Junior Alex Magee makes herself food, not worrying about getting out of her pajamas or making herself look presentable. Sophomore Declan Coughin has no morning classes, so he works out or relaxes. Sophomore Eric Silverman has a cup of coffee and reviews some readings before his first Zoom begins.
All three students made the decision to be completely remote for the Fall 2020 semester. They’re among the hundreds of thousands of students in the United States taking all of their classes online this semester. Although the three students have varying opinions on the experience, they all said they do not regret their decision.
“It gave me peace of mind. I do wish it didn’t have to be this way though, because I do miss the authentic college experience,” said Magee.
About 340 Keene State College students were remote this semester, according to Barbara Cormier who works at the Registrar Office. Some students opted to go remote in August, but others changed their minds throughout the semester and went home.
Silverman decided in August and said he made the best choice possible with the information he knew at the time.
“I made the decision out of apprehension for how long Keene was going to be open for the semester, considering how other colleges were opening and then shutting down within two weeks. My father had COVID and I had seen what that had done to him, so there was apprehension about getting the virus itself. Also, I could use the semester to save myself some money and make some more money,” said Silverman.
Similarly, Coughin and Magee heavily considered safety when deciding to go remote. Coughin lives in Italy, Rome, and thought it was the smartest idea to remain home, while Magee wanted to limit her contact with people.
“When COVID started to get really bad in March, I think we all thought that, when summer came around, it would get better. But then summer did come around and it didn’t slow down. That’s when I decided that being in-person with people would not be the best idea,” said Magee.
Silverman said he knew he would miss some things before the semester even began, including visiting Nelson, New Hampshire. His grandmother and great-grandmother are buried there and he goes to their burial plots when he’s in Keene.
“I knew straight away that I was going to miss a lot of the interactions that I have with my friends on campus, the ability to go to on campus activities, being able to participate in the clubs and just being in Keene. What I didn’t think was that I would miss the comfort of being in a dorm room,” said Silverman.
Magee said she misses the gym and on-campus activities. She also wishes she could establish better connections with her professors.
“I am a junior so I am right in the thick of my major and I should be making connections with my professors. That’s just really not happening, so I am worried about letters of recommendation for graduate school,” said Magee.
Coughin said he met with tutors and went to the Writing Center often. He wishes he still had that opportunity, but said he is doing fine in classes without them.
“Being in-person and being in a class is better, but I can survive doing this,” said Coughin.
According to the three students, their professors have been understanding and helpful through the semester. Silverman cited the flexibility he has with his professors as a fully-remote and fully-employed student.
Coughin said they are willing to meet with him one-on-one over Zoom.
“If you are willing to study, you can do it in-person or remote. It [being remote] doesn’t really change anything. It is just about the effort you put in,” said Coughin.
Magee said she has been lucky with the professors she had. She also said being remote made it easier to adapt to a new apartment.
“I have been able to spend more time with my roommates and bond with them on a deeper level because we all have to stay together. I have been able to get really comfortable in the place that I am living,” said Magee.
Magee originally did not want the added stress of safety on top of her usual anxieties. She sees a therapist every week who has helped ease some of the stress.
“She has been able to help me work through the anxieties I have been having and has helped me navigate the craziness of everything that has been going on,” said Magee.
Magee said she will reconsider taking in-person classes in the spring, but it will depend on the COVID-19 levels in Cheshire County. Coughin is also still deciding and said it will depend on Keene’s regulations for sports.
Silverman is planning to return after seeing how the college maintained low COVID-19 case levels.
“Keene State’s plan for testing and for maintaining COVID-19 within the college and within the city has been effective. I have a lot of faith that it is safe to go back up and I also really badly want to see my friends on campus,” said Silverman.
Cormier said the Registrar Office has not decided how they will collect students’ spring plans.
“We’re trying to be sensitive to students feeling overwhelmed at the moment and who need or want to focus on the fall while understanding some already know and are anxious to report their plans for the spring,” said Cormier.
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