Alumni adjust to college classes online

Notre Dame freshman Andie Unwin said she misses the friends she met at school in South Bend, Ind., this year. She has returned home to Kingwood and is trying to stay on a schedule as she works on finishing her classes online.

Kathleen Ortiz, Photography Editor

Megan Krippel had waited three years for this semester. The St. Mary’s University junior moved to France to study abroad in January. However, nothing has gone as planned. She spent the past few days in quarantine with friends: working on final projects, watching movies and trying to keep herself on as normal of a schedule as possible. 

The former Kingwood Park soccer player is one of 66 million people in France on a 15-day quarantine to combat the coronavirus pandemic.

All over the world colleges and universities are shutting down and students are being forced to do their schoolwork from home. Many former Kingwood Park students returned home for the remainder of the spring semester. Others stayed put. 

“Europe is the epicenter of the virus right now and everything I do is in consideration of the virus,” Krippel said. “My friends and I try not to let it take over our lives, but when you’re essentially stuck inside because of COVID-19 it’s hard to think about anything else.”

In the United States the level of precaution is varying. In New York, where former Kingwood Park baseball player Blake Ledoux is a cadet at the U.S. Military Academy, Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered all workers of non-essential businesses to stay home beginning on the evening of March 22. Ledoux is now staying at home with his parents in Kingwood, as the Corps of Cadets are not returning to classes at West Point until further notice. Under normal circumstances Ledoux only visits home for two weeks in the summer and two weeks in the winter. 

“I prefer to be home because I never come home,” Ledoux said. “I like coming home, but I know this is going to make school probably a little bit more difficult with managing your time because you want to do other things.”

Ledoux spent his last few days before coming home at a baseball tournament in Florida where he found out his season would end after only 15 games. 

“We kind of thought it was going to come to an end, but we didn’t think it was going to end that early,” he said.

Notre Dame freshman Andie Unwin had her club volleyball season cut short. University of Texas junior Nicole Kell had her intramural soccer season end early as well. Now the former Kingwood Park students are staying at home again, trying to enjoy the extended time they have with their families. They both have brothers at Kingwood Park who are now also doing coursework from home as Humble ISD has moved to distance learning due to the coronavirus until at least April 10.

“When I am at school in Austin, I rarely have down time,” Kell said. “I love being busy and involved and I love being around people. Although it has been nice to spend time at home with my family, the whole social distancing thing has been a bit challenging for me because I miss my friends.”

Kell is the president of her sorority and part of a ministry called Ignite Texas. All of the sorority meetings, volunteer events, and social events have been canceled for the rest of the semester. Everything for the ministry was moved online.

“I am an extrovert so I am really disappointed that I won’t be able to see my friends on campus or at other events,” Kell said. “

It’s honestly been really hard to process that the semester is pretty much over besides finishing my classes online, because there was so much I was looking forward to.

— Nicole Kell, a junior at UT

Kell and Unwin are both practicing social distancing. Neither is particularly worried about getting sick, but they are staying away from others to make sure they don’t spread it if they have been exposed.

“I am young, and the ones studying this virus say that it is really not very lethal for young people,” Unwin said. “However, I would like to avoid it so that I do not pass it on to others who are more in danger.”

While many are taking precautions, Baylor freshman Lane Stewart and Sam Houston State freshman Katey Searcy say they are not. 

“My mom asked me if I wanted to get it, but I don’t have it yet,” Stewart said. “If it happens, it happens in my mind. If I’m going to get it, it’s going to happen.”

Searcy and Stewart visited the Frio River and Galveston over their spring breaks last week, but now they are struggling to find places to go as businesses all over Houston are closing. Searcy described her break as “the suckiest spring break yet.”

“It’s kind of like forced social distancing because my friends aren’t allowed to hang out,” Searcy said. “They’re taking precautions.”

While Stewart and Searcy aren’t worried about the virus, they are worried about their classes. Both of their schools are moving classes online, but neither of them knew before they went on spring break. Stewart is missing books and clothes that he left at Baylor before break.

“I only brought a backpack home,” Stewart said. “I have four pairs of shorts and three pairs of jeans for the rest of the semester at home. That’s an issue.”

Another concern for many college students is the lack of structure and lack of professor accessibility when working at home. Unwin created a schedule for herself. She encourages everyone else to do the same to stay productive and prevent “extreme boredom.”

Ledoux looks forward to the relaxed setting he’ll work in now, considering all of the military rules and bearings that are part of his daily life at the U.S. Military Academy. He can wear whatever he wants during his class video chats because the uniform and facial hair rules don’t apply over electronic devices.

The switch to distance learning will be an adjustment for many as the status of the coronavirus changes all over the world daily and hourly. Krippel said this experience is helping prepare her for anything life throws at her. 

“This has taught me a lot about making the best of the situation I am in and being more confident in myself and my capabilities,” Krippel said. “I’ve learned how to adapt to different situations and make the best out of it. From the strikes at the beginning of the year in France to the COVID-19 situation now, this semester was not the best time to study abroad, but it taught me so much.”