The emergence of the coronavirus pandemic has caused a change from normal life, especially in education. On March 16, 2020, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that all schools were to be closed for two weeks. A year later, no one could have predicted that schools would still be struggling with the effects of the pandemic.
The initial shutdown came as a surprise to students, leaving some concerned about not returning back to campus for the remainder of the semester.
“When I found out the school wasn’t reopening for the rest of the year, I was nervous,” Senior biomedical science major Michelle Simmons said. “I lived on campus and I wasn’t really sure what that meant for me. I later decided, along with my parents, it was best if I went home for the remainder of the semester.”
While some had their concerns, others were confused about the magnitude of the pandemic and the start of the lockdown.
“I was saddened at the decision about closing campuses,” Junior communications sciences and disorders major Kristen Boerke said. “However, the feeling I had toward it was more confusion. I wasn’t confused as to why the campus was not reopening; that made sense to me. We were living in a global pandemic. It was more the confusion of how this is going to work? Online classes, no sports, back living at home and for most of us, in quarantine.”
SUNY Plattsburgh students last spring could never have predicted that the pandemic would still be persisting a year later, let alone restricting the first year of college for the incoming Class of 2024. Without the closure from completing high school, students found that the transition to college was challenging.
“This is not how I pictured my first year of college at all,” First-year student general and special childhood education major Makaila Maier said. “The college experience has been different, but I wouldn’t know the difference. I was underprepared for college.”
However, students who made the return back to campus in the fall found that the struggles of the online transition made them able to adjust to academic challenges that stood in the way. Boerke, who is a member of the track and field team, wasn’t able to participate in her sport.
“I think I was able to adjust to online learning,” Boerke said. “It made me a stronger learner because I had to change the way I study and make sure I meet due dates. It gave me a greater appreciation for school and for sports. It showed me that I took some things for granted, and it is pushing me to be a better student and athlete.”
With the emergence of virtual learning, along with the limitations of attending in-person classes, this year’s freshmen didn’t know what SUNY Plattsburgh was like before the COVID-19 restrictions. The bustling campus full of life is missed among students.
“I love club fairs, and I attended one during my open house tour,” said Maier. “I am somebody who wants to be involved, so meeting everybody from organizations and seeing what they do is a lot of fun. I think that is what I missed out on, and I look forward to the day when they bring the club fair back.”
Not only are the freshmen on campus struggling to piece together what normal campus life should resemble, but seniors have tried to make the best out of their final semester at SUNY Plattsburgh. Simmons, who is on the women’s volleyball team, struggles with the loss of her senior season.
“Not being able to play was one of the more difficult things I had to cope with just because your senior year is supposed to be your year,” Simmons said. “Playing in games and being around my teammates more is something I miss. I still see them but overall, you don’t really get to see them as much as you usually would during the season. I’m used to seeing them every day for at least two hours, and on the weekends you are on a bus together traveling to your match.”
Optimism is what drives many students on campus to continue to work hard among the various challenges the pandemic has presented to students, especially on the collegiate level. While focusing on negative situations may be the easiest way to cope with the current situation, remaining positive and staying safe is beneficial for student’s mental health.
“I feel like we have to be optimistic because the alternative is upsetting,” Boerke said. “In the future, I think we will see college go back to where it was before the pandemic. For people who don’t have a positive outlook, try to see the good in the situation because the pandemic has hit everyone in a different way. We have to make the best of it.”
After a year of adapting to the new normal, students at SUNY Plattsburgh have had to say goodbye to aspects of campus life that they love to keep others safe. It is important to remember that the pandemic has affected every single student, not just the incoming freshmen who are not having the usual college experience or the seniors who are missing out on their graduation.
We are all in this together. Stay cardinal strong.