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Alumni Cope with Pandemic Disruptions

Imagine having to adapt to two separate life-changing events at the same time! Having to take on the stress from both while also trying to maintain a mentally sane, emotionally okay social life. Well, for the majority of recent LHS graduates, this is exactly what they had to deal with: college and COVID.

COVID, during college, for the past two years has made things “very boring and uninteresting” says graduate of the 2020 class Nate Sullivan, “I couldn’t do much of anything besides work”. John Quinlan, also a graduate of the class of 2020, says that “it was much more tedious, mind-numbing and boring”.

 Sullivan, now attending his second year of college at UMass/Amherst, looks back on his first year saying “it was definitely not the ‘college experience’ but I still managed to have a good time”. Why wasn’t this considered the ‘college experience’ according to Sullivan? Because it was all hybrid.

Similar to Sullivan, Quinlan’s college, Notre Dame, was also hybrid. Both of them were heavily restricted on how much they could interact with others on campus. Sullivan recalls that “RAs in my dorm were very strict and would constantly get people in trouble for having more than two people in a room without masks on”.

Not only was it a challenge to interact with friends, but family also. Both Quinlan and Sullivan had to restrain from interacting with their older relatives, solely from fear of getting them sick. To make up for this, both Quinlan and Sullivan would facetime their friends and family to stay in touch.

So with all of these issues, is it possible to have a good time in college? Absolutely! With all the work being “10x easier” and “definitely less”, Sullivan and Quinlan respectively, due to the online classes and online assistance they can use, college students had much more time to make new hobbies!

In order to occupy himself, Quinlan “took up new hobbies like weightlifting”. Sullivan, occupied himself with a “mini weight room”, “working a retail job, and playing guitar”. All these hobbies they may have never been able to pick up if classes were always in person and they had no online aid.

When it was time to go back to in-person, some things got harder, but some things improved greatly. From an online learning perspective, from doing it for so long, it can be stated that once you get accustomed to how easy online learning was for some people, going back to in-person would be challenging.

This is the case for Quinlan, as he says that “going back in person was challenging because it almost felt like I had developed a crutch of tests being open notes and using online assistance for homework”.

Sullivan “preferred online to an extent because it made it a lot easier to learn the material.” He gets “distracted easier when in-person,” however, he got a true college feel when he went back. He said “it is obviously much better seeing faces and meeting new people”, which to him encapsulates that college feel.

How about those who were already college students? Both Cal Neveu and Caleb Moulema were finishing their freshman year as COVID started. Neveu, a Wesleyan student, had to return home, and on returning home he said “it was sort of nice and comfortable to be home but after a while, it definitely was time for me to go back to school.”

Wesleyan never stopped teaching for Neveu, and he felt that the “workload was about the same” but “the tests were much easier.” The overall online experience for Neveu was nice and the ability “to roll out of bed and go right onto my computer to do work as opposed to walking around from campus building to campus building” was a very beneficial thing.

Moulema had a very different experience at the University of Connecticut compared to Neveu. Moulema said that “we were in person for me because my classes are upper level and super small.” Because of this, the “workload felt like more” and “tests were harder,” recalls Moulema.

Both Moulema and Neveu, past runners from LHS, both found that their passions for running helped get them through this. During this time,  Moulema said he “did track workouts and got my coaching certification.” Neveu said he “did a lot of running during COVID to train for cross country and track.”

For Neveu to return and for Moulema to stay at UConn since the start, they both felt safe in their classrooms, as both schools had exceptionally high vaccination rates. Neveu felt returning was “a little weird at first”, but he was able to get back into the swing of things and enjoy college life, Moulema never had to reacquaint himself with it as he never had to return home.

Due to COVID, it has been a very challenging two years for recent LHS grads, new college students, and returning ones. This comes from the fact that it’s hard being able to juggle safety, work, relations, whether that be friends or family, keeping themselves occupied, being able to focus, and do well in school. But although this challenge is present, each of these students were able to adapt and enjoy their college experiences, and will hopefully enjoy many many more.

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