Blake Alums Reflect on Their Returns From College and Graduate School

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Nathaniel Ronan

“This is my desk I set up here at home.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected each person globally in a unique way. Blake alums who are in college or graduate school has returned home due to college and university closures around the nation and worldwide. The adjustment has been significant for many, but they are continuing to study virtually and online through platforms like Zoom.

Nathaniel Ronan ‘19

Where are you going to college right now?
I am currently attending Washington University in St. Louis.

Nathaniel Ronan
“This is the night I left [Washington University in Saint Louis].”

How has your college adapted to life in quarantine? How are you continuing with your studies?
Spring break started for us in early March, so most people dispersed and were doing spring break things. Five days into the break, WashU announced that they were shutting down all student dorms and students were told to head directly home from wherever they were. We weren’t permitted to return to campus and grab anything. The rest of the semester is being conducted online.

How has COVID-19 affected your spring/summer plans?
I had plans to work over the summer and was hoping to fly around the country a bit, visiting friends and such. Obviously that’s all up in the air now.

Did you have to move home after the virus spread?
Yes, I’m living at home in Minneapolis with my family now.

If so, how’s life at home? What are you doing to keep busy?
Life is a little dull. Homework takes up a vast majority of my time. Any free time I have goes to reading and not much else. Some exercise happens here and there, but working out at home isn’t ideal, and it’s difficult to resist the temptation of doing nothing instead.

What was it like being at college when the virus hit?
For spring break, my girlfriend and I rented an Airbnb-cabin with no wi-fi out in the Ozarks on a small lake in rural Missouri, and made the four-hour drive from campus in a rental car. We were planning on staying for five full days, but three days in we found out that WashU was asking everyone to head home immediately, and not to return to campus under any circumstances, and they promised to pack up everything in the dorms and send them home by mail. We stayed for one more full day, drove back to campus early next morning, snuck into our dorms, grabbed everything we could, and caught flights home the same day. We couldn’t believe what was happening. It sort of felt like the end of the world.

Are you enjoying your time at home or do you miss being at school? Why?
I miss school. I miss campus, all my friends, St. Louis. I even miss going to my classes and grinding in the libraries. Back here it feels like I’m in high school again. I thought graduation meant no more high school ever again, but here we are.

Hazel DeHarpporte ‘19

Where are you going to college right now?
Bryn Mawr College

How has your college adapted to life in quarantine? How are you continuing with your studies?
My college sent all students who were safely able home on March 16th. Students whose home states or countries were more unsafe than Pennsylvania were allowed to stay on campus as long as they were social distancing. It was over our spring break, so the next week we switched to online classes. Almost all my classes are live classes, so I have a couple online live Zoom classes every day. The actual content hasn’t been a lot different, but it has been hard to not be able to connect with teachers and other students in person.

How has COVID-19 affected your spring/summer plans?
My spring plans haven’t changed much except for my sports events being cancelled, which was a little hard because our frisbee team was going to nationals, but in the grand scheme of things, it is extremely unimportant! My summer plans currently are up in the air. I was going to be a trail guide at a wilderness expedition organization called Menogyn, and would be leading backpacking and canoeing trips in the Boundary Waters and Quetico. Menogyn has been in contact with staff and as of two days ago, they are still planning to send trips out, although many more precautions will need to be taken. However, my wilderness first responder course was cancelled, which is the certification I would need to lead trips, so everything is very uncertain, especially because the summer was scheduled to start in early May.

Did you have to move home after the virus spread?
I moved back home the week of March 9th because Bryn Mawr had all students leave who were able to go home, but because it was on such quick notice, all my belongings are still at school.

 

Hazel DeHarpporte

 

If so, how’s life at home? What are you doing to keep busy?
Life at home has definitely been an adjustment! I have been spending a lot of time writing and journaling for my creative writing class, because I find it the easiest to do from home and oddly calming during the pandemic. I have also been doing a lot of art, cooking, and playing the piano, because those are some of the things that I especially missed while I was away at school. I have also spent a lot of time with my siblings biking, running, and playing frisbee.

What was it like being at college when the virus hit?
It was a little surreal being at school when the virus first hit. I was on a frisbee trip over spring break in Virginia, and I don’t think we realized quite how bad it was because we were so focused on our tournament. When we got back on campus everything happened so quickly. We had to make plans for flights, pack up as much stuff as we could take with us, and leave campus in under two days. It was hard, because a lot of my friends are international students, and they were worried about their families, and a lot of them weren’t able to go home. I also had no idea when I would see any of my friends again, let alone the seniors, because we knew we probably wouldn’t be back for an in person graduation

Are you enjoying your time at home or do you miss being at school? Why?
Of course I would rather be at school than at home, and it’s really hard missing the Bryn Mawr traditions, frisbee nationals, and the end of my first year. But I also feel very lucky that I love being with my family, we all get along well, and they are all safe and healthy. It has been hard to be away from my siblings for so long, and my sister and I both got to celebrate our birthdays together in quarantine, which was really nice! I have been trying to see the positives in the situation, and I’m just hoping that we can go back to school in the fall!

Victoria Chekerdjieva ‘18

Where are you going to college right now?
I am a sophomore at American University in [Washington] D.C.

How has your college adapted to life in quarantine? How are you continuing with your studies?
So, we are doing online school, and a lot of my classes have transitioned a little bit. They’ve changed the syllabus to make everything more accessible, and some assignments have been cut such as group presentations, and we’re getting credit for those, just because it’s really difficult to do some of that stuff online. And everything on campus is closed, they told everyone that can move off campus to go, everyone had to come back and take all of their belongings home with them. The only people who can stay on campus are those who actually cannot make it home, or international students who obviously can’t go back to like Europe or Asia, or wherever they’re from, so ya, everything else is closed. I don’t know anyone who had to stay on campus, but the only other people who are actually there are students who have been through COVID-19 or have any symptoms, so they’re isolating there as well, but I think that’s only been about 3 or 4 people. We’re getting so many emails with updates practically every few days.

How has COVID-19 affected your spring/summer plans?
So usually in the summers here in DC, I plan to do an internship or have some sort of job, but, I, unfortunately, cannot be doing the internship I had planned to do because it was canceled, and then I applied for another one, which also got canceled, but fortunately, I just actually heard back from another one, so I will be staying here for the summer doing a remote internship, but a lot of them are getting canceled, and it’s very stressful for a lot of the students because most had already planned on staying here, we have housing and stuff. It’s been a lot of interviews for everyone and it’s kind of hard seeing everyone’s hard work just go to waste.

Did you have to move home after the virus spread?
I did want to go home. When we were alerted that school was going to be closed, I was on Spring Break actually out of the country, and my roommates and I got an email saying “Oh, school will be canceled for two weeks”, so we’d planned to go back to DC, grab all of our stuff, and head home because we had return tickets, but things kind of intensified over the next few days we were there, and we had to leave early. We got literally the last two tickets out of the country before they’d shut the border and everything, so we were really lucky. And once we got to DC, I realized how bad everything was, so, unfortunately, I decided not to go home because my grandma was living with us, she still is, and my dad is also at home, and I didn’t want to go home to them just cause I traveled so much, and I also have the lease for my apartment here, so I thought it would be safer for me to stay here with my roommates. I don’t think I’ll be going home until this is all done.

If so, how’s life at home? What are you doing to keep busy?
At first, it was really difficult because you’re kind of accustomed to a certain college lifestyle, like going to class every day and whatnot, like going to meetings and clubs and activities at school, so once all of that got canceled, basically everything is online so, well I have my roommates with me, but you’re kind of alone for most of it, so it’s definitely challenging, but we set up a schedule for us every day. We make breakfast, we work out, we go to our classes and our meetings, and then just kind of hang out, go on walks and whatnot, but it’s definitely a challenge, but I think we’re definitely very lucky that we get to still go to school, we still have food on the table, and a shelter and everything, so as weird as it is, I feel very fortunate and I’m thankful for that cause I know a lot of people are struggling a lot.

What was it like being at college when the virus hit?
It was very challenging to kind of come to terms with it. I won’t be seeing a lot of people, and I didn’t get to say goodbye to a lot of my friends who were graduating, who don’t plan on coming back to DC at all, a lot of things that I was looking forward to got canceled, which makes sense. I’m glad we’re safe, but it was definitely very chaotic because everyone was also spreading like “Oh, there will be classes after two weeks” or “Oh no, it got canceled”, so no one really knew what was coming, and no one knew if they should come back and pack up, or if they should just stay home, or we were out at the moment when we heard about it, so it was hard at first, but then we all started getting all the emails and everything, and everything kind of became more clear once our dean of students at the university kind of came up with a plan, but we still don’t know if we’re going to have more classes cause no one’s confirmed it yet, so it’s all very up in the air most of the time until we get clear communication.

Are you enjoying your time at home or do you miss being at school? Why?
For me, it’s kind of weird because I am in my college apartment and I live five minutes from AU, so it’s so strange seeing everything empty. I haven’t been to campus once, but it’s kind of… like you’re used to a routine, and then living in the same apartment and not having that is just very weird and living in the same area and not seeing anyone is strange, but, I mean, I can’t even imagine what it’s like to be home with my family. I miss them, and I’m sure that would be such a transition after being in school for like almost close to two years now, but at least sometimes I can like go back and visit. But ya, I definitely miss home, I miss my friends here, but I am lucky that I have my roommates with me otherwise I’d probably go crazy.

Steven Nye ‘18

Steven Nye

Where are you going to college right now?
The University of Tampa

How has your college adapted to life in quarantine? How are you continuing with your studies?
My classes are all online. Some professors are using Zoom meetings, others post videos of lectures on Google Drive. Being a film major, this posed some unique challenges. For my documentary production final, I am converting to only using archival footage. I am still learning new skills, but miss being in the classroom environment and networking.

How has COVID-19 affected your spring/summer plans?
I had a pretty packed schedule this summer. My largest project was filming a documentary on my former gymnastics teammate who is on the US National Team. With all competitions and the Olympics postponed, that filming is on hold. I also had plans to continue filming at airshows with the stunt pilot I have been working with, but all of those have been cancelled until July.

Did you have to move home after the virus spread?
Yes. We were originally told we had the option to stay in our dorms, but they have since closed them.

If so, how’s life at home? What are you doing to keep busy?
Since I took a gap year before going to college, living at home is nothing new for me. I have started teaching myself piano and continue to work on my juggling skills. I enjoy participating in group Facetime calls with friends both in college and from high school.

What was it like being at college when the virus hit?
I first learned about the coronavirus from a meme page on Instagram in early January. It seemed to be more of a joke than something we should be concerned about. At my college, our first email about the coronavirus was on January 28th. It said they were monitoring the situation, but no cases have been reported in the state. We received a couple more emails in the following weeks essentially saying the same thing. March 1st, we learned from the news a woman in Tampa tested positive for the virus. There was growing concern as we went on spring break. March 11th, we got an email from the school saying classes will be moved online and they recommend not returning to campus. We were originally told two weeks, but that quickly changed to the rest of the semester. Most of my belongings are still in my dorm and it is unclear when they will be open again.Since that time, six students at my school have been confirmed to have the virus.

Are you enjoying your time at home or do you miss being at school? Why?
Living at home is fine. I miss bumping into friends on campus and working on fun projects with my peers and professors. Although I am still in contact with them, it’s not quite the same. I also miss going to club meetings, group activities, and going to office hours with professors. College is almost like a controlled chaos. Everything happens pretty fast and productivity is (usually) high. With many of my assignments now being due Sunday at 11:59pm, it has kind of lost that energy. Many things have slowed down because of this virus. There is less stress, but I look forward to returning to the way life used to be.

Sam Lee ‘17

Where are you going to college right now?
I’m currently attending Colby College. Go mules!

How has your college adapted to life in quarantine? How are you continuing with your studies?
I was actually studying abroad in Spain and was sent home. I directly enrolled into the University of Córdoba, which has proven quite difficult in terms of managing online classes. It is becoming harder to understand my peers and professors as my fluency is dwindling. Trying to navigate the language barrier and time difference through email has definitely been a challenge. As for Colby, I have been pretty out of the loop for the past few months. From what I understand, online classes are not ideal, but students and professors are managing. Colby is trying its best to make sure its students and staff are safe, continuing their studies to the best of their ability, and have opportunities for jobs and internships once quarantine is over.

How has COVID-19 affected your spring/summer plans?
I originally planned to stay in Spain after my semester abroad, and work at a lab at the University of Córdoba. When that did not work out, I planned to go back to my lab from last summer. Sadly, that internship was cancelled as well. Right now, I plan to take an online class at the University of Minnesota and find some job, project, or online internship.

Sam Lee
“[This] picture is my roommate, her high school friends and I trying to social distance. The three of us in the middle were all living together.”

Did you have to move home after the virus spread?
I spent a month quarantining at my roommate’s house in Connecticut, and then another week at a friend’s house in Minnesota before returning home. One of my family members is immunocompromised so I was trying to be as cautious as possible. Now, I am home for the foreseeable future.

If so, how’s life at home? What are you doing to keep busy?
I realize my quarantine has been different from others’. I was lucky to have several friends host me, which definitely broke up the monotony that I know many people are feeling as they are staying home. Now, I am trying to stay busy with school work, some seriously needed spring cleaning, planning for my senior year in college, and picking up some new hobbies. Speaking of, catch me on the Great British Bake Off!

What was it like being at college when the virus hit?
When I left for Spain, the virus seemed to only be present in China. My abroad program through Middlebury College told us there was no chance we would be sent home. I actually went home after three weeks in Spain due to a family emergency. I was home for two weeks and then returned to Spain in early March. The day of my flight, I called my abroad program director and asked her if I should come back. She assured me that Spain was fine. There were only 200 cases in Spain, none of which were in the city where I lived. I got on my flight and only saw a handful of people wearing masks. I went back to the U.S. four days later. It seemed like the world completely changed from my flight back to Spain, compared to my flight back to the United States. The night I returned to Spain, less than 24 hours after I spoke with my program director, Middlebury was calling to speak with us about possibly cancelling the semester. The night of Trump’s travel ban was two days later. I was woken up by dozens of phone calls at 3am, my mom crying on the phone saying I had to come home or I would be stuck in Spain. This was before it was clarified that the travel ban was for non-U.S. citizens. Long story short, returning to the U.S. (the second time in a week) was absolute chaos.

 

Sam Lee

 

Are you enjoying your time at home or do you miss being at school? Why?
I am happy to be back in Minnesota, and grateful that I am privileged to stay home with my family. Obviously I am bummed about missing out on opportunities to travel and improve my fluency in Spanish, but dwelling on that will just make this quarantine more difficult. I am concerned about my senior fall being delayed and not having the senior year I have been waiting for the past three years. I miss the pace of being in school, and not having to work very hard to see your friends everyday. Through all of this, I have learned that the world changes no matter how firmly rooted our expectations for the future are. For me, it is going to be important to prepare myself during this quarantine for a senior year that is different from what I expected.

Lauren Fine ‘16

Where are you going to college right now?
Indiana University

How has your college adapted to life in quarantine? How are you continuing with your studies?
We have zoom meetings and prerecorded lectures that our teachers prepared while we were on spring break. They also hold more office hour sessions in order to ensure that everyone has time to meet with the professor if they need help, or are confused.

How has COVID-19 affected your spring/summer plans?
I am a college senior who was looking forward to the many traditions that seniors do in their final weeks of school. We won’t be having a college graduation ceremony which is very sad and disappointing as well. I was also planning on working in Thailand for 8-weeks in a health clinic post graduation and that has now been cancelled.

Did you have to move home after the virus spread?
I was out of the country for spring break with my college roommates until March 21st, so we all ended up coming back to our college campus and are still currently living in our off campus house. There are five of us and we all are social distancing from others.

What was it like being at college when the virus hit?
We were on spring break when the virus had it’s biggest hit and they announced that classes would now be online, we weren’t allowed to come back to school if we lived on campus and we wouldn’t be having a spring graduation. That was all very hard to handle, but being with my friends when it was announced made it easier.

Are you enjoying your time at home or do you miss being at school? Why?
I wish school was still in session. It’s incredibly difficult to take classes online and stay motivated and focused on the tasks we are assigned. I am lucky to still have a close friend group from Blake, and we’ve been doing Zoom calls to all stay up-to-date on each other’s lives. I am thankful to be able to spend this time with my friends still on campus, because it will make the goodbye a bit easier because it’s not as abrupt. I miss the mundanity of walking to class, seeing my professors and running into friends all over campus.

Conor McDonough ’16

Where are you going to college right now?
I’m currently a Junior at the University of Notre Dame.

How has your college adapted to life in quarantine? How are you continuing with your studies?
We are doing online learning. The University is using Zoom but I was abroad this semester and we are using a different platform called Adobe Connect. I’m still taking the classes I was in Toledo, Spain where I was doing my semester abroad in a smaller program of about 100 students. My classes are still taught in Spanish so there’s a bit of continuity there with the abroad experience.

How has COVID-19 affected your spring/summer plans?
Due to [COVID-19,] I came back from my abroad program about two months early and as for my summer plans I’m lucky my internships has not been cancelled. My internship for the summer was shortened to five weeks and will be completely virtual. In the other time this summer I plan to work for a landscaping company in the west metro area.

Did you have to move home after the virus spread?
I did have to move home and because I was in Spain I had to do the fourteen day quarantine when arriving back in the US.

If so, how’s life at home? What are you doing to keep busy?
Outside of class work, I’ve been reading, doing zoom calls with friends, trying to exercise outside when it’s nice and enjoying some unexpected time with my family. I have three younger brothers so our house is pretty entertaining.

What was it like being at college when the virus hit?
I think being abroad when the virus hit is a pretty unique situation. I’ll never forget when Notre Dame sent out the email that our program was canceled. My friends and I were hanging out at a little cafe near our school when it came through. I had been living with a host family who I became quite close with over the six weeks I was lucky enough to spend in Spain. We originally got word that we would have to fly home in about three days, but later that nigh President Trump said all flights from Europe to the US would stop in 48 hours. In the meantime I booked the earliest flight I could afford out of Europe which went to Bogota, Colombia and then the the US. I then had to break the news to my host family which was I credibly sudden. At that point I started packing and I didn’t stop until I finished around 6am in the morning. My host family drove me to the train station and I abruptly started my journey home. Trump corrected his original statement that American citizens would have slightly more time to come back to the US but at that point I had already bought the flight.

Conor McDonough
“[This] is a picture of the little puppy we were fostering when I had to leave. His name is Bruno!”

Are you enjoying your time at home or do you miss being at school? Why?
I definitely miss being at school with friends and the opportunity to live in a city with my own apartment this summer. It’s an odd stage in life to be moving back in with your family before senior year of college. Still, I’m enjoying time with my family especially since this will be the longest I’m home ever again in my life. We are lucky to be in a relatively safe part of the country and have access to walking trails around Wayzata and the lakes. As it turns to summer in Minnesota it’s hard not to see how beautiful our state is, especially as we get days up in the sixties lately.

Carolyn Nye ‘15

Where are you going to college right now?
I am attending the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in a Masters of Engineering program.

How has your college adapted to life in quarantine? How are you continuing with your studies?
The university has shifted all classes online and the shift has been going well. Most of my classes meet online during our usual class time on a zoom call, but I have one lecture which is quite large, so they are recording the lecture and then we watch whenever is convenient. I am in two courses that include lab components, which have drastically changed the way they operate. One was an integrated circuit design class, which we now are just learning the steps we would have performed in the cleanroom. The other lab created a solution which allows us to perform almost all the same tasks we would have performed if we still had in person classes. We are able to remotely log into the lab computers and program the electronics.

How has COVID-19 affected your spring/summer plans?
I am a student-athlete at Illinois on the track and field team, so our entire outdoor season was cancelled due to COVID. This was definitely hard to process. This summer I was hoping to do some international travel before starting a full time job, but due to the virus, traveling during the summer does not look like it will happen.

Did you have to move home after the virus spread?
I decided to stay at my apartment just off of our campus.

If so, how’s life at home? What are you doing to keep busy?
I’ve been going out for daily walks/runs, watching Netflix when I have free time, and getting better at cooking meals for myself.

What was it like being at college when the virus hit?
The change occurred so quickly. Before leaving for spring break, we knew we would be doing online classes for at least a short while. Several other universities were putting plans into effect before Illinois, so I had a sense that things would change for us as well.

Are you enjoying your time at home or do you miss being at school? Why?
Since I am still on campus, I don’t have to miss being in Champaign-Urbana, but it is very different being around a mostly empty campus.