Cal U students reflect on fall 2020 and look toward spring 2021

Aerial+image+of+Dixon+Hall+and+Louis+L.+Manderino+Library+of+California+University+of+Pennsylvania.

Aerial image of Dixon Hall and Louis L. Manderino Library of California University of Pennsylvania.

Kaitlyn Collins, Staff Writer

With the end of the semester quickly approaching, students are submitting the last of their assignments and preparing for finals week. This is the first time Cal U students have experienced a fully online semester, and it has affected each student differently. Most students are looking forward to completing their final exams and taking some time to relax and recover from this semester over the winter break.

“If I had to choose one word to describe this semester, it would be challenging,” said Kendall Clevenger, a junior majoring in marketing. “This semester has been the hardest one so far in my college career.”

Most of the challenges Clevenger faced were technological issues. She has a weak internet connection which causes her to lag on Zoom, therefore causing her to miss important information during lectures. Some of her professors recorded lectures which allowed her to go back and review what she missed, however not all of them did. She had to participate in a few different group projects and thought it was difficult to coordinate times to work with her classmates due to her work schedule.

Besides these problems, Clevenger said there were some advantages to this semester.

“It was very freeing to be able to attend class from anywhere,” she said. “I traveled to Arizona during the semester and didn’t miss a class. Face-to-face learning never had this capability before.”

Clevenger is hopeful that she will do well on her final exams, and said she is ready to recover from this semester over winter break. She is living in an off-campus apartment and hopes to easily commute to some in-person classes next semester.

“I am still hopeful we will return to campus next semester, but I’m not looking forward to it because I feel like the chances of returning amidst the uprise in cases is low,” she said. “I really want to return to campus because I am not learning to the same degree as I was in person.”

Will Hebda, a junior majoring in management information systems, agreed with Clevenger saying this semester brought new challenges.

“I thought that being online was fun, but hard to adapt to,” Hebda said. “I struggled in the beginning but got the hang of using Zoom as the semester progressed.”

Hebda’s main challenge was getting used to being completely online. Never being in a situation like this before, Hebda said he found it to be stressful, especially when it came to balancing school and work.

“The most straightforward thing about the semester was being able to stay organized,” Hebda said. “The semester provided me with the chance to consolidate all my work into one place: my computer.”

Hebda remains optimistic about returning to campus next semester and looks forward to seeing friends again. He plans on commuting from his home to attend the classes he has in person. For now, he is looking forward to winter break and said it will provide him with the opportunity to work, rest and prepare for the spring semester.

Kayla Germini, a senior psychology major, said it was hard to stay focused and get motivated for her online courses and is upset she’s missing out on some of her senior year.

“I have missed being on campus and learning online has not been easy for me to adjust to,” she said.

An advantage of this semester for Germini was being able to work at her own pace and not having extracurriculars on top of her schoolwork, however, she has had a job since the beginning of the semester.

“It was hard at first because I was working 25-hour weeks. I was putting work above my schooling for the first few weeks, but I went down to 15 hours in October,” she said. “It was easier to balance because I was able to space out my shifts.”

Germini said she is looking forward to next semester as long as she will be able to attend in-person classes, but if not, she will not be excited about another online semester.

“I will be very upset if I can’t see my professors or classmates in person for the last time,” she said. “I want to enjoy my last semester as a Cal U student before I go to graduate school.”

As long as her classes are in person, she will be living in an off-campus home.

Anthony Stone, a freshman with a major in communication disorders, said this semester was full of confusion, anger and wondering what a normal college experience is like. This was his first semester as a Cal U student.

“The fully remote semester really negatively affected my first taste of college because I never got to experience the full thing,” he said. “All I had was people talk to me through a screen.”

Some challenges this semester brought for him was a lack of communication between him and professors not responding to his emails and going into college blindly since this experience was new for everyone.

He said he was unsure if he found anything to be easy, but the workload was less than he expected. With all of this considered, Stone is still excited for next semester.

“I believe with as crazy as 2020 has been we will be online again,” said Stone. “If we do go back to in-person classes I will most likely still learn from home because of COVID-19.”

He is nervous for his first finals week since he has never experienced anything like it before and said he will be ecstatic to have a month to fully relax again for the winter break.

Roshini Sanakkayala, sophomore business administration major, was planning on spending this semester at Vulcan Village. However, when she couldn’t find a suitable living arrangement there, she resulted in moving to North Carolina with her family a few weeks before the semester was about to start.

“Something I found challenging this semester was driving back up to Pittsburgh every month,” she said. “Since I’m in the army national guard, I had to continue going to my unit once a month.”

Driving eight hours there and back once a month and being far away from her college setting both contributed to making this a difficult semester for Sanakkayala. Despite all of this, she found this semester to be a lot easier than last semester.

“I got used to working online and it seemed like the professors were also getting the hang of it,” she said. “It was easier to procrastinate at first since I wasn’t physically in a classroom on campus, but I had to learn to manage my time and make sure I studied and turned in homework in a timely fashion. It was also easier to focus on making myself mentally and physically healthier.”

Sanakkayala has a schedule full of online classes next semester, so she has decided to continue living in North Carolina. She misses seeing her friends, classmates and professors in person, and also grabbing an umami bowl from the Natali Student Center.

She is focusing on studying for finals and looking forward to spending time with her family during winter break.

Next semester will not be completely back to normal, but it will bring some new changes and challenges to the Cal U community. Students are preparing for how they will spend the semester, but for now they are looking forward to winter break getting closer and closer.