A pandemic year at the University

Lindsay Kaul, Contributing Writer

On March 10, 2020, the University’s students opened their email inboxes to find a surprising message from University President John Bravman: owing to the rising COVID-19 cases around the globe, students would not be returning to in-person instruction following the spring break. Students were required to gather all of their belongings from campus and move out by March 17. Since then a year has passed, and certainly the world looks a lot different than it did back then. The Bucknellian asked students about their reactions to the March 2020 COVID-19 campus closure, and how they feel about life on campus over the past year amidst COVID-19.

Lindsey Skardon 23 said her reaction to Bravman’s email was one of sadness. “When we received the email last spring that we had to move out, I was sad to end my first year early, especially since I was unable to say goodbye to my hall mates and friends,” Skardon said.

COVID-19 led to the abrupt closure of a variety of campus activities and operations. Students who were studying abroad were sent back to the United States, and upcoming trips were cancelled as well. Ellie Arnold ’23, then planning to attend a trip to Iceland organized by Outdoor Education & Leadership (OEL) , says, “At first I was in complete denial. I was supposed to go to Iceland and a few weeks following the shutdown. If I had gone, I would have been stuck there. It was a hard reality to accept and it was difficult watching the pandemic intensify.”

Following the shutdown, the University’s professors, administrators, and staff ― and the rest of the world, for that matter ― soon entered uncharted territory. Not only was there uncertainty surrounding the pandemic as cases spread and borders shut down, but students had to adjust to the realities of remote learning. Many other universities continued remote instruction into the Fall 2020 semester, but University students were given the opportunity to return to campus in the fall. 

“I definitely appreciate the University for giving students the opportunity to return to campus because not every school gave their students the same options,” Skardon said. “I was very excited to return to campus and see everyone again. With the abrupt ending of last year I realized how important time on campus is, which motivated me to look for ways to become more involved.”

Testing protocols, mask requirements, contact tracing, isolation procedures, capacity limits and more allowed students to remain on campus for the entirety of the Fall 2020 semester. However, the University has not been a stranger to the obstacles of operating during COVID-19. Two separate COVID-19 outbreaks last fall semester and a more severe outbreak in the beginning of this spring 2021 semester serve as reminders of the harsh reality of the pandemic. That being said, as of March 2021, cases are fortunately down once again on campus and in-person instruction has resumed.

Arnold feels fortunate that she was able to return to campus, but is still processing the changes that have occurred over the past year. “It’s definitely better. However, it’s hard to realize how far we have come given the freedom we had before COVID-19,” Arnold said.

Eleanor Geno ’23 echoed these sentiments. “I would say that things have felt surreal this semester, especially when you realize it’s only been a year. It’s crazy to see how far we’ve come in this year, but also how much everything has changed. I’m so happy we are on campus and am curious to see what changes remain permanent in the future,” Geno said.

No doubt, University students have experienced a tumultuous and historic year. Bravman’s email in March 2020 may have seemed like a shock at first, but no one could have predicted how different our lives would be a year later. Fortunately, students have remained resilient and there is hope that students will complete the current semester in its entirety.

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