College students are trying to adjust to life now that their time and work on campus have come to a halt because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Here are a few stories:
Making music now on hold
Annie Reilly of Homewood was having a great final semester at the University of Illinois completing her student teaching requirement. Now that and her graduation are on hold.
As a music education major, Reilly was assigned to work at two schools in Champaign County. She’d finished her first assignment at a junior high school.
“I finally got to do the thing that I’ve wanted to do for so long,” she said. “The teaching aspect was really fun.”
Then, at then end of the first week into her second student teaching assignment, the school’s principal notified staff that they may not be coming back after spring break because of the spread of COVID-19.
Three days later, U of I administrators sent notices that classes would be moving to online instruction.
Reilly, a 2016 graduate of Homewood-Flossmoor High School, has been trying to coordinate ideas with her cooperating teacher, giving students 5-minute fun music facts and lists of activities they could do at the beginning of the week to supplement learning.
But music doesn’t rely on books.
“You think you could go on video chat and play your instruments, but there’s sound delay and some internet is not as fast as others. It’s really hard to do ensemble rehearsals via the internet,” Reilly said.
“Throughout that whole week (March 9-13) it was just like piling on a little more. This is canceled and this is canceled, and I’m not going to see all my friends,” she said. “And graduation was the topper. It was really over. That was awful.”
Reilly said she’s “super sad” about graduation but appreciates that U of I has said it’s postponed, not canceled.
Resigning from the lab
Juliana Castagna, a senior at Xavier University in Ohio is earning a B.S. in biology and a B.A. in English. She’d been working in a lab position at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital but had to resign that job to return to Homewood after the university shut down.
“I was planning on getting at least a year’s worth of experience at a lab before going to grad school, so I didn’t apply to programs during this application cycle,” Castagna said.
“I did reach out to a staffing agency here in Chicago and was told that I would be able to get a lab position pretty easily, but that was before all the different shelter-in-place orders were implemented. Now it’s hard to imagine any ‘non-essential’ company going through a hiring process when no one knows when anyone is going to be allowed to go back to work,” said Castagna, a 2016 H-F graduate.
She will complete her English degree with two online classes. One is prerecorded lectures and the other is online, but connectivity between the students and other technical issues are making it difficult.
And Castagna anticipated the final months on campus “spent enjoying time with friends and celebrating the fact that we all made it through all four years. Instead, we’ve been forced to move back home not knowing that being on campus that last day before spring break was going to be our last time there.” Xavier University’s graduation has been postponed.
Home for spring break and days more
Jillian Lessner, a sophomore public relations major at the University of Alabama, is back home in Flossmoor. She had planned to be home for a week of spring break in mid-March, but then the university extended spring break to two weeks. On March 30, the university moved classes online for the rest of the semester.
Lessner said the Delta Zeta sorority house where she lived closed for spring break and won’t reopen now. At some point, she will return to pick up her things.
“I’m missing my friends, but more and more I am missing the old normal of walking to class and talking to people face-to-face” and life on campus, “including a spring football game, the stress of finals and graduation” for her friends, the 2018 H-F graduate said.
Lessner’s spring semester ends the last week of April, so she will probably be in online classes for a short time, but “I am not a fan because I don’t find them as helpful, purposeful or beneficial as face-to-face classes, and you can’t form the kind of relationships with professors that you might need to online.”
“I was excited to come home for spring break – for a week – but now I am kind of going insane and I am even more excited to go back to school. I am sad to move out of my (sorority house) room, because I feel like that makes it official that in some ways I’m half way done (with college),” she said.
National symposium opportunity is canceled
Just days before Katie Havighorst of Homewood, a second year veterinary medicine student at University of Illinois, was to participate in the national SAVMA symposium March 14, 15 and 16 at Cornell University, she was notified it was canceled.
Havighorst and about 100 other vet students at U of I were to attend. She had registered in fall and selected the programs she wanted to participate in that matched her major – care of exotic animals.
She was especially looking forward to a honeybee care lab. “I knew I’d never get to do that again,” she said.
Now she’s completing a semester online watching prerecorded classes and taking one elective class meeting through Skype.
U of I also shut down the Wildlife Medical Clinic where Havighorst volunteers. Injured animals such as hawks, snakes, turtles, rabbit and foxes, are brought to the clinic for attention and care until they can be released back into the wild.
Havighorst said the clinic “is the best way to get hands-on experience” adding that spring “is our busiest season. There’s baby animals everywhere. We’re all hoping once the shelter-in-place order is lifted the clinic can open again.”
Freshman’s world turned upside down
After four years with the band at Homewood-Flossmoor High, Zahra Harmon, class of 2019, was a freshman member of the band at North Carolina A&T State University.
She was extremely busy but used resource management skills to learn how best to schedule her time for school work, band and pleasure. She earned good grades and was feeling comfortable being away from home for the first time.
She came back to Homewood for spring break, returned to the campus in Greensboro, North Carolina, and left within the week because of the COVID-19 outbreak.
“I felt like I had a place (at school). I had become comfortable with my atmosphere and I was snatched out of my environment to come back and it was so abrupt,” she said.
Now she’s finishing her first year with online classes, a big difference from being on campus.
The shift from North Carolina to Homewood wasn’t planned.
“It’s a lesson to learn here, but I’m OK,” she said, and in August she will return as a liberal studies sophomore at North Carolina A&T State University.