at Suffolk University in Boston, and I am currently remote. I’m studying politics, philosophy, and economics, with a minor in environmental studies, and I’m a junior right now.”

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

“My school has kind of been doing the same thing, following other schools’ lead in the way that schools in the city have kind of reacted to COVID-19. Since last spring, it’s been sending kids home to be remote mostly, and then having the freshmen and students who must be on campus be the only ones on campus. It’s worked. I feel a little bit of a disconnect between what the school is doing for COVID-19 and if it’s working or not because I’m not on campus. What you really get are just these emails talking about how you should be getting tested and stuff, but it doesn’t really apply to me so I’m not really seeing any effect of what the school is doing, which is kind of strange. But, I know it’s working because cases have gone down and the school wouldn’t be doing this if it wasn’t working.

There’s definitely pros and cons. I’m a junior right now and as a lot of people have said, it’s [been] mostly the culture of going to school in the city and everything, and being around your classmates. I’m currently, I don’t want to say stuck at home, but I have no other choice but to be at home, with my parents. I am glad that I am remote but I wish I was on campus. I wish the whole COVID thing hadn’t happened and I wish that I was on-campus.”

“I am glad that I am remote but I wish I was 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 hasn’t really impacted my transcript or anything. It hasn’t impacted my path to graduation, which I’m glad for because I know that situations like this have impacted other students and have altered their path to graduation. But there are other aspects of my path to graduation that have been altered. I feel like [when] you’re at home, your scheduling [and] your motivation to be at school is just not the same, and that’s kind of a difference between having to be remote and then being in-person.”

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

“It’s kind of been happening in every aspect of life during COVID. It’s kind of been [like] since you’re home, you can be doing more than you would be doing, and I’ve seen it happening with my parents and their jobs, and my sisters. You’re expected to do more just because you’re home and in front of the computer. You don’t have to go to the office or [school] so you have this expectation set by your boss or by your teachers that you should be doing more at home than you would be doing on-campus. It kind of adds up and you know, on top of all that, you’re piled with “I’m not motivated.” This isn’t the environment I set myself to be in and it kind of just adds up, and the fact that you’re kind of expected to be doing more than you should be doing, that’s affected the transition. It’s been hard because you don’t know how to set those boundaries, especially when you’re a student. There’s no difference between your life and then your school life. And I guess that happens with college, but it’s definitely been present during our transition.”

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

“It’s definitely been different. I feel like my family hasn’t been affected in the greatest way that a lot of families in the United States have been affected by the pandemic, which I’m really thankful for. There are definitely other aspects of family impacts that don’t really account for the economics of the pandemic. [For example], there’s having a family being in one space for an extended amount of time. It brings up different things, not necessarily economic, but I’m fortunate that my family hasn’t been impacted by the stresses of the pandemic in that way.”

“I really am looking forward to going back to school and being with other people.”

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

“It’s just a complete disconnect. I feel really bad for students who have started their college experience during this time. I’m a junior, and if you didn’t make those friends in freshman or sophomore year, you’re kind of in limbo. I was fortunate enough to have a couple of friends that I made in-person in my classes sophomore and freshman year, and they kind of have been like this string connecting me to the university. Without it, I feel like I would be completely pushed away from any experience at school, and I feel like it’s hard doing extracurriculars and getting together with other people. You have to plan a Zoom and you have to have everyone be in it. And it’s just not the same. I don’t think school should continue this way because it’s not a good way to make you be sociable and make relationships with people. And it’s not even your peers, but also making relationships with your professors, staying after class a couple minutes just to talk to your professor and connect and create these relationships. It’s not the same on Zoom. You want to leave the meeting as quickly as you can so you’re not the last window in the Zoom. It’s definitely taken a toll. I really am looking forward to going back to school and being with other people, just like feeling other people around me.

In my school, it’s school policy that you don’t have to turn on your camera, but I do have a couple of professors that strongly encourage it, and even when you do turn on your camera, it’s not the same, I feel. Everyone’s muted, [so] you don’t get those in-person reactions that you would get in a classroom. And it’s not really like a back and forth, it’s really paused. Especially in discussion lectures, you have to wait until the professor calls on you. You can’t just speak out like you would in a classroom and it’s not the same experience.”

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

Yes. At the same time, I feel like the university doesn’t really have a lot of control over what happens. The state of Massachusetts has been clear with schools and universities, but I do think that things are looking up for the state and for the country as a whole. I expect that next semester, a lot more classes will be in-person, and a lot more people will be on-campus. [This] is a relief [after] a whole year being away. I [also] did get an apartment with Brianna, my roommate, for the fall semester so I’m really hoping that classes are back in-person because I don’t really want to be stuck in an apartment, just like being stuck at home but somewhere else. So I think things are looking up and I think that the school is kind of pushing for students to be back on campus, but of course, staying within the guidelines of the state and the city.

“Mental health has been severely impacted by the pandemic.”

How do you think your university is dealing with students’ mental health, and how do you personally feel about it?

“It’s unfortunate because the pandemic has just brought so many other issues to the surface, especially mental health. I think that in some ways, we’re kind of lacking in acknowledging that mental health has been severely impacted by the pandemic and by this situation that we’re in. I think that maybe my school wasn’t good at reacting to this new phenomenon or the surface mental health struggles that students have been going through… we got our Spring Break taken away and we have one day [off] which will be tomorrow (Wednesday). It’s called our mental health day, and it’s a good idea but it’s not Spring Break and it’s not a break overall. You still have to do coursework [and] you still have to do your work, so you just get a pseudo day off. They claim to be helping you out, but at the same time, you need to acknowledge that, yeah we’re going through something that’s really bad for the economy, which I feel like [is] how many people see the pandemic affecting our society, but it’s been really detrimental on our mental health. It’s definitely like PTSD; I feel like I find myself going out and seeing some people [who] don’t wear masks, and I’m like “Oh my gosh.” You get freaked out, and those things aren’t normal. I think that at school, it needs to be acknowledged that what’s going on isn’t normal, and if you’re struggling, it’s okay because this is not normal.”

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?

“Definitely reach out and don’t be afraid, because a lot of people are going through what you’re going through and it’s not something that should be demonized or anything. It should be normalized and it should be accounted for. At my school, there’s a lot of resources that you can reach out to. I know [that] sometimes it can be scary, but I feel like they make it so that you’re comfortable talking about how you’re feeling. Schools are always open to talking through things that aren’t working, and then seeing how it can work better for you as a student. I think outside of school, it’s really important to have these connections with other people who are going through the same thing. It’s always good to reach out to someone that you know and talk to them about how you’re feeling.”

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