• March 31, 2020

Uncertainty abounds for college students - Ocean City Sentinel: News

Uncertainty abounds for college students

They say working online from home will be different, more difficult

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Posted: Tuesday, March 17, 2020 5:18 pm

With fears of COVID-19 sweeping the nation and many institutions taking precautions to try to slow or stop the virus from spreading, area college students were filled with uncertainty as they began their spring breaks last week. 

They did know that they would not be returning to campus until at least the beginning of April, with many schools extending the break by two weeks and planning to offer online classes for some time after that.

Northfield resident Robert Hurley, 19, a 2019 graduate of Mainland Regional High School studying finance and business at Rutgers University New Brunswick, said he expected not to return until the fall.

“We’re probably going to be done for the rest of the semester,” he said Thursday, March 12, the day Rutgers told everyone to leave campus until April 3. “It’s going to be longer.”

En route to his family’s second home in North Carolina for some R&R with friends, he said he likely would be back home for the foreseeable future.

Hurley was concerned he would be distracted at home rather than on campus and he was planning to get a job to take up some of his spare time.

“I would rather be on campus,” he said. “It’s going to make classes harder.”

He said he thought exams would probably be easier but the learning process would be more difficult.

“I have a better mentality when at school,” he said. “At home I will be distracted by other stuff.”

Hurley said students were stressed out by having to leave campus early and being uncertain when or if they would be returning this semester.

“It was rough. We were notified two days before when we had to be out. Everyone was packing. 

People didn’t know if they were going to be able to come back or not. If they close for the semester you were not going to be able to get your stuff until after the semester.”

Kristina Gitsas, a 2019 MRHS grad studying nutrition and food science at Montclair State University, was home before her school decided to extend break and now is uncertain about how and when she would be able to get her belongings.

She returned to her Somers Point home Thursday, March 5, expecting to return to campus March 16.

“There was no worry. I packed lightly because I was going to be here only for a week,” she said March 12.

She expected to be off campus until at least March 22 but said she has a laboratory class that could not be taken online.

“There is a lot of uncertainly. Professors were not sure what classes will be online and what won’t,” she said.

Gitsas planned to use her extra time at home working and volunteering.

“I did contact one of my old bosses on the Ocean City Boardwalk, looking for weekend work,” she said. “I also filled out an application to volunteer at the Atlantic County Animal Shelter. I’m trying just to keep myself busy because I don’t have any school work.”

Locally, Stockton University announced spring break would be extended through Tuesday, March 24. Then, from March 25 through April 5, the university would “implement an alternate instructional model, with all classes being held online.”

Sarah McElroy, a 2017 graduate of Mainland studying criminal justice at Stockton, just started her spring break Thursday and was told students would be notified by April 5 whether they would be resuming in-person instruction or taking classes online for the rest of the semester.

“It’s frustrating because it happened out of nowhere. They didn’t give us time to prepare for this,” the Northfield resident said. “All of a sudden we were like, ‘What are we going to do?’”

She said she was worried about losing personal communication with her professors.

“It might be a little harder because not having face to face interaction with teachers will make it harder to communicate,” she said.

McElroy also was concerned about the logistics of taking online classes.

“If everyone is trying to log on, the website might crash and we might not be able to meet with our teacher,” she said. “It’s a little scary thinking about it.”

She also said not all classes can be taken online, noting that her art teacher doesn’t know how she is going to teach class.

“She’s not sure what she is going to do,” McElroy said.

A longtime soccer player, McElroy plays in the school’s intermural league and was uncertain whether there would be a spring season.

“I’m still not sure whether it’s canceled. We’re all still hoping to do it,” she said.

Regarding what she is going to do with her extra spring break time, she said she would “just relax and sleep.”

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