COVID and Me: Serna '21 (1/2)

My name is Serna (she/her) and I’m a third-year studying mechanical engineering at Olin. I hope everyone is doing well and managing. If not, I hope you’re on your way there. 

Unfortunately due to the rise of COVID-19 cases and its severity, Olin decided to ask students to not come back from spring break. Understandably, everyone had strong emotions and feelings over that. Thankfully administration and student groups provided different types of support to the students. Our therapy service moved to telecommunication as well.  

The last week+ on campus was something beautiful and chaotic. The week started with lovely weather and by the next day, everything felt uncertain. The afternoon we were told about the transition to remote online classes was very surreal. During my last week on campus, I attended several music performances, got second place in a lettuce-eating competition, cherished last moments with friends, attended “faux-mencement,” cried a lot, and tried even more to keep going forward. 

Thankfully, there wasn’t a positive case at Olin before we left. Still, upon arrival students quarantined themselves at home away from their family as best they could. Some students were fortunate enough to get home pretty early in the week, while I got to spend a pretty memorable three-day drive from Olin to my home in Texas with fellow classmates. However, that meant I got home just two days before classes started again and avoided processing events. This led to a rocky restart, and thankfully my situation and reaction have improved significantly (but are not perfect yet). 

While students spent spring break packing up dorm rooms, saying goodbye to friends, figuring out where they were going to live, and how they were going to get there, faculty started figuring out this “second half” of the semester. Deadlines, assignments, syllabi, class times, and general expectations changed. Our grading scheme also changed to Met/Unmet for all classes after discussion and feedback from students and faculty. 

Olin faculty are already pretty understanding people. The assignments and plans we had for classes on Thursday and Friday before leaving campus were changed significantly to address the very overwhelming elephant in the room. It is my experience that talking to your professors, especially during this time, about issues you might be facing leads to alternatives and/or solutions. 

It’s pretty hard to do work when you don’t know what the future holds. Even now, I spend my weekends online shopping. The week Animal Crossing came out, that’s all I could successfully do. Showering daily was my second most achieved goal to watering my flowers daily. 

Even through all this uncertainty, Olin has reminded me about how strong community is for us. Students organized events for one last time. Seniors got a “graduation.” Performance groups got to perform. SLACfest (an annual event intended to celebrate the Olin community) happened. Staff and faculty mourned the rest of the semester with us. People who could hold hope, held it for others. I went home (a three-day trip!) in a car full of people I had only met three years ago. Students went to live with each other. Alumni reached out to us. Professors changed expectations. 

Not once during this time have I been made to feel like less than a person by Olin College. Not by the people working there. Not by the students there. Not by curriculum. My personhood has always come first. 

Check out Part 2 of Serna's story here: