Fall 2020 would be a semester like no other. The one prior, a global pandemic began halfway through, forcing students to leave campus and move their course load online as storefronts and businesses closed and thousands of Americans contracted COVID-19. Students spent the summer with their collegiate careers in uncertainty, navigating rearranged living circumstances, jobs and internships while watching a nationwide racial reckoning unfold. They wondered if, when and how much they could or should return to the classroom for the fall semester, as COVID-19 case numbers fluctuated in the months leading up to it.
Once the semester started, they would begin facing the daily realities of learning remotely from a socially distant residence hall, their cramped off-campus apartment or at home with siblings. As classes continued, city and state restrictions would relax and tighten in flux with rising and falling rates of COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations and deaths in the autumn months. These numbers would reshape students’ communities and cultures as they connected with peers through their laptop screens, enforced precautions with their roommates and avoided gatherings to protect their families.
Just as the new campus felt like it was beginning to take shape, the election of their lifetimes would be around the corner, a momentous determinant of how the country would look in the semesters before and after they graduate. Following would be the colder season, bringing about discussions around whether the year could be safely capped with reassuring holiday family dinner conversations, right as students would be completing their final exams.
How would Temple University students make it work?
This semester brought challenges of all shapes to students’ lives, making them decide not just if they would sign up for virtual or in-person classes, but how they would carry on with their college experience in an evolving world and keep themselves safe while doing so. One way or another, they had to make it work. And they did, even when their first and second plans didn’t work out.
One student considered a leave of absence at the beginning, but stuck with their classes and found themselves having their best semester so far. One moved into a residence hall, only to move home two weeks later, then later out of state and finally finish their last assignments from a hospital bed. Another isolated themselves at the start while living with seven family members before feeling comfortable enough to see friends after midterms. Another overcame their disappointment by finding a job and making small changes to their routine, learning it was “really about perspective.”
However they made it through, this is how Temple University students made it work, as told to The Temple News throughout the Fall 2020 semester.
“Making it Work” is five months of reporting from The Temple News following Temple University students through their lives during the Fall 2020 semester. The project began with 16 students featured, half of which could be finished. The eight student profiles are summaries of experiences students shared with reporters on the days events happened or in the weeks after them. Reflections are quotes students shared with reporters at the end of semester. Links to previous published articles and sources are included when referenced. All words and images are the work of The Temple News, unless otherwise noted.