Joshua Chun, a junior history and political science major, stands outside of his house on Stirling Street near Castor Avenue on Oct 13. | COLLEEN CLAGGETT / THE TEMPLE NEWS


Joshua Chun, a junior history and political science major, found ways to refocus and thrive in a semester as busy as ever.

oshua Chun didn’t get out much this summer. 

Living with two parents, three siblings and two grandparents, Chun worried about catching and potentially transmitting COVID-19 to his family members and chose to stay indoors, continuing to see friends virtually.

Registered for some in-person classes at Temple University at the beginning of Fall 2020, Chun, a junior history and political science major, worried how commuting from his Oxford Circle home and being on Main Campus for his classes would affect this risk.

“For people living with their family, they’re just scared about what they might bring home,” Chun said on Aug. 23. “Even when I’m going out now, I’m terrified of that.”

The COVID-19 pandemic shrunk Chun’s world to the confines of his bedroom in a cramped Northeast Philadelphia household. Throughout the semester, he wrestled with loneliness and difficulty focusing on his schoolwork while living with his extended family at home. At first, avoiding seeing anyone outside of his house, Chun slowly branched out and adapted to new ways to be social and explore interests in safe in-person settings.

Chun describes himself as an outgoing busybody, filling his schedule with social time with friends and a variety of extracurriculars on top of a large course load. A transfer student from Penn State Abington, Chun had always wanted to attend Temple, where both his parents went to school because he loves the city of Philadelphia.

He began the semester with four of his six classes in person, the most in-person classes among his friends. Chun planned his class schedule based on degree requirements and their professors before he knew if the courses would meet virtually or not.

Chun felt bittersweet, yet grateful about Temple’s Sept. 3 announcement that all nonessential classes would move online due to rising COVID-19 cases among students. On the one hand, he enjoyed seeing and connecting with his friends and coworkers in person on Main Campus. But when classes were face-to-face, Chun worried about bringing the virus back home, regularly showering after his daily commute on public transportation.

“I thought like, ‘Oh yeah this is nice’, but at the same time, I’m risking my family’s life, I’m risking my own personal health,” Chun said on Sept. 3. “It just felt like a constant worry in the back of my mind.”

After classes moved online, learning from home presented its own issues for Chun, especially in a cramped household with seven family members. Although his parents were understanding and did their best to make sure Chun had his own space, finding privacy to attend Zoom classes or get homework done was a challenge, with two of his siblings also attending college classes and his parents and another sibling working from home.

“It’s just kind of hectic considering everybody needs a computer and everyone needs a space, and I’m kind of just left, like, leaning over my laptop on my bed,” Chun said on Sept. 13.

Chun found it difficult to stay focused as the semester neared closer to midterms. For him, the prospect of spring semester classes being in person was what kept him motivated in his 18 credits of fall coursework. But as the COVID-19 pandemic showed no signs of slowing down with cases climbing in late September, and the possibility of Temple having another semester online felt likely, Chun struggled with confronting the reality of a mostly-virtual junior year.

“It’s been really weird,” Chun said on Sept. 30. “I don’t think anything right now is, like, really stable.” 

Then, for the first time since March, Chun began seeing a small group of friends in Northeast Philadelphia and Center City in October. Although Chun limited his interactions to small hangouts and walks outside, and he accepted the fact that he would likely have to stop seeing people as the weather grew colder, he still appreciated the chance to connect with others in person, especially on his 21st birthday on Oct. 18. 

“We watched a couple NFL games on, and that was pretty much it,” Chun said. “But it was a nice birthday, I have nothing to complain about.”

He got another opportunity to branch out of his household when he joined President-Elect Joe Biden’s campaign as an intern in late October, where he began encouraging college students to vote. Although his interests lie more in local campaigning, Chun was excited about the prospect of helping remove President Donald Trump from office in November. 

Joshua Chun, a junior history and political science major, sits on the stoop outside of his house on Stirling Street near Castor Avenue on Oct 13. | COLLEEN CLAGGETT / THE TEMPLE NEWS

But Chun felt anxious and pessimistic leading up to Election Day, feeling that even if Biden won, people would disengage from being politically active and not press him on progressive issues.

“I’m really hoping people understand like, even if Biden wins, like there’s so much left to do,” Chun said on Nov. 2.

When major news outlets announced Biden secured the presidency on Nov. 7, Chun was relieved, but felt disappointed that Biden’s margin of victory was “weak.”

“At least we have a decent president,” Chun said on Nov. 7.

Into November, Chun continued to see friends in Northeast Philadelphia, hanging out masked-up in his front yard or at parks near his house. But with Philadelphia issuing a wave of new COVID-19 restrictions beginning Nov. 20 and finals season around the corner, Chun decided to stop seeing people outside of his household later that month.

As of early December, Chun wasn’t sure when he would start seeing people again, but said he wanted to see COVID-19 cases decrease and people he knew start receiving the vaccine before he became comfortable with it.

“I just want to be as safe with this as possible,” he said on Dec 14. “I’m not trying to be that person to kind of, like, endanger myself or people around me.”

As his finals wrapped up, Chun felt “okay” about his academic performance for the semester, especially considering the amount of extracurricular work — his internship and the mentorship program he works in — he took on. He felt “barely prepared” for some of his finals and found himself especially busy trying to close out the semester.

But Chun didn’t cut himself short. To have completed all of his assignments and survived a semester as tumultuous as Fall 2020 is “A+ work” in his view, and he’s proud of where he is today.

“This is probably, like, one of the hardest semesters to go through school work for,” Chun said on Dec. 14. “It definitely shows growth and it definitely shows the ability to, kind of, adapt to the environment.”

At the same time, he resents having had nearly a full academic year virtual after transferring to Temple a year and a half ago. With none of his classes scheduled to meet in person in the spring, Chun might not have a full academic year in person until his senior year. Naturally, a part of him wishes the pandemic would’ve eased this fall so he could’ve been on campus, spending time with his friends.

“But I’m glad I went through this process and just dealt with it the way I did,” he said on Dec. 14.


Jenna Camacho, a senior music education major, stands outside of the Kardon/Atlantic Terminal Building on 10th Street near Montgomery Avenue on Oct. 22. | COLLEEN CLAGGETT / THE TEMPLE NEWS


Jenna Camacho, a senior music education major, trudged through a semester beset by unmotivating course work and COVID-19 concerns as she reconsidered her academic future.

For the first time in her life, Jenna Camacho thought she might not be able to celebrate Rosh Hashanah with her family this year.

Commemorating the Jewish New Year in the Camacho family usually involves a large dinner and attending a three-hour service at their local synagogue near Cherry Hill, New Jersey. But Camacho, who had been living in Kardon/Atlantic Terminal Building, an apartment complex on 10th Street near Montgomery Avenue, apart from her family amid the COVID-19 pandemic, worried she couldn’t find a place in Philadelphia to get tested for the virus quickly enough before the holiday began on Sept. 18.

“That’s a huge thing in the Jewish religion, to be with your family for the holidays,” Camacho said on Sept. 15. “I really don’t want to be trapped in my apartment in Philly because I don’t have a lot of Jewish friends here.”

Finally, after hours spent scouring the internet and calling testing centers, Camacho was able to get a test in Fishtown days before the holiday weekend and saw her family. They celebrated with a dinner at home and invited their extended family to join them via Zoom.

“We make it work,” she said on Sept. 30. 

In what was meant to be the start of her final year at Temple University, the Fall 2020 semester marked a period of uncertainty and limbo for Camacho, a senior music education major. Between school, her frontline job and her social life — limited to a “bubble” of her closest friends — she wrestled with the unstable routine of being a student amid the pandemic while charting out her future in a world of constantly shifting expectations.

Camacho is outgoing and has a warm sense of humor and a passion for music. Living with one roommate, she spends her free time hanging out with friends, exercising and singing a capella.

With a vocal concentration, Camacho began the semester as a full-time student, set to take a class in how to teach choral music, a choir ensemble course and four gen-ed and honors classes. But after Temple moved all nonessential courses online due to rising COVID-19 cases among students on Sept. 3, Camacho decided it wouldn’t be worth it to take her singing classes online and went part-time while starting a job as a receptionist at a salon in Rittenhouse Square to help pay her rent.

Before this semester, Camacho had planned to graduate in Spring 2021. But Camacho decided to push her graduation date back a year because she is required to student-teach during her final semester at Temple and does not want to do so virtually. 

At the end of September, she was undecided as to whether she would take a full course load in the spring semester if classes were fully virtual again, given how much she disliked online classes. 

But, “I need to graduate at some point,” Camacho said on Sept. 30, chuckling.

Singing has earned a dangerous reputation amid COVID-19, because it can easily spread the virus from person to person through air droplets, forcing churches and performance venues to limit or eliminate singing altogether. Not being able to sing in person in classes this year was “devastating” for Camacho, as she valued the community she’s formed with her peers at Temple.

“In a normal semester, we spend a lot of time together going on trips and at concerts,” Camacho said. “So it’s felt like something’s been missing this entire semester.”

Camacho tried to fill the void by singing in a local church choir, spaced 10 feet apart from other singers, beginning in October. She sang at Sunday services starting once a week in an octet and later once every two weeks in a quartet. 

She hoped her vocal classes would meet in person in the spring. Singing on mute via Zoom during class time just wasn’t the same to Camacho.

“[It’s] tough for me because I feel like I’m losing out on like, my choir experience,” Camacho said. 

Jenna Camacho, a senior music education major, attends her American Sign Language III course via Zoom from her bedroom in the Kardon/Atlantic Terminal Building on Oct. 22. | COLLEEN CLAGGETT / THE TEMPLE NEWS

By mid-October, Camacho grew tired of online classes, resenting how impersonal they felt and missing the community aspect of in-person learning.

“The longer I take online classes, the more I don’t enjoy them,” she said on Oct. 14. “But, you know, I feel like that’s normal.” 

With little opportunity for connecting with other students during class time, and Camacho’s in person social interactions limited to her roommate and a few other students, by mid-semester, Camacho hadn’t made any new friends. 

“The only opportunity you really have to talk to someone one-on-one is in a breakout room for 10 minutes,” Camacho said on Oct. 14. “So definitely harder through online classes.”

In late October, Camacho felt discouraged by Temple’s announcement that it would be taking away spring break in the Spring 2021 semester to reduce the likelihood of students traveling and spreading COVID-19.

Spring break is normally the “saving grace” for Camacho when she’s feeling burnout. While she understood the need to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in the future, in the middle of a mentally taxing fall semester, the decision didn’t sit well with her.

“I just feel like I always need a mental health break, and now that’s just being taken away,” she said on Nov. 2. “That’s really scary to think about.”

Around the same time, Camacho’s world was thrown into disarray when a close friend of hers whom she had contact with tested positive for COVID-19 in late October. Camacho was frustrated because she had told her friend she was not comfortable with them hanging out with people outside of their small group, she said. 

Camacho immediately got tested for COVID-19 and received a negative result. She went to stay with her parents in New Jersey until her friend cleared the isolation period, meaning Camacho had to commute an hour to work every day.

“If one person gets sick, it affects everyone in their circle, and then everyone in the circle’s families,” Camacho said on Nov. 2.

Camacho’s feelings were split between anger at the friend for being reckless and sympathy for them as they battled COVID-19. 

“It’s really messy,” Camacho said.

Adding to Camacho’s anxiety at the time was the presidential election. 

She’d switched her registration from New Jersey to Pennsylvania in an effort to make sure her vote had more impact this election and waited four hours in line to drop off her mail-in ballot at Temple’s Liacouras Center weeks before Election Day. 

Wanting to further “contribute something” to the election of President-Elect Joe Biden, Camacho phone-banked with Back to Blue PA, a local Democratic organizing group, alongside her mother in the week leading up to Election Day.

Her top issues included protecting women’s rights and addressing the COVID-19 pandemic, and Camacho felt nervous about the election results the night before.

“It’s kind of like a ticking time bomb,” Camacho said on Nov. 2. “If [President Donald] Trump is reelected tomorrow night, I’m just not sure, I just feel like I’m going to cry.”

Election Day provided little comfort for Camacho and many Americans as many states, including Pennsylvania, remained uncalled as thousands of mail-in ballots had yet to be counted. But in the days following, vote tallies in decisive swing states began to shift toward Biden, and Pennsylvania’s projection to go blue put the former Vice President above the required 270 electoral votes needed to win on Nov. 7.

When major news outlets called the race in favor of Biden that day, Camacho was jubilant. After seeing the announcement on social media, Camacho asked her boss if she could clock out of work early. She ran to City Hall with a group of friends to celebrate with thousands of other Philadelphians and Temple students in the streets. 

Her immediate reaction was one of “excitement, joy and then relief.”

“I can finally breathe now,” Camacho said on Nov. 7. “We can finally relax and feel like the world is going in a better direction towards change.”

Seeing Sen. Kamala Harris become the first woman vice president of the United States also inspired Camacho.

“Our time has come for a female to be in power,” Camacho said on Nov. 7. “It’s been a little bit too long, but I’m happy we finally have an opportunity to lead and make decisions.”

Resolved to stay on track to graduate in Spring 2022, Camacho registered for a full course load of classes in the spring, including one in person and one virtual singing class. Since most of her courses will be taught asynchronously, she’s confident she won’t need to change her current schedule much.

When she looks back at the Fall 2020 semester, academically, it felt like a “waste,” Camacho said on Dec. 15. She didn’t get the fulfillment she needed from music, the most important part of her life, and felt unmotivated in her course work.

But Camacho also sees growth in how she became more independent and is secure in knowing that by being a part-time student, she did not have to take a traditional path toward graduation.

“I feel like the way I handled things this semester, obviously my story is probably not the typical route, like the typical way others have done it,” Camacho said on Dec. 15. “As unique as it is, I know I did what was best for myself and what would motivate me the most.”

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