Home Opinion Seen and Heard: First week of the fall semester

Seen and Heard: First week of the fall semester

Artwork designed for the sixth installment of Seen and Heard, published on May 16 (Abby Haywood/The Collegiate).

With the first week of classes ended, staff at The Collegiate took time to reflect on how their first week of classes went for the fall 2020 semester.

Kennedy Mapes, 20, Grand Rapids

If you would have asked me last fall what I envisioned for the fall semester of 2020, I would have told you that I fully expected to be enjoying on-campus learning at Kendall College of Art and Design. I would have told you I was eager to experience college in a different setting – one that was lively and exciting. I had experienced the community college lifestyle for two years and was ready to move on, but the pandemic brought those plans to a bit of a hault. 

With the option for on-campus learning being up in the air at most schools across the board and me, not being one hundred percent comfortable with in-person learning during this time, I decided it would be in my best interest to continue my education at a place that offered a quality, safe education for a fair and affordable price. 

Although virtual learning is not at all what I expected, it has, surprisingly, been a positive experience so far. I am enjoying the fact that I am able to pursue my degree while also still having time to work and take care of myself. In the past, juggling being a full-time student and employee made it almost impossible for me to find time to care for my mental well-being; whether that be through purely relaxing or doing the hobbies that make me happy. Now that I am doing remote education, I have found that I have had more time to do things for me and I feel I am benefitting tremendously from that. It isn’t the ideal scenario for a college experience at all, but I am determined to make the most of it. 

Malachi Robinson-Garrett,19, Grand Rapids

This week was a roller coaster trying to get settled into college during a pandemic. I’m so used to being in class in person so it’s weird to adjust to not being in school all the time. I definitely struggle with time management so I will do my best to work on that to keep up with my classes. When I thought of going to college I never saw a pandemic messing that up. It’s definitely a learning process though so I’m going to keep my head up and push myself.

Hannah Kieffer, 20, Coopersville 

I knew this semester was going to be different, but I hadn’t anticipated how difficult it would be. Time management is a skill most people struggle with, especially when juggling work and school. Many students, including myself, have had to learn self discipline in regards to our academic responsibilities. I am used to traditional in-person lectures with face-to-face discussions. Figuring out when to study based off of my work schedule has been a challenge. I’ve been waking up at 8 a.m., studying until 2 p.m., and working from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. Although this is a busier schedule than I had last semester, I am determined to make it work. 

Sydney Hudson, 19, Grandville

This first week back has been a big adjustment for many students, but for a freshman it’s been a big learning curve given our circumstances with COVID-19. I don’t have any classes on campus, so it’s been a struggle for me to have self-discipline with my school work. Time management is also a skill I’ve had to work on pretty immediately given that I don’t have much of a schedule with online classes. I knew college was going to be different than high school, but I never would have imagined it would be this different. Part of the excitement of going to college is meeting new people and going to new social events, but because of the pandemic it’s become very difficult to socialize with others. Regardless of the changes the pandemic brought, the staff and students seem determined to keep things running smoothly, which is encouraging.

Anthony Raymond, 20, Grand Rapids

With my first class of the semester beginning at 7:45 a.m., I wanted to make sure I was on time. My version of “on time” is probably different than yours. I’ve always lived by the quote, “If you’re early you’re on time, if you’re on time you’re late, and if you’re late you’ve got some explaining to do.”  With this kind of mentality added with downtown Grand Rapids traffic and parking, my head turns into a factory of “what ifs.”  What if I sleep in and get caught in rush hour traffic? What if there’s an accident? What if there’s an unexpected detour?  What if the parking ramp is full? Due to COVID-19, those thoughts can be put on hold as there is little to no traffic and plenty of parking spots to choose from.

Kaia Zimmerman, 18, Lowell

When I thought about my first day of college just 6 months ago, I didn’t expect it to be me sitting in my room by myself seeing new people through a screen. This week, I started college differently than I could ever expect. Instead of waking up early for a 30-minute drive to downtown GR, I woke up at 9:15 a.m.for a 9:30 a.m. class, and walked five feet to my desk to start my first class. There are some perks to having all online classes. I don’t have to pay for parking and gas to get to the campus, and I don’t have to stress about getting lost. A struggle I am having though is it really doesn’t feel like college has started. For me, not physically going into a classroom makes it hard to feel like I am actually starting school because all I have ever known is in-person learning, so I have had to have a lot of self-discipline to get things done. Another thing I have to work on is my time management, and making sure I don’t slack off just because I am not physically in class. Although this isn’t how I pictured college starting for me, the first week overall went as well as it could have gone under the circumstances.

Alex Williams, 22, Kentwood 

I was taking classes when the school first closed, then again during the summer semester. That makes this semester my third go-round with online classes and yet I fear that I will fail at any time. This becomes even more frustrating when compounded with the fact that I attended online high school. Online classes require so much more discipline than I feel I have. Yet I have made the Dean’s list every semester since the summer of 2019 and this went uninterrupted during the transition to online learning. Though my fears have failed to manifest in the most favorable ways.

Recently, in community oriented, yet not scholastically related goings-on, my life has been full of action that I found myself hesitant to take before. I always wanted to be a part of social movements and political groups, but it is only this past summer that I have found myself actually doing so. I went to a Black Lives Matter march bespectacled in my best only goggles. I went to the Kentwood city hall and from there had to notify my mom that I may get arrested for taking part in the shutdown of a government meeting in the name of immigrants rights. I went to a last ditch effort and after overheard someone say I made a good point in my plea to government officials asking that they help the people that fear deportation. I am not optimistic any action I took will pay off, but I had to make the effort.

Kory Goldsmith, 32, Grandville

For me, the biggest difference between this semester and past semesters for me is I’m doing my school work in a different location than I did in prior semesters. My mother’s a teacher for GRPS and they are doing virtual learning for now. Prior to this semester, my mother and I were able to share the family office because she would do her work while I was working or on campus and I could do my school work after I got home. Because she needs the office all day, I’m doing my school work from the family’s basement. I definitely feel like I’m doing school in a cave because there’s only two small windows in my school area. I can only hope I don’t have to do another semester virtual or completely online in the basement.

Paige Bodine,19, Grand Rapids

“Is the storm over?” The question kept on thundering in my mind as I walked to Cook Hall for my first in person class since March. It felt surreal to finally be walking on campus with other students. I was excited to be back. As the rain started to hit the ground and form little puddles I glanced at my reflection. Staring back at me was my new floral mask, new shirt, and a backpack. A strange cyclone of routine and disturbance. After class, I got into my practice clothes and walked over to get my temperature checked before cross country. Cross country was my rainbow amidst the storm. Having the opportunity to still compete on the team and work out with my best friends added much needed normalcy in this thunderstorm. Even though the downpour seems to never avail, I have realized how crucial it is to find just a little bit of color in this dark world. If you look up and find a rainbow suddenly the storm seems a little less scary. 

Left to Right: Paige Bodine, Devin Simon, Lance Jourdan, Kate De Leeuw
Members of GRCC’s cross country team Pai

Aspen Strauss, 18, Grand Rapids 

At the beginning of February I had a set plan. I was going to move away, start a new life in a different state, meet new people, and have to start a new journey without the guidance of my parents. In March my school closed without the intent of reopening its doors. Countless failures of having graduation left us with the only option of driving past our schools in our cap and gowns to pick up a manila envelope. Inside was the singular piece of paper we had waited 12 years to be able to receive. I bet none of us expected us to be commended while in our cars to have two seconds of glory, then drive away and say: “Was that it?” 

August first hit our calendars sooner than anyone was prepared for, and just like that, we had three weeks until life was supposed to change. At least that’s what I, along with many other students thought. Two weeks before what was supposed to be my move-in date I had to wrestle with the heartbreaking and frustrating news that I would not be attending my dream school, and would be staying home for another year. I never considered attending GRCC when picking colleges, but here we are now. My first week has been overall stressful. Often when you start your first week you are advised NOT to buy textbooks ahead of time, I now find myself scrambling to buy the textbooks, have them shipped to me on time, and finish the assignments before the Sunday deadlines. I feel as if I need to learn a whole new style of learning because of my online classes, and for someone who is heavily an in-person learner, this new style is a hard one to grasp. My first week may have been stressful and a bit overwhelming but that won’t stop me from working my hardest so that next year I will be able to finally attend my dream school.

Sherry Sokolowski, 18, Hudsonville

2020 is the year of many firsts thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. Most notably in the last week or so – the first day of virtual school. The excitement that comes with the first day of school – picking out a flashy outfit, buying brand-new school supplies, meeting new people in your classes – is gone. There’s no need for new outfits or supplies, and the interaction you do have with your peers or professor is through a screen.

Despite all of this, I personally have tried to look at online school from a positive view. In fact, I actually enjoy being in the comfort of my home for school. Don’t get me wrong, I miss seeing my friends daily, meeting new friends and professors, and experiencing college. But isn’t it such a luxury to be able to roll out of bed 30 minutes before your Zoom class? There’s no stress about being late, finding parking, or even looking your best. 

Honestly, I hated sitting in mundane classrooms for hours on end, trying to stay awake and absorb everything the teacher was saying. I found it hard to focus while being stationary in one spot for long periods of time. Now, I can study wherever I please – my bed, my porch, or my favorite spot – my hammock, tied way up in the trees. The tranquility that surrounds you in the woods is unlike any other. It helps you clear your mind, provides a change of scenery, and takes most distractions away from you. If you’re feeling lethargic or trapped in your home, I encourage you to step outside for a little bit. You’ll be surprised about how much work you can get done!

Alyssah Adamy, 18, Jenison

For me this school year is vastly different from any other year of school I have ever had. Before high school ended we went online and for me it was pretty easy. I could get all my classes done in a few hours, I picked out which days would be for which classes, and I ended up finishing with a 4.0. Then I joined GRCC college. I expected this year to be hard and different, but not crazy different. I started off pretty well with going through and organizing which days to do class work. I looked on each syllabus and wrote down work in my planner. Little did I know that in college you have to look at every syllabus with a magnifying glass. In math I ended up doing 270 math questions for my first homework assignment. It seemed a bit excessive so I emailed the teacher and it turned out I hadn’t looked at a sheet that told us what questions to do for each chapter. In high school the teachers give you work, you do it and that’s that. Very straight forward even online. For my sociology class I had trouble with the syllabus so I saved the work for Thursday because the work was due Friday and I figured I would give myself a day to do it and that would be enough. So on Thursday I log on. The assignment is straight forward. Three chapters, three question sheets, and three quizzes. So I go to click on the link to do the work and it’s not opening. As it turned out I had to buy an access code that I didn’t have along with the textbook. So now I’m a sitting duck waiting for my professor to rip me to shreds. College is a business, I will never forget that again. It is not designed to help you and with COVID-19 and having to do classes online, help seems to be an ocean away for this troubled student. 

Connor Lannen, 17, Allendale

Unquestionably, this chaotic year has brought many new challenges and experiences to students not only around the state of Michigan but around the entire world. With that being said, I am going to dive into the social aspect rather than the learning component that college brings. I have always been a very social and connected person and moving to a college town is something I had looked forward to for a long time. So I’m sure you can imagine my dismay when that experience was finally here and I had to abandon all of my old habits. Instead of going up and shaking people’s hands or giving hugs like I had typically been used to, I found myself in this new masked world that we live in, not really knowing how to approach new people without using the old habits that are now frowned upon. I was lucky to move to Allendale with many connections already but not being able to be my complete self and having to question every other move I make has made this transition incredibly difficult for as much of a social being that I am.

Breegan Petruska, 19, Grand Rapids

Walking onto campus this week for the first time since March, I had no idea what to expect. On a normal afternoon in Cook Hall, you would see students all around doing homework, listening to music, and laughing with friends. Today, it was a ghost town. The only sound to be heard was my flip flops clicking on the floor. It honestly made my heart really sad. I’ve noticed lately that it has been really hard having friends outside of my roommates because last year, I made friends in my classes. I just recently moved away from home, so I rarely see any of my friends from Kent City. During the fall and spring semester, as a group we would eat lunch together twice a week at the Raider Grille. Today when I walked in to pick up my textbook, I was shocked. The space that used to be filled with students and music was empty except for some tables and a single student eating lunch in a corner alone. 

We are only in our first week of classes, but I already think this semester is going to be very hard. Being a student who already has a lot on her plate as it is, I am going to have to buckle down and stay focused to be successful this semester. I definitely took for granted how well classes went when I was in the classroom with a teacher and other students. I can only hope for myself and others, that this next couple weeks of a new routine and a transition to full time online learning will be a smooth one and an improvement on how we all felt back in March. 

Eddie Thomas, 20, Grand Rapids

When I took a semester off in order to attempt to enter the workforce, I never expected that I’d find myself weathering a global pandemic instead. Unable to justify the extra risk of contracting the virus by working, the last several months have been both stressful and unproductive. Returning to school for the first time in months feels like suddenly, the world is not going to be at a standstill any longer. While I have minimized my time outdoors by choosing to remain purely online, it finally feels as though I will be actively working towards something again. For me, at least, the beginning of this semester means more than just a return to school It means a return to everyday life — even if it is from the comfort of home. I am sure that I am not the only one who has felt stagnated during the extended quarantine period. 

Mya Gregory, 18, Grand Rapids

Growing up, I watched movies of students graduating high school, moving into dorms, going to parties, and taking college courses in huge lecture halls. And this was my plan. My plan was to go to Michigan State University and get the “true college experience” I had been promised my entire life. However, in life, plans change, and I was forced to make a difficult choice. When I found out that all of my classes at MSU would be online, I decided to defer for a semester and take classes at GRCC in order to save some money. When I told people this, I was constantly told that I had “made the right decision”, and that this was “very mature” of me. And, I don’t disagree, it was the most logical choice. But now, as I start my first week of school from my bedroom, my friends are waking up in dorm rooms, rushing off to class because they woke up fifteen minutes late, and beginning this new chapter in their life. My first week of college wasn’t what I had imagined my entire life, and it was difficult to see all of my friends living this “college fantasy” I had dreamed about. But, it did teach me a lot of things. My first week of college has taught me how to time manage and stay organized, which room in my house has the best wifi for Zooms, that college textbooks are expensive, and everything happens for a reason. 

Becca Larsen, 20, Grandville

I work in retail, and since we have reopened it has changed drastically. From losing my voice from talking to every customer, telling them to sanitize their hands and what they can and can not smell, to grabbing a bag so they can shop inside. Inside the store you’ll see everyone carrying a rag and whipping down all the try me sprays and cleaning everything that needs to be put back. All the way to the register and needing to clean everything down after every customer. That’s just a little insight on how my job shifted due to corona.

Sean Chase, 30, Newaygo

As I entered my final semester at GRCC, I expected the usual hustle and bustle of a college campus but this is not what met me when I arrived after the extended break. The normally overcrowded, loud halls were empty and silent, creating an inescapably eerie vibe that permeated what should be a joyous occasion. Once I reached my first class, however, this odd feeling dissipated instead turning into an overwhelming sense of calmness. While this semester will be different from the rest of my college career, I realized after my first week that this experience will be what I make it. 

Annah Johnson, 23, Holland

Being my last semester of studies at GRCC, I had imagined this time to be much different. Replacing the usual mental stress of getting to campus with everything I need and getting there on time, this week I was stressed about my internet connection, if my microphone was working, and feeling mildly irritated that I have yet to purchase a comfortable chair for my office. This past week was supposed to include getting home from my honeymoon, working until my feet fell off, and preparing my commute playlist for the daily drives to campus. Instead I found myself setting up a new home office amongst the chaos of my new life. I reluctantly filed away my wedding invitations instead of throwing them out and stacked miscellaneous items into new stacks on the floor that had great intentions of getting sorted during quarantine.

While it was easy to feel disheartened by the piles of stuff around my feet, I tried my best to look through what I still had. My wedding invitations reminded me I had to postpone my wedding, but reminded me to be grateful for the man in the other room who helped me through all of the quarantine blues and pushed me to finish school. The scattered pay stubs made me scared to think about where my next paycheck will come from, but reminded me to be grateful that the current bills are paid. I awkwardly set up my computer and a notebook on the desk – hoping this virtual learning experience wouldn’t be too hard. In the end, this all made me thankful to have the means and opportunity to still be in school during an unprecedented time like this.

Lydia Wertenberg, 17, Grand Haven

After a summer of face masks and social distancing, I felt like I had a pretty good idea of what the school year was going to be like at GRCC, I was wrong. I at least thought that I would have had the opportunity to interact and meet new people, but I have ended up being more isolated than ever before. What are the odds that your final year of high school and freshman year of college are destroyed by a raging pandemic? It is quite frustrating to accept the fact that life as we know it will not be the same for a while. I’m outgoing, bubbly, adventurous, and it seems as though covid has taken over my whole life. Staying in from parties and social events, not being able to go to work because your best friend tests positive, not being able to hug your grandma. It all has taken a huge toll on my mental health, as I’m sure it has for so many others. Yet, it is what it is, and there is nothing that we can do to change this way of life we seemed to all just be thrown into. The most important thing to do is remember that things will get better, we just need to focus on what’s most important to us. 

Andrew Harper, 21, Byron Center

This week has definitely been a different one for me to say the least. I have never really been cooped up in my house or forced to wear face coverings in public for as long as I have been during these months. My grandfather was stricken with covid. Not being able to see him for a few weeks was hard on my entire family. Fortunately, he has made a full recovery and he takes mask wearing very seriously. Hopefully, this pandemic won’t last for too much longer and a vaccine will be developed that can keep those to come safe.

Sharon M Becker, 49, Grand Rapids

Many times my feelings are accentuated and my thoughts begin with movie quotes. Instead of communicating as a normal person, such as, “Hello. Good to see you again. How is your first day of classes going?’” I may be so glad to see you again and gleefully shout, “First Day of School! First Day of School! Wake up! Wake Up!”  -”a quote from Nemo, in the 2003 Disney Film, “Finding Nemo.””

This is the quote that I was thinking about when I was able to return to Grand Rapids Community College- GRCC’s campus, walk into the Ford Fieldhouse again, and begin our Cross Country (XC) season with our first in-person practice. Even with many rules/regulations involved in having our first XC practice, I was ecstatic and considered it a privilege to be allowed through the front doors. Granted, a) we were only going to be in the field-house for a very short time, then required to go outside for practice, b) a COVID-19 screening and checklist/form needed to be signed each/every we met for practice, c) a proper facemark and distancing is required every and all times inside the building, d) when outside at practice on or off campus, we all needed to continue to practice social-distance. 

Even with the many COVID-19 precautions, rules, and regulations I am overjoyed to be starting back to school and campus at GRCC! It is a blessing. I consider it a privilege. 

Chance Vincent, 18, Alto

My first week of college has been a pretty crazy one. I am in the process of looking for a new car, going to class, working and trying to find time to spend with my friends and family.  This summer and quarantine I have spent a lot of time sleeping in late and hanging out inside to prevent spreading the coronavirus. Usually the only time I go out is to work and meet up outside with my friends. The past couple of days, I’ve been waking up at 6 a.m. to drive out to Grand Haven and look at and test drive cars with my Grandpa. After driving back, I have about a half hour before I start classes for the day. I usually spend that time eating some breakfast or lunch depending on the day before I dive into schoolwork. I work on school stuff until I have to go to work around five up until nine o’ clock. When I get home, I’ll reach out to my friends and hang out with them for a couple hours before going back home around midnight to sleep.

These past couple of days have taught me very much in such a short period of time. I haven’t been this busy or on this tight of a schedule since around early March. That being said, it is nice to have a bit of structure in my life for once. Besides making it to work on time, I didn’t have many obligations or responsibilities for almost six months. I learned that it’s important to have rules and structure in life, because it gives you a specific purpose besides waiting for quarantine to end and not spreading the virus.