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Success@Pitt: Students Reflect on Their Hybrid Semester

by Nicole Cortino

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The fall semester is halfway done. Each Pitt-Greensburg student has a unique experience, creating a vast spectrum of opinions towards this semester and the upcoming spring schedule. Some students are enjoying the easy access and flexible scheduling with online learning. Other students are struggling to keep up with fast-paced classes while maintaining a positive outlook on their education.

So, how are students feeling about the pacing of their classes, and do days off actually have an impact?

Taylor Russo, a sophomore psychology major and commuter, said the pacing of her classes isn’t “too fast or too slow.”

“My semester has gone pretty smoothly, other than internet connections being a more prevalent issue and communications with professors regarding deadlines,” Russo said. “It’s a little more jumbled up with everything online.”

While Russo has to take more initiative to organize her coursework, she found multiple strategies to help her retain information better when online learning.

“I can really focus on what the professor is showing and saying on the screen – which is right here for me to look at,” Russo said. “In some of my classes, there’s video recordings, so I can pause, or go back even on class days you can go back and re-watch them.”

Russo understands that the internet can cause unique issues students wouldn’t face in person, but she said she learns better by herself.

“I’m able to focus more, even on Zoom sessions, because I can block everyone out and pay attention to exactly what the professor is teaching,” Russo said.

Students’ needs must be met in order for them to learn and enjoy school.

Some students are learning on campus, going to events and all of their classes that are offered in person.

Some students are learning at home, like Russo, which she feels has positively affected her education. However, other students learning home are affected negatively because they are distracted by house chores, work schedules, and a lack of motivation that they typically receive from peers and in-person class interactions.

Kira Crea, a senior psychology major, did not expect to learn virtually at home so late into her school career.

“It doesn’t really feel like I’m in school. Zoom definitely helps, but just being in my house, in my room, it doesn’t feel right,” Crea said. “I’ve never had so many things due at once. Ever.”

Crea doesn’t feel she’s learning the same way as before.

“All of my classes I keep my mic off and video off, and being in person I feel like I have to keep eye contact, pay attention, nod my head,” Crea said. “But now, I fold clothes and do small tasks instead of actively listening to the professor.”

Despite this, Crea found one advantage in staying home – she’s spending less money.

“I’m home more, so I’m working a little bit more,” she said. “As a commuter, I’m saving so much money from not having to drive every day. I’m fortunate enough where my parents buy my groceries, so I’m saving from not buying lunch either. That’s the main thing I enjoy about being home.”

Abigail Lescallette, a freshman education major, volleyball player, and resident, feels she’s been “taking it day by day and rolling with the punches.”

“I feel like some things stick and others don’t. I find that when I go to in-person classes, information is retained better because I’m in person doing it and the teacher is right there, so I’m able to ask questions right away instead of doing it by myself,” Lescallette said. “I feel better doing stuff in-person, and it’s more effective.”

Eden Araya, a freshman pre-med learning on campus with all her classes online, said she would have not believed someone if they told her she would be taking all of her classes online.

“This is not what I expected, but it’s been a fair experience so far,” Araya said.

Araya takes advantage of the ping-pong tables in the Villages and walks around campus instead of socializing.

“I’m usually a very outgoing person, so it’s been difficult to not see and meet people and go out,” she said. “It’s put me in a bit of a funky mood, but I don’t want to risk others’ lives.”

Araya feels her professors are usually understanding, despite what her older friends warned her about – professors that are mean and never flexible.

“I understand there are certain expectations the professors have of us, with or without a pandemic. They have been fair with deadlines and other assignment aspects,” she said. “Communications are an important factor in college without mentioning the unique factors the pandemic brings, and so I’ve been trying to apply myself as much as possible.”

Araya wants other students to apply themselves as much as they can as well.

“I don’t want to take the easy way out with my school work, especially when I’m learning information that I will later apply to my career. I don’t want to risk people’s lives. It doesn’t matter whether I become a doctor or not,” she said.

Crea’s main concern for the spring semester is her mental health.

“Usually I have a break to look forward to and utilize to recover. I don’t have that to look forward to anymore,” she said. “This semester, because it’s shortened a little, feels faster, and I understand this is why the professors have to assign work closely to each other.”

In a mass email sent out to all University students from Provost Ann E. Cudd, the spring schedule was described as a “compressed schedule, which eliminates spring recess to maximize the health and safety of our community but includes the addition of two student self-care days and ends the term as originally scheduled on May 1.”

All semesters are 15 weeks long, no matter if there is a seasonal break, self-care days, or holidays.

Beth Tiedemann, director of advising and registrar, also sent out a mass email consisting of a summary of upcoming events, important dates, and details, including a link to the spring’s list of important dates.

Crea is also not happy with the two self-care days replacing the spring break.

“I know it’s so people don’t leave home and come back. I understand it’s for everyone’s safety,” she said, “but I’d much rather have a longer weekend than one day out of the week.”

Not all students feel seasonal breaks are beneficial. Russo feels indifferent about the elimination of spring break for the next semester.

“I’m not affected by it because I’m already home,” she said. “I can see how other students would be upset by it because they can’t go home and see their family.”

Russo learned a lot about her educational needs due to the expansion of spring break earlier this year. Quarantine gave her time to improve her learning strategies.

“I learned how to delegate time to studying for finals and other things like that. I think with Thanksgiving and spring break, having holidays in there, that it could be a little more difficult because your break is your designated time off,” Russo said. “So setting time up to study for when classes aren’t going on will take more planning and time management, but I don’t think it’s going to affect me too much.”

Araya has a positive mindset towards her first spring semester of college.

“I don’t mind not having a spring break. It’s nice because we get that extended winter break to spend more time with our families,” Araya said. “It doesn’t seem so bad, especially with the added self-care days. That day could be just what you need that week to re-energize yourself and get back on your feet.”

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