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Letters from social distancing UNH students

Students from the University of New Hampshire (UNH), and people all around the world, are practicing social distancing and quarantining. These precautions are taken to try and slow down or halt the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19). Many people are finding themselves adjusting to this new normal in different ways. Students of all ages and levels are now getting their education through remote online learning, people everywhere have been laid off from their jobs, and other people, deemed essential workers, have been risking exposure. Students from UNH have shared their personal experience with coronavirus including the switch to online learning, things they have been doing with their new free time, and more.  

Griffin Sypek – First-year Psychology major:  

“The switch from on-campus learning to online class can only be summed up as sudden. COVID-19 is affecting everyone right now and some more than others and I have no reason to complain with a healthy family. Yet at the same time I find myself feeling more and more isolated as the days go on. Being ripped from my ideal college experience when I was just starting to hit my stride feels like it knocked the wind out of me and I’m still getting up. Online classes although easier are also a pain to get done with no structure and I find myself struggling and missing assignments constantly. It’s a tough time for everyone. Almost everyone wishes they weren’t in the situation they are at the moment. On the brighter side this will pass and we will hopefully be on campus come September ready to make up for lost time.” 

Nathan Nichols – Sophomore Chemical Engineering major: 

“I’m a sophomore chemical engineering major and quarantine sucks for me. I have morning classes three times a week so those days are annoying to have to wake up for. I pretty much have a constant flow of academics to work on, which is somewhat nice because it keeps me busy. I have found that I get my work done a lot faster while in quarantine because I have fewer distractions. It is tough to work on some things however because it is harder to collaborate with classmates and ask professors questions. In my free time I walk and run. I have watched a lot of TV, including the first two seasons of “Twin Peaks.” I also FaceTime my friends occasionally. I think this quarantine has some upsides for college students because it allows people to reconnect with their families more. There are also a lot of distractions in college so being home alone all the time gives people a lot of time to think about themselves and what’s important to them.” 

Loryn Camp – Sophomore Sociology and Women and Gender Studies major:  

“The transition to moving home so abruptly, leaving all my friends, and finding a new normal amongst all of the chaos has definitely been a challenge for me in the past couple of weeks. There have been waves of emotion that come and go every day, and trying to figure those out while also being a full time student is something to adjust to. I am extremely privileged in the position that I am in though, with no serious concerns about food, shelter, or access to support. Even with that blanket of security, I am constantly worried about the safety of my friends and family and what the new normal will look like after this is all over. Not having a concrete ending to my sophomore year at school has left me on edge, and in the beginning I was grieving a lot for what I was missing. It is my duty to stay inside and do everything I can to help others, but I had to learn that it was alright for me to be upset about what I was missing. Now that we have had a couple of weeks to adjust to our new lives at home and everything that involves, I still struggle with some things and am thriving with others. Overall, I am taking this journey one day at a time to do the best I can to take care of myself and make sense of the craziness.” 

Anonymous – First-year Environmental Conservation and Sustainability major:  

“Being in quarantine has definitely added a lot of stress to my life, and led to many changes being made in a very short period of time.  When I began school at UNH, I was not expecting for my quintessential college experiences to be cut short.  A concept I am sure everyone can relate to no matter their class.  Starting college was a whole new world.  One that was free of the stresses of home life, and filled with adventures, new friends, and a new found independence.  Just as I was getting used to all of these new experiences and getting to know all these amazing people that I get to call friends, they were taken away, and I had to go back home with my freedom and independence taken away.  I know this is nothing special, as everyone is stuck inside their houses or apartments going insane to some degree, however, my own selfish biases make it seem like a big deal.   

My switch to home life also, along with many others, means switching to an online learning format, which for every college student attending in person classes, is their last wish. I mean, if I wanted to take online courses I would have just attended an online university and saved the money. I did not choose to attend online classes, because I find it nearly impossible to learn through pre-recorded lectures. I am also someone who doesn’t like communicating over text messages, email, or in other impersonal ways. I much rather prefer phone calls, if not face to face conversations; and it becomes very frustrating and difficult for me to communicate with my professors and friends entirely over these remote methods. I am also someone who is terrified as coming across as rude or insensitive, and sometimes it can be near impossible to display emotions over these online communication methods, leaving a lot of room for misunderstandings. Sometimes, there is no way to write something, specifically facts or questions, in an email or text that does not sound aloof or rude.  Just know that is not my intention, or my attitude behind my methods of contact, it is just the nature of the situation.  These things make learning entirely online very difficult and stressful.  Despite my anxiety about my grades dropping drastically once the switch to online learning was officially made, I have managed to keep them up so far. Hopefully it stays this way for the end of this semester. 

To manage being at home, I painted and decorated my basement to create an office space to do my school work that is separate from my bedroom. That way I can separate work from sleep, feel like I am still going to my classes (at least sort of), and be more productive. Schoolwork takes up most of my time, but during my free time I try to get outside. My best friend and I have gone hiking, hammocking, and hung out in the back of our cars to get out of our houses and spend time together for the sake of our sanity all while socially distancing. I have kept my life busy with project after project, a decent dosage of Netflix and Disney+, and hope to eventually have time to start painting again. As much as I was hoping to never go through something like this pandemic in my lifetime, these strategies have helped me get through it. Perhaps the bright side to this, is any semester following this one will be a walk in the park compared to Spring of 2020.” 

Meg Sawyer – First-year Spanish and International Affairs major: 

“In this new, strange age of Clorox-wiping the mail and visiting older relatives through closed screen doors, trivial daily tasks I took for granted only months ago now seem a world away. Others that are still feasible (but still as mundane) are now considered full-on ‘activities.’ A walk, for instance, no longer to a destination, is the main event itself. The way I scale parts of my day has changed. Eating three meals, exercising, and going to bed at a normal hour are now rare accomplishments; any semblance of a routine, even rarer. 

Anything we have ever done for fun at my house has been amplified exponentially. I am experiencing unprecedented amounts of ‘family game night,’ which pre-quarantine took place about once every 6-8 months. My parent’s obsession with the Netflix show ‘Ozark’ lead them to declare 4 p.m. and onward ‘mandatory viewing time,’ at which point all other commitments took a backseat. (10 out of 10 by the way, however, I’ll add that large doses of this show will lead to vivid dreams that you too are, in fact, a member of the Navarro drug cartel). 

Because I can no longer say I was ‘too busy to learn how,’ I took a stab at cooking things outside of my preferred ‘add water and stir’ food group. Surprisingly, my culinary skills, almost non-existent from the get-go, went from ramen noodles and canned soup a-la-microwave to stuffed grilled cheese and crispy hash browns in just a couple of weeks. (About that grilled cheese—it is very important to me that you know caramelized onions are an underrated addition to this classic sandwich). And now that trips to the grocery store are becoming less and less frequent, mealtime is starting to look more and more like an episode of ‘Chopped.’ 

Although my professors are clearly putting in the time to make the transition to remote learning easy, I find Zoom lectures extremely tedious. My levels of productivity have hit an all-time low at home. At school, the sterility of a desk on the fourth floor of the library allowed me to zero-in on an assignment for extended amounts of time. At home, I can’t seem to focus on anything other than ‘Tiger King’ for more than 15 minutes, unless, of course, it’s 3 a.m. and I’m sitting in my bed with an assignment due later that morning. 

To kill some more time, I finally listened to my mother and ‘picked up a damn book.’ I’d be putting on airs if I tried to share a book recommendation without mentioning that I have read approximately 4 ½ books in the past 5 years, but I can’t say enough good things about American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins. The story follows a Mexican woman and her son on their perilous journey to the United States. For me, someone whose only major affliction during this pandemic is a chronic case of boredom, this novel gave me a much-needed sense of perspective.”

Fellow UNH-ers, I hope you stay sane, safe, and healthy. See you next year. Best of luck, 

Autumn Delorey – First year Communication major: 

“Dear COVID-19, 

You were so abrupt. I wish I was prepared to leave behind my freshman year at UNH. All of my friends, professors, hall staff, clubs, and favorite dining hall meals now have to wait until next year. Now, instead of walking to Hoco, I walk to my kitchen. Instead of going to work at the Hamel Rec Center, I google ‘how to make money from home.’ Now instead of being able to make connections with my professors, I have pre-recorded lectures and struggle to understand concepts. Online schooling has not been great, I find myself snuggled in my bed instead of taking notes. My exams are harder, and my eyes constantly hurt from looking at my computer screen.  

However, quarantine has not been all that bad. I’ve begun to dabble in cooking. I have memorized all of the steps to making a fabulous eggplant parmesan. I also have decided that I am going to work on my fitness. I tried to start running, but that didn’t work too well, but I have been working out every day. Without the gym, it’s hard to find motivation, but I am certainly finding new ways to better myself.  

I am definitely bored, and I miss my campus. I miss my messy dorm room, I miss my grimy shower, I miss cold walks to my 9am class. We were just beginning to escape Durham’s winter. The day the rumors spread about remote learning I was sitting on a blanket under a tree, in 65° weather while my friends studied for their math exam. I wish I was back in Durham.  


A girl who has yet to experience springtime in Durham”

Aubrey Benoit – First-year Journalism major:  

“One of my first friends in college once told me, ‘you think the worst because you’ve had the worst,’ and with the current circumstances the world is giving us, it’s easy to have my thoughts corrupted into harsh words. Every day I’ve spent in quarantine I have thought about how much I miss my friends and family that I’m unable to see for the foreseeable future. I think about how my classrooms were turned into a dull laptop screen until odd hours of the night. I think about how I wake up every day without knowing what the CDC is going to announce next. I think about how the global economy and job market has crashed into a million pieces that will take years to put back together. I think about innocent lives that are being taken away because a couple kids decided to not stay home.  

So, I am now thinking the very worst. I have grown up with people leaving me, and now that the people I love are so far away and only able to communicate over a screen, makes me fear abandonment. I have struggled with school all the way up until now, and having my academic environment & resources taken away, makes me fear failure. I’ve lived a life of ambiguity, and having one more thing to worry about in the unknown, makes me fear what’s to come. I’ve lived a life in poverty- from the streets to homeless shelters, and watching the economy and job market fall apart, makes me fear my finances. I’ve lived a life losing people closest to me, and knowing people I love & care about could die within days, makes me fear grief.  

A life living in shelter feels like a life living in fear.” 

Jake Gagnon – Senior Nutrition major:  

“If you want my opinion, virtual learning blows. 

The adjustment to virtual life has been different for everyone but many people have been experiencing similar issues and the emotions that come from it. The best way to beat quarantine crazies is to find something that works best for each person, whether that be finding a new hobby, staying active in the house, or perfecting a skill. It is important to stay healthy, physically, emotionally, and mentally. The national suicide hotline is 1-800-273-8255 for anyone experiencing difficulty during these trying times.” 

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