The New “Normal” for College Students
MOUNT OLIVE-Sure, every college student in today’s time has likely taken an online class or two, after all, it is the 21st century. However, most college students didn’t anticipate spending nearly half the semester isolated at home doing 100 percent of their courses from their personal laptops. Yet, that is the reality and the new “normal” in today’s COVID-19 atmosphere.
How are they coping? Several University of Mount Olive students have shared insight into the challenges and rewards of their online learning experiences.
Hunter Hall, an agriculture production systems major from Hillsborough, NC, said, “My entire routine has been flipped upside-down. I rely heavily on the structure that a regular routine provides, and having to recreate a new routine has taken some time, especially with the distractions that I have at home, including my pets, TV, siblings, etc.”
Hall, who is a self-professed visual learner, has struggled a bit, but notes that her professors have been incredibly helpful. “Everyone understands that this is not ideal, but all of my professors have very positive attitudes and have tried to be as accommodating as possible. They are accessible and willing to answer any questions we have.”
The biggest draw-back for Hall, who is a first-semester senior, has been the absence of her social network. While she enjoys spending time with her family, dogs, and horses, she admits that she misses her friends, professors, and job. “I miss my friends and professors a lot. They are the only ones who truly understand what we, as college students, are struggling with during this time, and being away from them just isn’t fun.”
In addition to transitioning to all online, Joshua Bentley, a junior from Saskatoon Sk, Canada, has had to adjust to a two-hour time zone difference. “My professors have been very accommodating to both time changes and the transition to online classes,” he said.
Like many traditional college students, Bentley prefers face-to-face learning. However, the management and finance double major credits UMO’s professors for using online forums, Zoom meetings, and audio-PowerPoints to make difficult subject matter more easily understood.
“All of these tools enable us to actually work through problems person-to-person, rather than just through one-way communication,” Bentley said.
Sarah Barefoot, a senior from Pikeville, indicated that her biggest challenge has been access. Sharing computers and bandwidth between her siblings and parents has been a little tricky. “I have been stressed and a bit overwhelmed,” the English major admitted. “I have constructed a makeshift desk area in my room, and I try to do my schoolwork with complete focus. However, this does not always work, because with nine people in the house at all times now (one dad working online, two college-aged siblings doing online studies, three homeschooled siblings between the ages of six and eleven, one mother teaching and making everything work, and a ten- month-old baby that is learning to walk), things can get a bit crazy!”
Hunter Hall believes the ticket to success is routine. “Every morning I start my day by making my bed, washing my face, brushing my teeth… everything that I would normally do before going to class,” she said. “These little things do a lot for me mentally and remind me that it is still important to take care of myself, even if I’m not going to leave the house. I give myself breaks between assignments or classes so I don’t get overwhelmed. I also make to-do lists to keep track of what I need to accomplish each week.”
Morgan Wise, a junior double major in finance and accounting, has found a little levity goes a long way in her online studies. “One professor sends a little joke at the end of each of his emails just to try to lighten the mood,” said the Goldsboro resident. “Another professor makes our discussion boards about current topics happening in the media to keep us engaged.”
While each student interviewed had unique insights to this new, totally virtual world of learning, one thing they all agreed upon was that the University of Mount Olive has done the right thing, at the right time.
“I think UMO has handled this situation exceptionally well, and I am very thankful for the support and understanding offered from my professors,” said Hunter Hall. “I am also thankful for Interim President Dr. Edward Croom’s leadership and wisdom during this time.”
“UMO made the right choice,” Sarah Barefoot agreed. “As the coronavirus situation has progressed, I have to admit that I am hesitant to go beyond my own yard. Although it has been an immense change, going online has helped to keep us all safe during this time, and I appreciate that.”
The University of Mount Olive is a private institution rooted in the liberal arts tradition with defining Christian values. The University, sponsored by the Convention of Original Free Will Baptists, has education service centers in Mount Olive, Jacksonville, New Bern, Research Triangle Park, Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, Washington, and Wilmington. For more information, visit www.umo.edu.