COVID year: How students living at UMSL coped with pandemic lockdowns
Updated: Sep 9, 2021
By Gerald Burton, Katie George, Jack McCormick, and Brandon Yn
Students living at the University of Missouri St. Louis (UMSL) have had a dichotomy of experiences throughout the pandemic and so-called COVID year.
Widespread fear gripped the United States during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and colleges across the country began the transition to online learning. Some students remained in dorms and student housing throughout the year, although many campuses became ghost towns as other students traveled home to be with their families during such a tense time.
Some students who remained on campus enjoyed the togetherness of the lockdown while others felt alone as social distancing and mandates kept them from seeing their family and friends. Student staff member Bella Dearmitt, a junior majoring in public policy, stated “I didn’t get to interact with people face to face as much as normal so coming back into non-COVID times, interacting with people causes me a bit of anxiety. I’m always nervous before I start talking to someone.” Her statement demonstrates the potential lasting effects of the 2020 lockdown.
Welcome Staff member Alex Entwistle, a sophomore studying public policy, said “It was pretty lonely and very, very, very bare. If I had to give it one word, I would say lonely.” The lockdowns had a negative impact on many students' ability to socialize around campus, making it difficult for these students to build an adequate support system to meet their social needs. Pierre Laclede Honors College staff member and orchestra member Jay Widlacki said “The orchestra lost a lot of people. We had to go on Zoom and stuff and that’s awful for music classes. But otherwise, it wasn’t bad. I was a fan of the safety [like] having to wear masks” but also mentioned “Going out or even meeting up occasionally felt like a risk. It was like a risk I didn’t want to take. I think it was definitely more isolated.” The feelings of isolation caused by the pandemic have made an impact on day-to-day life on campus, making it difficult for students to make it through the day with a sense of normalcy.
On the other end of the spectrum, some students have thrived during the lockdown. Welcome Staff member and nursing major Esther N. said “It was cool, everything was very straightforward. Staying at home [and] coming to work was really cool and it was just nice doing everything at my own pace." She also mentioned that she enjoys online courses, which is a sentiment many students shared throughout the pandemic. During the lockdown, UMSL began offering many asynchronous online courses, which allow students to essentially complete coursework at their own pace.
Sophomore nursing major and Resident Advisor Abby Crow said “The floor I lived on, we all became super close, because that was the only people we had around us. So I made a lot of friends that lived on my floor.” Some students in the dorms had a very different experience of the COVID year, growing closer to those around them despite the absence of much of the student population.
Information Systems major and Resident Advisor Clarence Baker said “Getting to know the people within the building and also my coworkers, we became closer that way.” Clarence’s statements demonstrate the dichotomy of student experiences on campus throughout the pandemic. While many students found themselves feeling isolated, many others found satisfaction in the more straightforward schedule of online courses and found camaraderie with their floormates and others who remained on campus despite the looming threat of COVID-19.
Overall, the clear divide among responses demonstrates the two developing schools of thought regarding on-campus life during a pandemic. Some students strongly disliked the feelings of isolation caused by the lockdown, while other students found comfort in the safety and simplicity. The lockdowns will have a long-term effect on those who were around to experience it, but depending on the person, these effects could be negative or positive. While some students struggled to adapt to the restrictions of the lockdown and longed for more social interaction, there is a group of students that thrived throughout the lockdowns, finding valuable connections and forming relationships despite the limitations of the state of the world.