We can all agree that the COVID-19 pandemic has been the most chaotic introduction to any school year. Here we are, just two weeks before the start of classes, and half of us still don’t even know which ones we’re taking face to face or online. For the first time ever, we have the option to study remotely. Some might question why anyone would voluntarily learn from home: Doesn’t that defeat the whole purpose of attending college? Due to the current circumstances, however, 25% of undergrad students wouldn’t have it any other way, announced UM Communications last week. The fast-spreading and viral severity of COVID-19 threatens community health — a fact that has pushed students at UM and universities across the U.S. to forgo campus and embrace a sans-exposure education.
Christine Chong is a junior studying keyboard performance at the Frost School of Music. She explained that she desired to go fully online because of the advantage of staying in a zero-risk environment. Particularly as a music student, Chong feared practicing in the Foster building’s untidy rooms. She expressed: “Although I believe people will follow the guidelines, there are just too many risk factors involved. I don’t want to have to be on alert all the time in order to keep myself safe from these factors.”
Most of us can *only* focus on schoolwork while planted on the second floor of Richter equipped with a “cafecito” and total silence. Staring at a screen for hours on end to study last semester showed me personally how much we need to adapt to reality. But people like Leslie Dominique, a junior majoring in broadcast journalism and sociology, have other suggestions in mind: “I plan on studying a lot in my room, but I’m also going to make an effort to go to parks and outdoor areas so I can be reminded of the UM learning environment.” The way Dominique plans to implement parts of campus into her home life is an idea all students should consider regardless of whether going completely online or not.
Some ‘Canes have decided on a third route to go inactive this semester. Usually that would be a huge deal, but now it’s an undertaking many have considered seriously. During times like these with so much unknown, it is understandable as to why one would not want to commit to the financial burdens of college. One student who wished to remain anonymous shared why she went inactive this fall: “It seemed like a great time to reflect on what I really want to do with my studies … Since tuition isn’t being reduced for online classes and obviously UM isn’t structured as an online school, I didn’t see the reason to pay the same tuition if I’m not getting the same quality education and experience … [especially with] the pandemic going on.” For lots of us, quarantine has served as an opportunity to press pause, breathe and figure out what we want to do with our lives and education.
It’s important to learn from each other and listen to our peers during this confusing era. There is a sense of comfort in hearing all your options from multiple students and their reasonings. It may help you feel less alone right now about your big decision. If COVID has taught us anything, it’s to keep an open mind and do whatever you think is best for you to keep a steady balance of staying healthy and happy.
words_mallory garber illustration_rachel rader