Adaptation: Students on Their Changed Lives

Adjusting to the new normal, in the words of English majors
Photo of English major Lauren Swee in winter landscape
English senior and peer counselor Lauren Swee

It can be isolating to only see your professors, classmates, and friends via a screen. We asked English students how they are doing, and what is helping them feel less alone.


The adjustment to new coursework was smooth for the first week or so, but then inevitably my motivation started waning. What has helped inspire me to keep on keeping on is talking with other students about coursework and hearing that everyone is struggling a bit right now. It's also been great to hear people's different stories of adversity and pushing through. Everybody has their own story, and right now is the best time to listen. Best quarantine album is Reader as Detective by Generationals. Great album: been lifting my spirits all throughout.

"Everybody has their own
story, and right now is the
best time to listen."
            - Geoffrey Ayers


I’m glad that the U and the University of Minnesota Press have been flexible in accommodating students during these times. I’ve still been able to do my internship at home: from ordering complimentary copies of a book to be sent to architectural organizations around the world (I utilized my German skills!) to a keyword marketing project for the Press' spring publications. Someone from the Press did a Zoom call to show me how to access their servers: setting up a VPN—another useful skill to have under my belt! She told me that this is a big learning curve for everyone. It was great to hear how everyone is still supporting each other during this crisis.


I struggled a bit in the beginning with everything being online solely because I already spent so much time on my laptop. I am grateful that I was fortunate enough to keep my jobs, but between those and my classes, I spend close to 12 hours on my screen every day. However, all of my professors have been really great about communicating with us and trying to help us make the best of the situation. I am writing two feature stories for one of my internships right now, and my stories are covering things people are doing to help the community. I discovered that there is a group of ladies in Woodbury who are utilizing their quilting and sewing skills to make protective face masks for health facilities in need. They donate them to 17 organizations in the surrounding area, and they have already contributed thousands of masks! Stories like that make my heart so happy.

I really miss being able to see everyone on campus, from the random run-ins with a friend on the way to class to planned coffee dates. I didn’t know about Zoom before my classes went online, but that has been a great resource for having group video calls with friends. I also enjoy hearing about what other people are doing during this pandemic. Some families are so creative with their kids—I found a picture of a family who created a life-size Chutes and Ladders game on their driveway with chalk. I ended up trying to recreate the same thing—and while it wasn’t pretty, it was a fun way spend time outside of the house.


It has been tough adjusting to coursework and life in general. The racism that Asian Americans are experiencing right now because of COVID-19 is bad: I've experienced it myself out in public. I was living in a university apartment and then due to the COVID-19 shutdown, moved back home, so now I have many more responsibilities to carry out. Some students like me don't have the best internet connectivity at home. I have a deepened respect for teachers willing to work with students, for how they've responded to this pandemic. It took awhile to get used to webcamming with my classes, but now it's worked out well. And it's good to be back home and have support from those who are open to it. What has really helped me is the way I think. Instead of feeling upset, I tell myself to acknowledge facts, move on to the next best thing, and do my best work.


Experiencing this much change is surreal and anxiety-inducing, but also deeply enlightening. Never have I ever been more worried about finding a job after graduation. Yet, never have I ever been more aware that a job really is just a job, and at the end of the day the only thing that really matters are the people in my life that I love. I'm very thankful for the amazing professors and classmates I have. They make all of this so much better. I really do look forward to our Zoom calls, and getting to see their faces and hear their voices. The English department is filled with so many lovely, funny, and caring individuals.

Art has never been so vital (and now I have more time to read!). I love getting caught in a good story. I just finished Susan Choi's Trust Exercise, which completely had me at the edge of my seat. I also just read Alison McGhee's What I Leave Behind, which really, really resonated with me. And since I read that book with Julie Schumacher's YA Fiction class, we got to meet Alison herself! Other art that's getting me through: Childish Gambino's new album, Dua Lipa's new album, Ozark's third season, and—of course—Tiger King.

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