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Story by Lacie Shepherd, nursing student
College during COVID: A student's perspective

I did not expect my college experience would change so drastically when I began as an SFA student in fall 2019.

My passion for helping others led me from Fort Worth to Nacogdoches to pursue a nursing degree. My career choice was solidified when I experienced my own hospitalizations — having twice torn my ACL while playing soccer in high school. Under the watchful eyes of doctors, nurses, physical therapists and other health care professionals, I healed and came to know nursing was my calling. What I didn't know was COVID-19 would soon change everything.

The first time I recall hearing about the virus was in March 2020 during spring break. My mom and I attended a wedding, and we were talking with the bride during the reception. I remember her saying she was concerned about the lockdown. A few days later, I received notification from SFA that the university would extend spring break by two days to provide time for professors to move classes to an online format. We could arrange to return to campus and collect things from our residence halls for class, but otherwise, attending classes on campus was over for the immediate future.

The adjustment was difficult, as it was nearing the end of the semester, and adapting to new modes of learning was hard. Many students also were not prepared to deal with technology issues, such as not having reliable internet access and some not owning computers.

When I returned to campus in fall 2020, it was still so different and eerie. The campus felt empty, as many students chose to continue online learning from home. Face coverings were required, which, although very necessary, made interacting difficult. My mental health was affected because on-campus events were canceled, and it wasn't safe to gather with friends. College life was quite different than I had imagined, and as a student in the pre-nursing program, I knew the health risks and followed the mandates.

It was a trying time for everyone and intensified when family and friends became ill. Worrying about their welfare, taking classes, being away from home and feeling helpless were stressful. As the semester slowly ticked by, things seemed to improve. And by Christmas, there was serious talk a vaccine would soon be available.

As spring 2021 got underway, we still kept our distance from each other, stayed masked and sat widely apart in classrooms. As spring progressed, the vaccine became available, and as soon as I received an email saying I could be vaccinated through clinics on campus, I immediately signed up. I took my first round in March and second dose in April.

Now back on campus for fall 2021, things seem to have returned to some kind of normalcy. All my classes are in person. Events on campus are taking place. There's activity across campus, the dining halls are open, student organizations are meeting, athletic events are in full swing, and there's a glimmer of what I had envisioned college would be like.

I have become involved with the Wesley Foundation campus ministry, joined the Sigma Phi Lambda sorority, have a new job working at Boot Barn and have been able to reconnect with my friends. I am hopeful things will continue to improve, campus will remain open, and we can absorb the full Lumberjack experience. I am looking forward to spending the holidays with my family this year.