BYU students adjust to moving home, online classes

Student Leah Kelson Parks, a junior English education major, attends her Teaching Reading class online at her home in Provo. (Rebekah Baker/BYU Photo)

BYU announced a few weeks ago that classes would transition online due to the spread of COVID-19. All students were encouraged to return home to finish the semester — but for many, the transition to online classes and a new environment hasn’t been completely easy.

Following the announcement, BYU junior Lane Gibbons moved back home to San Antonio, Texas. “The transition of moving back home has been rough,” she said. “Although I love my family and I’m glad to be home, this is not an environment conducive to productivity.”

Gibbons, a sociology major, expressed her disappointment that classes are now online rather than in-person.

“I specifically chose these classes because I was interested in the material, and I have loved the lectures and learning from my professors,” she said. “It’s difficult to lose that.”

Gibbons also said the pandemic has heavily impacted her mental health.

“The transition of moving home, the stress and ‘impending doom’ of COVID-19 and the anxiety of trying to keep up with school work have been overwhelming,” Gibbons said. “My mental health has essentially collapsed and I’m in the process of recovery. But school is just not one of my top priorities right now.”

Gibbons said she can’t see things going back exactly to the way they were once the pandemic is over. “Life after COVID-19 is going to be a new normal. We may be back in school, but we won’t be the same.”

BYU public relations sophomore Austin Rustand studies from his home in Tuscan, Arizona. (Toby Driggs)

BYU public relations sophomore Austin Rustand moved home to Tucson, Arizona. “I was very disappointed to stop having classes on campus, because the professors that I had this semester were fantastic and I’m definitely an in-class learner,” he said. “I’m definitely going to miss those in-class experiences versus online.”

Rustand worked in the Marriott Center equipment room for the men’s and women’s basketball teams. But when the NCAA canceled all athletic competitions, BYU’s basketball operations were shut down, and Rustand was let go.

“Looking for another job is definitely a plan that I didn’t see coming,” he said. 

Rustand said he’s looking forward to getting back to “normal”, which he’ll then more fully appreciate.

“I think it’ll definitely make me more cautious going forward when something like this does come up and they say, ‘Oh, make sure to wash your hands more, make sure this flu season to stay clear if you are feeling sick.’ I feel like I’ll take more precautions when I see notes like that because of the fact that I can see now that if we don’t, it can lead to this,” he said.

Toby Driggs, a psychology sophomore from Denver, Colorado, moved in with Rustand for the time being because Driggs’ parents are living in Washington, D.C. for work until June.

“I think everyone’s lives have been disrupted,” Driggs said. “People went from everything that they had scheduled and all of a sudden, it’s just day by day.”

Driggs said the transition to online courses have made it difficult for him to know what his professors expect of him.

“I personally struggle with online learning,” he said. “The most difficult part has been (going) from attending class and getting explanations there and also receiving assignments in class, whereas now I feel like no one really tells you what to do.”

Though he personally doesn’t prefer it, Driggs said he thinks the current education system is building a dependence on internet-based learning.

“Unfortunately, I think it’s gonna push everything to more online learning. People have realized, obviously, that doing school over the internet provides certain conveniences. You can teach as much in the classroom as you can do from anywhere.”

Math education major Christian Dahneke takes his Differential Equations class online from his hone in Chaska, Minnesota. (Alyssa Lyman/BYU Photo)

Emma Campbell, a junior studying physics and astronomy, agreed.

“I could see a lot of teachers and employers realizing that doing stuff online can actually be easier, and so then they don’t switch back in some regards,” she said. “I had several classes where all of my assignments were turned in physically, so they might find it easier that we all turn them in online.”

However, some of her classes have suffered setbacks due to the online structure, like the beginning astronomy class for which she is a TA.

“We would use the planetarium and the telescopes, and so now we can’t do any of that. That’s kind of sad, because I feel like it’s beneficial for the students and I enjoy it,” she said.

Campbell said it’s been difficult to not do homework with her classmates and study on campus, which helps her stay motivated.

“I have stuff around the house I want to do, but I still have to do my homework,” she said. “It’s just really hard to get motivated especially since it kind of just doesn’t feel real. It helps me on campus to kind of get it in my mind.”

But aside from the struggles of doing online coursework, Campbell added that she’s had more time to do things she enjoys without the travel time of going to and from classes.

“Now I have that time to go hang out with my dogs,” she said. “We’ve been doing a lot of puzzles. And I’ve been baking a lot, which is nice.”

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