With American colleges and universities sending students home due to COVID-19, Pepperdine students and parents face a situation similar to that of the Woolsey Fire in 2018, when Pepperdine closed campus before the end of the first semester. But with no chance of having students return to campus this time around, the university transitioned to permanent online instruction.
During the Woolsey Fire, Pepperdine extended Thanksgiving break for over a week by canceling classes, and students returned to campus afterward. Coronavirus led the university to cancel two days of classes and send students home, but students did not eventually move back to campus.
Not all Pepperdine students have the Woolsey Fire experience, though. For freshmen like Sammie Wuensche and graphic artist Elizabeth Brummer, the COVID-19 pandemic is the first time they have had to pack up and leave mid-semester.
“I just miss being with people,” Wuensche said. “I am an extrovert, and my favorite thing about Pepperdine is the people, and not being able to sit in a class with people who I love and talk about things that I’m passionate about [is the hardest part of online classes].”
Wuensche’s parents, Perrie and Randy Wuensche, said they had not considered the possibility that their daughter would have to come home early before the March 11 announcement.
“I was just sad for Sammie,” Perrie said. “All the information came out at once, [that] Pepperdine was closing and they were going to be online class, so I didn’t really think about the academic part of it at first. I just worried about Sammie’s emotional state.”
Although Pepperdine upperclassmen have experience with emergencies interrupting their learning, the transition to online classes is unprecedented, so all of Pepperdine is getting its first remote education experience.
Brummer said the hardest part of online classes has been finding motivation.
“I think having Zoom [lectures] is good because it forces me to go to class,” Brummer said. “[When] my teachers put PowerPoints on Courses or something, I really have to tell myself, ‘OK, you have to sit down and listen or take notes on these,’ because it’s too easy for me to put it off.”
Some classes transitioned online better than others. Brummer said all of her classes transitioned smoothly, and they both said their Spanish classes made the move especially well. But Wuensche said her communications class stopped meeting, while her humanities class continues to meet on Zoom.
“[With] my Hum[anities] 111 class — that’s my Elkins class — having to do a Zoom meeting with 135 people kind of sucks,” Wuensche said. “It’s not ideal, because it’s a lot easier for me to zone out.”
Online learning does have its advantages, however. Wuensche said she has found classes to be easier online, and Brummer said online classes provide flexibility.
“You can really make the whole system fit to you,” Brummer said. “If you want to be in your bed or if you want to be sitting at a desk or even just with your family but you’re also listening to a lecture, I feel like you can really make [online classes] fit to how you like to learn.”
Wuensche said where she does her work affects her efficiency. She and Brummer both like to vary their workspaces.
“There is this coffee shop that, all through high school, I always went there to study, so that’s where my brain associates with studying,” Wuensche said. “They’re still letting people sit outside the coffee shop, so sometimes I go there, because if I’m studying all my bed, a lot of times I just get really tired. If it’s not a classroom, I can’t keep studying in one place or it stresses me out.”
Wuensche also visits her sister’s house for a change in environment, while Brummer prefers to move around her home.
“I live in Arizona, and it’s really sunny outside, so sometimes I’ll go outside and get some fresh air and read or get some work done there,” Brummer said. “Other times, I need to concentrate more. I’ll go into my room. It’s like a nice quiet space where I can focus.”
Workspaces are part of Wuensche and Brummer’s daily routines. Both women said that having some consistency in their routines helps them stay focused.
Brummer took over Pepperdine’s Instagram story April 2 to share her “Day in the life: quarantine edition.” The story features her working out, taking notes on lectures and eating lunch.
“If I don’t [have a routine], I can fall into doing nothing easily,” Brummer said. “It’s been good to have a system going for me.”
Wuensche’s routine involves doing her hair and makeup every morning before class.
“I try not to wear shorts and a T-shirt every day because that puts me in a mood that isn’t most study-effective,” Wuensche said. “If I’m dressed more casually, then my mind is more relaxed. I can’t focus as well.”
Both of the freshmen’s routines involved doing non-academic activities to help them pass time while in quarantine. Wuensche rides her longboard or roller skates, plays with her family’s seven dogs, practices her guitar and reads the Bible. Brummer focuses on outdoor activities, like running or walking with her family.
Follow Kyle McCabe on Twitter @kyledotmccabe or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org