all 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.

Jenna Camacho

A senior music education major, Camacho had to constantly change her expectations for how the Fall 2020 semester would go. Read about her semester.

Joshua Chun

A junior history and political science major, Chun figured out how thrive while living at home and being busy-as-ever. Read about his semester.

“I’ve had to adapt this semester, in terms
of my life as a student to, you know, stay
successful in class and also to, you know,
maintain good mental health outside of
class. So taking walks, I have a bubble of
friends that I spend time with, you know,
just kind of feeding off of one another’s
energies, I guess, has contributed to my
life as a student now in ways that I
guess I was a little different a
year ago.”

Evan Murphy, senior marketing major
Reflections →

Jonathan Atiencia

A sophomore communication and social influence major, Atiencia saw his work in student government and his friendships become more limited. Read about his semester.

Tori Ruth

A sophomore psychology and classics major, Ruth learned to support their friends and family during the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. Read about their semester.

“Just not having the ability to come to
campus and really like, go throughout
the day of like, moving from class to
class and just kind of staying in the room
or like in the house is just kind of hard to
deal with. Especially academically, just
because it’d be from Zoom meeting to
Zoom meeting and hours would pass,
and then it would just be like, still in
the same spot, still very stagnant.
We’re done with it.”

Rachel Tuli-Babunga,
senior construction engineering
technology major
Reflections →

Jenna Camacho pushed back her expected graduation date.
Joshua Chun adapted to new environments as a transfer student.
Jonathan Atiencia prioritized safety through a limited routine.
Tori Ruth supported their friends and family during hardship.
Nastaja Radovic became more in touch with herself.
Joseph Callahan made more music while staying at home.
Candace Gallardo navigated changing living situations.
Lindsay Messina coped with feeling isolated their senior year.

Nastaja Radovic

A sophomore media studies and production major, Radovic focused on improving herself by prioritizing self-care and landing a new job. Read about her semester.

Joseph Callahan

Callahan, a senior music education major, stayed at home, taught students and wrote music after his classes moved online. Read about his semester.

“ I definitely learned how to handle
my mental health better because added
stressors with the election, the pandemic,
working, online school, it was a lot just at once.
And I think that going to therapy and taking time
and learning how to like, handle everything at once
was a lesson for me during this time.”

Jordan McCarley, junior psychology major
Reflections →

Candace Gallardo

A freshman communication and social influence major, Gallardo found herself moving multiple times during her first semester of college. Read about her semester.

Lindsay Messina

A senior public relations major, Messina balanced COVID-19 fears, internship searches and a changing social life while living at home. Read about her semester.

“I think [Spring 2021] will be more or less
like the fall semester. I try to go to campus
as often as I can, just to sit outside and try
to do work. Basically, I try to do the functions
that are similar to what I did in previous
semesters, like studying on campus, grabbing
food when I can, supporting local businesses.
So I’ll try to return to normalcy, but
obviously, that’s not possible.”

David Shin, senior management information
systems and accounting major
Reflections →

Summary of Reporting

“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. 

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© 2020 The Temple News

First published on Dec. 18, 2020

Words By
Colin Evans, Natalie Kerr, Tyler Perez, Amelia Winger, Emma Padner, Valerie Dowret and Madison Karas

Photos By
Colleen Claggett, Madison Karas and Colin Evans

Courtesy Photos From
Candace Gallardo, Lindsay Messina, Joseph Callahan, Chloe Getz, Norah Sheehan, Abby Errico, Nicole Dietzen

Design By
Ingrid Slater and Hanna Lipski

Website Built By
Madison Karas and Colin Evans

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