Schools & Education

Pandemic grounds college students in San Benito County

Despite feeling bored and distracted, they would rather stay home for classes than attend in person.

This article was written by BenitoLink intern Andrew Pearson.

No matter what school they attend, college students from San Benito County have been greatly inconvenienced by the coronavirus pandemic. Many will take classes from home in the coming semester.

“For the first few months all of us were on quarantine, not really doing much at all,” said Tyler Bennedetti, a junior at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo with an engineering major.

Bennedetti, who visits his grandparents’ house while wearing a mask and maintaining social distancing guidelines, is not alone. Incoming UCLA freshman Tanvir Mann, a biophysics major, reported spending time with his cousins and grandparents more often early in the pandemic, when fewer people were infected; but as numbers rose, he and his family withdrew more.

“I don’t care about myself getting sick, I’m worried about them getting sick,” Mann said of his grandparents.

Bennedetti said that even before the “pod” advisory, he kept company with small groups of friends, and for the first three months he stayed only with his parents.

“Within the last month or so, two months, I’ve been hanging out with a few of my friends, but keeping the circle small, only the same people,” said Bennedetti. “We started doing outdoor stuff, in people’s backyards.” Even the pod’s style can be cramped: Bennedetti’s planned road trip with friends was canceled by parental concerns.

Mann agreed: “It’s been a while since I’ve seen my friends in person.”

Aeja Rosette, a Columbia University pre-med junior with a double major in evolutionary biology and human ethnicity, said that her school is staggering attendance. Underclassmen will attend classes on campus during the fall semester, while upperclassmen will have the school to themselves in spring.

Santino Brown, who attends Gavilan College, said distance learning also accommodates “busy work,” general education, and writing classes more easily than it does science majors like Bennedetti. Mann agreed.

“Sitting at a computer screen for so long might get tiring, I’m not so worried about the classes and the classwork,” Mann said. “I wouldn’t see any benefit going to college, paying tuition and a dormitory, but still having online classes. But if there were classes that were in-person, I would go.”

As a self-described visual, in-person learner, at a school whose motto is “Discere faciendo” or “Learn by doing,” Bennedetti found last semester’s distance learning more difficult than in-class instruction. It was compounded by the fact that three of his four professors only posted lecture videos which could be watched at any time.

“Managing my time, staying committed to doing schoolwork and following the videos”—these suffered from too much freedom, Bennedetti said. If he put off homework or watching the video lectures, he would fall behind, sometimes by a week or more.

“It’s a lot harder to stay motivated, to stay on task. It’s just not the same atmosphere,” Rosette said.

Still, the students appreciate the schools’ caution. Bennedetti said he would be more comfortable with returning to school if his peers would be responsible.

“When you go back to school anyways, there’s gonna be students hanging out with everybody. Once they’re away from their parents and they’re with all their friends, they just end up hanging out with each other and doing their own things,” he said.

In his opinion, “They shouldn’t go fully back, and definitely have limitations,” because if all their freedom is restored, students “are gonna think, ‘Oh, life’s back to normal.’”

Rosette agreed: “It’s really difficult to tell college students not to see their friends and not to go out.”

Mann suggested hybrid classes would be the way to go.

“I wouldn’t go if they were fully back to normal.”

Rosette also forecast that distance learning might “be slightly more manageable and slightly more enjoyable” in fall 2020. Distance learning is now part of every school’s plan, and students have now been taking Zoom classes for half a semester.

“I’m going in knowing that’s how it’s gonna be,” Rosette said, but “it’s obviously disappointing to not be on campus and to not be with my friends.”




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Andrew Pearson