A group of first-year students at Oregon State University-Cascades practiced all three during the fall term of 2020.
Former writing instructor Jenna Goldsmith was teaching a class for incoming students hoping to assimilate into college life, but the pandemic and distance learning meant “college life” was turned upside down.
“They probably weren’t in that moment thinking ‘I should be journaling about this so I can read about it from my point of view down the road’, so I thought, let me assign something,” Goldsmith said.
She assigned a series of journal entries for her 28 students to reflect on the strange new pandemic world.
“I think looking back and reading through my journal, probably feeling a little lost during my first term at college, not being able to do some of the exciting and fun things that a lot of freshmen got to do in previous years,” OSU-Cascades student Anya Rozek said.
“I would say that the biggest thing about COVID that made it really difficult to be a first-year is that if you were an introvert and had a hard time connecting with others, maybe the only way you could really find people to connect with in areas of your interest was with the very brief opportunities you would have,” OSU Cascades student Wyatt Didway said.
After receiving a grant from Women’s Giving Circle at OSU, Goldsmith was able to compile more than 80 student entries for publication in a book called “There is No College in COVID.”
A year after the assignment, it’s been published through Belt Publishing and is available for sale, with proceeds going towards scholarships at the university.
“I think they understand that what they went through was unique and an experience that not many people can say that they’ve gone through,” Goldsmith said. “I think it provides a really nice window into the world of what those students were going through.”
“My hope is that…people take away that yes, we are young adults, and yes, we’re at college, but it’s still a challenge, and we went through a global pandemic,” Rozek said. “And that mental health needs to be more of a priority in the education field.”
“I feel like I learned a lot about what it means to really cherish the few connections that you have and the few similarities you have with people,” Didway said.
“I think there’s a lot to be learned from a lot of the students that were there during the fall term of 2020 and really all around the world with all the things that happened, we have a lot of reflecting to do.”
Goldsmith and her students will meet in February on campus for a public reading of the journal entries and a face-to-face meeting for the first time.
“It’s one thing for me to be able to talk about the book, but it’s another thing entirely to imagine students being able to read those entries and talk about how their lives have changed since writing,” Goldsmith said.
You can purchase “There is No College in COVID” through the Belt Publishing website here or by ordering through your local bookstore.