Kent State students adjust to college from home

Kiley James, a junior integrated health studies major at Kent State. Courtesy of Kiley James.

Morgan McGrathReporter

Kiley James, a junior integrated health studies major, sits at home in her bedroom in Westerville, Ohio. She lives with her mother and brother, and for the rest of the fall 2020 semester, she’ll be completing her courses from home.

“I knew there weren’t enough people following the rules and regulations (on campus),” James said. “And the numbers (of COVID cases) keep skyrocketing, so I feel like it’d be better for me to be home, be in a safer environment and be able to have a place to quarantine if something were to happen, versus not a great place,” referring to campus dorms. 

James, like many Kent State students, was planning to come home after Thanksgiving from the start of the semester. She explained that the ongoing COVID pandemic was one of the main reasons for this decision, as well as the shift to fully remote learning. 

On June 1, Kent State sent out an email explaining that classes would shift to fully remote learning after Thanksgiving break. This gave students the option to leave campus anytime before Nov. 21, but they were also able to stay if they so preferred. 

Kent also offered a housing refund for students who left campus before Thanksgiving break with plans to return at the start of the spring semester. 

“I always planned to come home during Thanksgiving,” James said. “When you’re in a dorm, you’re not only susceptible to your roommate’s germs, but also the people you share the floor with…even though it’s a space that gets cleaned a lot, I’m not comfortable with that.” 

Jay Hess, a freshman digital media productions major, made the similar choice to go home to Maryland for the rest of the semester. 

“There wouldn’t have been much point in me staying on campus at that point (after Thanksgiving) anyways,” Hess said. “Because so much was closed, everybody was going home already, so it wouldn’t have been fun for me if I had stayed.” 

On Oct. 29, Kent State’s Office of the Provost sent an email to students titled “What to Expect After Thanksgiving.” In this email, the university laid out their detailed plan for classes to shift to fully remote learning beginning Nov. 30. 

The email also stated that all dining halls on campus would be closed except for Eastway and that the library would have shortened, adjusted hours. 

Upon going home on Nov. 21, James and Hess had different responses to online learning. 

Where Hess misses her life in Kent, James doesn’t mind working on finals from the comfort of her home. 

Hess said it has been difficult for her to stay motivated with online education.

In her dorm room in Olson Hall, she had a desk where she could sit and do homework. At home, however, this isn’t the case. 

“In my room (at home),” Hess said, “I don’t have any desks, so it’s just more of a mindset thing.”

In general, Hess doesn’t mind online classes, but she certainly yearns for a college experience typical of students her age. 

“For the most part, I wish that classes were in-person, because then I would know more people and be able to meet more people,” Hess said. 

James, on the other hand, feels less stressed this semester than she did in the spring, when COVID changes were more abrupt and unexpected. 

“Personally, I struggled more when we went home last year because it was kind of a shock,” she said. “Coming home this semester, I feel like I have a better understanding of it because I have more spaces to go to versus just my dorm room at school where there were limited spaces people could go to.”

Academically, James has been successfully able to adjust to the remote learning environment. 

“I feel like overall, this semester’s been easier for me because teachers have learned how to actually work the formatting, as well as I got experience from it at the end of last semester.” 

Similar to Hess, James said she misses her normal college life. 

“I do feel I missed out a little bit…There were no movies to go to, there were no events to go to,” she said. ““You couldn’t even just go to some of the walks that were around Kent because places were closed down, so it was definitely a different experience than I’ve been used to for college.”

On Thursday, Dec. 3, Portage County was raised to a Level 4 COVID risk area. Upon hearing this news, James had added reassurance that she made the right decision for the semester’s end.

“I’m definitely glad I’m not on campus,” James said. “I’m home, so I don’t have to deal with that extra stress of everything going on.”

In fact, James recently decided to stay home for the spring semester, as well. On Friday, Dec. 4, she made the two and a half hour drive back to Kent to officially move out of her dorm room.

“I’m just going to stay home because all my classes are online or remote, so it doesn’t make sense to be spending the money as well as putting myself at risk,” she said. 

Hess, on the other hand, can’t wait to return to Kent. 

“I don’t think I have any in-person classes next semester and I am 100% going back,” she said.

Jokingly, Hess said her parents would have to lock her in her bedroom to keep her from coming back to campus. She misses the campus as well as the social aspect that the university provides. 

“I wanna go back, I really do,” Hess added. “I love the area. I love the Kent area.”

Contact Morgan McGrath at [email protected]

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Hi, I’m Lauren Sasala, a senior journalism student from Toledo. I’m also the editor in chief of The Kent Stater and KentWired this semester. My staff and I are committed to bringing you the most important news about Kent State and the Kent community. We are full-time students and hard-working journalists. While we get support from the student media fee and earned revenue such as advertising, both of those continue to decline. Your generous gift of any amount will help enhance our student experience as we grow into working professionals. Please go here to donate.