Eliza Kielty, a junior psychology major at the University of Miami, was studying abroad in Prague when abruptly sent home last month because of the coronavirus.
Kielty, 21, said she had not lived at her family’s home in New Jersey since she was a freshman, but now was subjected to not only constant online learning but also daily parental supervision.
“It is a bit anxiety-inducing when you have your freedoms taken away,” she said.
More than a million college students across the country have spent the past month at home with their families due to the spread of COVID-19. Colleges and universities have sent students home, and moved their classes online for the rest of the spring semester and some through the summer.
Students everywhere have had to maintain their studies remotely by attending classes virtually, learning course material alone and taking exams at home. Besides missing a regular college experience, it also means readjusting to a lack of much desired independence at home.
Kielty said her course workload has increased while at home, because her professors expect students to easily learn the material. She said she recently received her worst grade ever on a midterm, because she was not used to learning everything on a computer.
“I have never gotten below a B in my entire time in college,” she said.
Doing everything at home has been especially challenging for Samantha Illest, 22, because she is in an accelerated nursing program at the University of South Florida in St. Petersburg. She must complete her clinicals online for a three-semester program. Two must be now done virtually.
“I feel like I’m getting half the experience that I should,” Illest said.
Like Kielty, Rebeca Gonzalez-Rolfe, 20, a biology major at UF, had to travel a long way to make it home. Her parents and two younger siblings live in Spain.
“When I’m at UF, I’m by myself; I’m just living my life,” Gonzalez-Rolfe said. “I’m not really dependent on anyone – what time we have lunch, what time things are going on. When I come back home, it takes me a while to get used to it.”
Social distancing mandates means not being able to go to the library to minimize distractions when doing schoolwork. It’s been a particular struggle for students like Sara Beth Lee, 18, of Live Oak, Suwannee County, a food and resource economics major at UF.
“I was trying to Zoom into my class the other day, and my mom kept coming in my room and trying to talk to me, so I didn’t retain any information from the Zoom,” Lee said.
Bryce Boese, 19, a sophomore marketing major at the University of Central Florida, said distractions at his family’s home in Bradenton, Manatee County, have him back and forth to his apartment in Orlando.
“With distractions, it can be hard to maintain a stable learning environment,” Boese said.
Jordan McTureous, 18, a freshman studying exercise physiology at Santa Fe College in Gainesville, has discovered another challenge with being at home with his family in Gainesville.
Honorlock, the online proctoring program used to take exams, requires each student to be in a room with nothing on the walls. There must also be silence in the room. That’s been almost impossible at home with shelter-in-place orders these days, McTureous said.
“I can’t make my family leave the house, just so I can take a test,” he said.
College seniors are facing another challenge as well. What was supposed to be a last hooray turned into sitting at home on a computer, away from friends and missing rites of passage.
Advertising major Daniel Riordan, 22, plans to graduate from the University of South Florida in Tampa in May. He said he especially regrets not getting to go on that last spring break trip.
“I had some things that I really wanted to do,” Riordan said. “It felt like an abrupt ending.”
To be fair, college students say there are positive aspects of having to return to their homes.
Riordan said he tends to get lazy at his apartment near USF, where he may binge a show on Netflix or play video games. At home, during what he described as “such a weird time,” his parents question him about his assignments.
“It’s kind of like that eye over your shoulder,” he said.
Sarah Savage, 22, a food and resource economics major at UF, is back home in Tampa with her sister, Laura Savage, 20, who attends Santa Fe College. Sarah Savage said she has been managing her time well and likes being able to often do her homework outdoors.
Her course instructors have been helpful.
“In my agriculture food marketing class, my teacher emailed us saying that he wants to accommodate to our changing schedules, so he extended all of our due dates to the end of the semester,” she said. “I think it’s really nice for us and helps alleviate some stress.”
Kailen Bender, 20, a sophomore studying exercise physiology at Florida State University in Tallahassee, said being home in Bradenton has allowed her to renew old passions.
“Being able to pick up old hobbies such as piano, which I haven’t found time to do since high school, has been something positive to come out of all the chaos,” Bender said.
Sydnee Parish, 21, a junior health education and behavior major at UF, said being at home in Bushnell, Sumpter County, has helped her mental health. At her mother’s house, she lives with two sisters. At her father’s house, she has three brothers.
Her relationship with her dad has improved, Parish said.
On the other hand, she said, “Me and my mom have been arguing more.”