College of the Sequoias, Visalia, where the Garcia siblings are studying. Photo by Paulina Cruz.

Continuing to Adapt to Covid-19 in Our Lives

In 2020, the entire world was suddenly within the clutches of a modern pandemic. The virus, Covid-19, spread like wildfire from country to country. As numbers and panic rose, people and their governments scrambled to adjust to a new reality. Two years later, we continue to experience the effects of Covid-19 in every aspect of our daily lives.

Education has been one of the most affected aspects of our lives, shifting how people are supposed to learn worldwide. Students from preschool to college were forced to engage in online at home learning during the stay-at-home orders in 2020.

In addition to facing pandemic fears, isolation and economic uncertainty, different students with different demographics now had to completely change their school experience. Some lacked access to school materials or the right technology.

Several teachers were not prepared to switch online in the beginning and still struggle teaching through a screen.

Although death rates have gone down thanks to vaccination rates, there is always the possibility of spreading Covid-19 to someone at a higher risk. Students who are beginning to return to campus worry about infecting loved ones, who could suffer more dangerous symptoms.

The Garcia family is familiar with all these concerns, with three daughters currently attending college. An immigrant family of five, they moved here several years ago after gaining their citizenship. They have faced various hurdles including properly learning English and adapting to a huge cultural and societal shift. All three daughters work to help with college fees and bills while attending a local community college.

When the world went into lockdown, the Garcia sisters were forced to adapt again.

Elisa, age 20, is the youngest sister, entering her first year of college as a kinesiology major. Although she prefers in-person classes, she has mostly taken online classes for the beginning of her college career. Like many younger students, this has become the norm.

Gloria, age 22, is the middle sister, starting her second year as a nursing major. Unlike her sister, the majority of her classes have remained in person because of necessary hands-on activities that are difficult to teach online. When asked about online lab options, she responded, “I had to take some chem classes with lab sections online because of Covid. They were much more challenging because self-teaching was necessary.”

Anna, age 23, is the oldest sister, wrapping up the second and last year of her arts associate degree. Anna experienced the most schooling before Covid-19 hit compared to her sisters and was the most eager for things to go back to normal.

She has enjoyed some online classes saying, “There are times I prefer going fully online and other cases attending face-to-face lectures. It can be convenient being online sometimes with work and time. But, as for my major, I do enjoy going back to campus and having professors helping me throughout the progress of how to get assignments done.”

Students across the world struggle with many of the same problems the Garcia sisters have faced when they transitioned to an online format. From technology issues, impersonal Zoom lectures, non-tech friendly teachers and self-teaching, they have adapted to every challenge.

Despite the majority of Elisa’s classes being online, she hasn’t had a single Zoom lecture. Instead, her professors have relied on pre-recorded lectures and heavy assigned reading.

This is one of the reasons she prefers in-person classes, “I feel I can learn more in a classroom because there is interaction with the professor and other peers.”

Instead of sitting alone for hours, teaching herself the material, Elisa can learn from her professors and fellow classmates. Gloria and Anna, however, have become familiar with Zoom lectures and the problems that come with them.

Sharing space in a small home with five people can be strenuous finding a quiet area where you won’t be disturbed. All three sisters share a room, making it difficult to attend a Zoom call, study or watch lectures without getting on each other’s nerves.

The Internet isn’t perfect and can often cause Zoom lectures to glitch or drop. Sitting in front of your computer filled with black squares and strangers’ names lacks the same interactive draw that in-person classes offer.

Regardless of Zoom lectures, self-teaching and self-regulating are important skills that they need to develop while learning from home.

“Sometimes after spending hours staring at my screen, the information wasn’t being absorbed anymore. I had to learn to take breaks and organize my time studying better,” explained Anna.

Other than due dates, the sisters were mostly in charge of their own schedule when learning online. Avoiding procrastination required a lot of discipline and practice.

Attending in-person classes was a confounding experience for the Garcia sisters. They were excited to learn first-hand in classrooms filled with other eager students but were fearful of catching or spreading Covid-19. All three Garcia sisters are fully vaccinated, knowing that this is what has allowed their campus to open again.

California is one of 19 states that requires Covid-19 vaccination or exemption application in order to be on campus. Although the majority of their peers are vaccinated, the Garcias often worry about those who are not and their ability to spread the disease.

Colleges have had to adjust a lot to maintain open campuses. Colleges, like many of us, attempt to return to normal while following the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines as closely as possible.

Schools such as the College of the Sequoias (COS) and Porterville College have begun requiring proof of vaccination or exemption for on-campus classes in addition to mandated masks and asking students to self-assess any symptoms before attending class. Schools also send out e-mails updating students on CDC guidelines and any changes that the campus might make in their Covid-19 regulations.

Gloria is thankful that COS is offering “book vouchers, free rapid Covid tests and vaccines in all three campuses in case someone thinks they are sick. They have masks available in every classroom and building if someone needs one.” Colleges have also maintained several classes online in order to limit how crowded the campus gets.

As students, and the world, try to return to a sense of normalcy we must continue to be cautious. There are plenty of mutations appearing around the world and, despite vaccination rates, there are many who refuse to accept the science.

The Garcias are more than aware of how tenuous the situation is, noting that their professors have all prepared for their classes shifting online again. \

Even following CDC guidelines cannot completely guarantee that you won’t get sick. The most important thing is to be as safe as possible and be willing to adapt to our constantly changing circumstances.

  • Paulina Cruz is a fellow with the Community Alliance. She is a Mexican immigrant currently attending Fresno State. She is currently working on an anthropology major with a minor in psychology. She spends her free time writing poetry or painting. 

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