Students reflect after one year of COVID-19

Jessie Lehman, Staff Reporter

On March 11, 2020, Tulane University announced the start of online learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A year later, Tulane has moved into a green action-alert level with almost no active cases and is preparing for a regular fall 2021 semester. 

In the past year, students, faculty and staff have been forced to take on new approaches to higher education. With all of the uncertainty of the past three semesters, senior Hannah Avery-Peck feels a bittersweet hope for the future, as life is returning to normal. That being said, her next normal part of life will not be at Tulane. 

Even so, Avery-Peck expressed concerns for the transition back to in-person learning for other students after almost three semesters on Zoom. 

“I think maybe if I wasn’t a senior I’d be more concerned about the transition out of online learning,” Avery-Peck said. 

Sophomore Joe Hirsch said that his routine of getting out of bed just before the start of class will be difficult to part with. However, even with the routine Hirsch has developed, he feels that online learning presented new challenges. 

“It’s kind of like an interesting balance where I don’t feel like I have as much work,” Hirsch said. “I feel like I have an overall easier academic life, but at the same time I still have anxiety around it because of the lack of motivation it gives me.” 

Junior Jonah Golder also said that while there are certain perks of online learning, he is ready to go back into the classroom with a greater value for in-person teaching. 

“At first, Zoom sort of felt new, novel and fun, with little quirky aspects and having a shared experience,” Golder said. “However, now I feel like I am very much ready to get back into the classroom as I focus much better with a teacher physically in front of me.”

Despite the difficulties of online learning, Golder commended Tulane for their dedication to bringing students back and for having many courses meet in person. Looking back, however, Golder wished Tulane adjusted their tuition as “this year of ‘learning’ does not compare to a normal ‘full’ experience.”

Avery-Peck said that Tulane’s effort to bring students back, while somewhat for financial purposes, was also a product of the faculty and staff’s care for students. She said that the Tulane community “genuinely want to see their students happy.” 

Avery-Peck also admired the university plan for a safe return. “They tried really hard and they invested more money into allowing us to come back, and I’m really really proud to say that I go to a school that did that because so many schools didn’t,” Avery-Peck said. 

At the same time, Hirsch said that being back on campus during the COVID-19 pandemic posed more mental health challenges, which, according to Hirsch, Tulane could have handled better. 

“They say that they do a lot for our mental health without doing that much,” Hirsh said. “Like doing online trivia and bingo games is not gonna do much, I’m gonna be honest.”

Something that aided students’ mental health, however, was the closer relationships students could foster with their pods by being on campus. 

 “It wasn’t until the pandemic that I feel like we were hanging out with our small little pod and that I really got to know people and got to become really comfortable with them,” Avery-Peck said. To her, learning the value of quality time was a silver-lining of the pandemic. 

Golder has also been able to learn from the uncertainty of the pandemic. 

“I think being more conscious of what you can and cannot control has really allowed me to learn a lot about myself and helped me day-to-day make sense of the state of the world,” Golder said. 

Tulane’s success in squashing its COVID-19 positivity rate in the recent weeks, and the continuing vaccine distributions, have made students hopeful for the future. 

“I am hopeful,” Golder said. “The increasing vaccine distribution makes me feel very good, as well as Tulane’s almost nonexistent positivity rate. I think the next year will be full of fun and interesting events as everyone will want to make up for lost time.”

Avery-Peck agreed that while she missed out on her senior year, she looks forward to the future. Additionally, Avery-Peck is proud of how Tulane was able to make the best of difficult circumstances.  

“I’m hopeful that students at this school, and that everyone … appreciates what Tulane has accomplished in the last year,” Avery-Peck said.