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.


Candace Gallardo, a freshman communication and social influence major, stands outside of her house in Oley, Pennsylvania on Dec. 16. | CANDACE GALLARDO / COURTESY


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

andace Gallardo started her freshman year at Temple University as close to normal as it could be during a pandemic. She moved into 1940 Residence Hall and deemed Philadelphia her new city to explore and call home.

Little did she know that less than three weeks later, she’d be calling her parents to bring her back home to Oley, Pennsylvania.

Gallardo’s first semester of college was filled with relocation, a cycle of packing and moving to new destinations as the semester unfolded. Learning how to adjust to new environments dominated her first experience with college, but she was still able to find what most freshmen seek out: independence. 

Moving to Philadelphia, Gallardo looked forward to being able to learn in person and experience living at Temple University. A freshman communication and social influence major, Gallardo was excited to be taking all six of her classes in person and living with three roommates, despite knowing the year would consist of wearing face masks and staying six feet apart on campus. 

“I don’t know any different, I don’t know the norm, so it’s been pretty okay,” she said on Aug. 25. “Just the social distancing and everything is different, but it is for everyone.”

When Gallardo learned all her courses moved to an online format for the remainder of the semester on Sept. 3 due to an outbreak in COVID-19 casess among students, she planned to stay on campus with her roommates. Even though refunds were being offered to students who moved out before Sept. 13, she could stay around and hang onto the social aspects of a mostly-typical freshman year of college.

But a few days later, Gallardo’s roommate was exposed to COVID-19 from their boyfriend, so Gallardo and her roommates began to quarantine in their rooms until they could get tested. 

On Sept. 6, Gallardo’s roommate received a negative COVID-19 test from an off-campus testing center. Even though the roommate was also still waiting on a test from Temple’s Student Health Services, Gallardo stuck with the first test’s negative result and began seeing people on their residence hall floor again.

Two days later, on Sept. 8, Gallardo’s roommate received word from Temple with their worst fear: a positive COVID-19 test. 

“We were all just like, ‘Oh my gosh,’ we were around so many people, like our neighbors and stuff, everyone on our floor,” Gallardo said on Sept. 23. “What do you do?”

Initially, Gallardo wanted to stay on campus, but decided moving home would be worth it for the refund and to be near family instead of alone in quarantine.

“We were just so confused,” Gallardo said on Sept. 23. 

Overwhelmed and nervous, Gallardo called her parents and asked if they could pick her up the same day. She walked to CVS Pharmacy on Cecil B. Moore Avenue near 12th Street to buy trash bags and began throwing all of her belongings into them, packing as fast as possible. 

“I was out within hours finding out, so a lot of people probably like, ‘What even happened to her?’” Gallardo said on Sept. 23. “But, I mean it sucked, it wasn’t really fun. It was sad. I miss it there.”

She and her family drove home wearing masks and Gallardo moved into her bedroom to quarantine for two weeks. She never showed symptoms of COVID-19 and her other roommates tested negative, she said. 

At home, Gallardo woke up each morning in her dark bedroom and struggled as hours blended together during her days of completing Zoom courses and online assignments. 

Every Tuesday and Thursday, Gallardo spent three hours in Zoom classes back to back, followed by three to four hours of classwork. Although she only had one class during the other weekdays, she had difficulty focusing because her brothers were also taking online classes while living at home. 

“It’s definitely, like, louder here,” Gallardo said on Sept. 23. “I get texts, like, ‘Can you walk the dog? Can you empty the dishwasher?’ Just stuff that didn’t happen when I was at school.”

Through September, Gallardo would sit outside doing classwork to get fresh air. She also took walks or rode her bike to stretch her legs after sitting at her desk for most of her day.

Two weeks into September, family friends from Fort Lauderdale, Florida called Gallardo and, knowing she was at home and that she disliked Pennsylvania’s cold winters, asked if she wanted to spend the rest of the semester living with them.

Gallardo packed up and flew to Fort Lauderdale on Oct. 16 to get away from the incoming cold.

“I get a little seasonal depression, so I’m leaving for the winter,” Gallardo said on Oct. 6.

While living there, Gallardo went to brunch with her family friends most weekends and would hang out on weeknights after she completed her schoolwork. She lived about two miles from the beach and enjoyed the 80-degree weather in October, despite it raining for the first four days she arrived, she said. 

“I was like, ‘Oh I left the rain to go to the rain,’ she said on Oct. 27. “But now it’s pretty nice, but it’s like 86.” 

Then, Gallardo wanted to vote for her first time in person, so she needed to find a way to get back to Berks County on Election Day to cast her ballot rather than request a mail-in or absentee ballot. 

“I’m fully capable of going in person, so I figured I’d just do that,” Gallardo said.

With Thanksgiving at the end of the month, Gallardo decided to fly home on Nov. 3 and later stay with her parents for the holiday. She voted at her local township building and waited only a few minutes to cast a ballot. 

“It wasn’t bad,” Gallardo said on Nov. 7. 

Two of her classes were canceled on Election Day, but Gallardo was worried about missing an exam leading up to voting and her flight. Luckily, her professor allowed her to take it later that night.

Gallardo was relieved when her brother announced in the car that former Vice President Joe Biden won the presidency on Nov. 7. Because the race was over, she felt the country could take a deep breath and relax.

As numbers of COVID-19 cases rose to a seven-day average of 5,265 cases a day on Nov. 17, Gallardo was also relieved that her family’s yearly Thanksgiving tradition, a big celebration at her family friend’s house, was canceled. 

“We usually go to like a family friend’s house, but she’s not doing anything,” Gallardo said. “She doesn’t want anyone at her house, so we’ll probably just do, like, something with my close family.”

She had a smaller, more relaxed Thanksgiving dinner, complete with the usual turkey, stuffing and mashed potatoes, with her immediate family and one other family. Gallardo found she enjoyed this more than past traditions because it was smaller and quieter than usual. 

On Dec. 6, just four days before finals, Gallardo was rushed to the emergency room for swelling in her lymph nodes and neck, something she has struggled with for years, but has yet to be diagnosed.

She spent hours alone in the hallway waiting for treatment because there wasn’t a room open for her in the emergency room, she said.

“It’s a different scene with [COVID-19] and everything,” Gallardo said on Dec. 10. “I’ve been in there a few times, but never like that.”

She was given a bed in the hospital later that night and had to stay for four days. Because final exams began on Dec. 10, Gallardo had to study and complete final projects while she was there. 

Gallardo came home feeling better on Dec. 10, ready to sit down and prepare for her last two exams on Dec. 15. She felt confident as she prepared for her exams and looked forward to completing her first semester.

Gallardo plans to stay home to take courses online for the spring semester because the classes she was interested in were offered online. After leaving campus so quickly this semester and watching COVID-19 cases continue rise across the nation, moving back to Main Campus doesn’t feel worth it to her. 

Looking back, Gallardo couldn’t have imagined moving out of 1940 two weeks after she moved in in August or taking her classes from Florida, but she was glad to be almost done with her freshman fall semester.

“Definitely not how I imagined my first semester of college, but I feel like I’ve gotten better with coping and just going with the flow,” she said on Dec. 10. “It’s not like things can change, it is what it is.”


Tori Ruth, a sophomore psychology and classics major, sits on the stoop outside of their house on Bouvier Street near Berks on Oct 14. | COLLEEN CLAGGETT / THE TEMPLE NEWS


Tori Ruth, a sophomore psychology and classics major, learned to support friends and family during the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.

hen Philadelphia recorded its first case of COVID-19 in March and universities across the city closed their campuses, Tori Ruth was suddenly alone.

Ruth’s boyfriend and their roommate headed home to be with family, but a food service job in Center City kept them in their apartment on Montgomery Avenue near Bouvier Street where for months, Ruth “wouldn’t spend time with anyone,” they said. 

That continued into the start of this fall, when the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on their normal campus life created a period of stress and anxiety for Ruth, a sophomore psychology and classics double major. The semester of social distancing made Ruth’s relationships more important for them to maintain and strengthen in the time spent apart from family and friends.

Ruth, a 20-year-old LGBTQ community member from Cherry Hill, New Jersey, has only had one “normal” semester in college so far. In the spring of their freshman year, Temple University closed its campus in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic and Ruth had to quickly move out of 1940 Residence Hall and find an apartment off campus. 

In Ruth’s time living alone during the summer, the anxiety they always struggled with worsened and they often felt isolated, wishing for someone nearby to talk to. It was a relief when their roommate returned to Philadelphia in August for the fall semester, especially because Ruth wouldn’t be attending classes in person.

“This pandemic made me figure out that I don’t like being alone,” Ruth said on Nov. 17. “I was kind of going a little stir-crazy.” 

In late July, as the fall semester approached, Ruth initially felt disappointed they would not reunite with their peers in the classroom, but Temple’s decision to hold most classes online made them feel safer as COVID-19 cases continued to rise across the nation, Ruth said on Aug. 24, the day classes began and the United States had counted 5.7 million COVID-19 cases.

Ruth originally had a Greek language class scheduled to be held in person, but it was switched online shortly before the fall semester started. Ruth had signed up for the rest of their classes to be online and didn’t plan to go to Main Campus unless needed.

Having their roommate around, who is a sophomore biology major, helped them feel less stressed about the changes to campus life because Ruth can talk to them without finding time for a phone call, something they had to arrange with their boyfriend and family members while living alone. 

“Even now, sometimes we don’t even have to really talk to each other to understand what the other person’s trying to get at or what they need or something,” Ruth said on Nov. 17. “I feel like she’s a shoulder I can lean on if I need it, and vice versa.”

As September approached, Ruth was overwhelmed, struggling to focus during their Zoom classes and keep track of work for their asynchronous online classes. They tried to get organized and implement effective study habits before their workload picked up.

Much needed good news came in late September when Ruth’s boyfriend, who attends Drexel University, told them he would be returning to Philadelphia, after living away and not seeing Ruth for more than six months. 

Previously, he and Ruth had struggled with communication while living apart during the pandemic. If the two fought, one could easily turn off their phone and ignore the other. When Ruth was at work, their boyfriend was in class. But with time, they connected by playing video games together and texting throughout the day. 

Now living together, the two worried about COVID-19 safety. For example, Ruth’s boyfriend wouldn’t talk to them when they come home from work until after they showered and changed clothes. But being able to communicate face-to-face about their needs helped their relationship immensely.

“We had to figure out how to do it without being able to sit each other down and talk,” Ruth said on Oct. 6. “That stayed, even when he came back.”

The two began visiting each other’s apartments frequently and talking to their boyfriend helped ease Ruth’s anxiety.

“Having him here kind of gives me some kind of outlet,” Ruth said on Nov. 17. “He doesn’t go to Temple, obviously, but he’s still dealing with how colleges are handling it.”

October brought midterm exams and Ruth lost motivation for online classes, finding them difficult to balance alongside their job, where they worked 25 to 30 hours a week at Shake Shack in Center City.

Every Wednesday, Ruth took classes from 10:30 a.m to 3 p.m., with two 10-minute breaks in between. They often needed to cram classwork into short periods to work as many hours as possible.

“If I miss this shift, that could mean I can’t pay this bill, it’s just stressors like that, that kind of prevented me from being able to fully dive into school sometimes,” Ruth said on Nov. 17.

Tori Ruth, a sophomore psychology and classics major, stands outside of their house on Bouvier Street near Berks on Oct 14. | COLLEEN CLAGGETT / THE TEMPLE NEWS

During October, Ruth also found time to make periodic trips to New Jersey to visit their parents, sometimes buying them lunch. Ruth’s parents have been experiencing homelessness since July after both losing their jobs in March amid layoffs due to the COVID-19 pandemic. They lost their home in Cherry Hill as they couldn’t renew their lease because of debt, Ruth said. 

“I know they’re trying to make the best of a bad situation, but it stings,” Ruth said on Nov. 17. “I can’t do anything to help, I barely provide for myself sometimes.”  

This situation, while worrisome for Ruth, made them feel closer with their family. Ruth’s older brother, who previously lived with their parents, moved in with Ruth off campus in late October, something Ruth said “is kind of weird, but I don’t mind.”

“My relationship with my parents and my brother has probably strengthened,” Ruth said on Nov. 17. “During quarantine, we kind of had to lean on each other.”

Leading up to the presidential election, Ruth and their boyfriend watched coverage of it “like a hawk,” hoping former Vice President Joe Biden would be elected president.

The COVID-19 pandemic seemed like the peak of four bad years under President Donald Trump for Ruth, they said. With a new president, Ruth hoped the state of the country could start to turn around. 

When Biden was declared the winner of the election on Nov. 7, Ruth’s parents and their boyfriend were the first people they called from work. 

“My boss was like, screaming and jumping around, it was so funny,” Ruth said on Nov. 8. “It kind of felt like a sigh of relief.”

The day after the election, however, Ruth woke up with chest pain and a sore throat. They thought it was allergies, but as they got sicker during the next two days, they made an appointment at Temple University Student Health Services on Nov. 11 to be tested for COVID-19.

“I’m like running through my head because I’ve seen my parents in the last two weeks, I’ve been with my roommate, I’ve been with my boyfriend,” Ruth said on Nov. 13. “I’m thinking, ‘Okay, what’s gonna happen, how many people did I hurt?’”

Ruth tested negative for COVID-19 on Nov. 13, five days after their symptoms started, alleviating their fears they had potentially infected their mother, who has asthma and a chronic cough, and their father, who has diabetes.

A positive test would have also compromised Ruth’s plans to celebrate their birthday with their boyfriend and cook dinner with their family on Thanksgiving, so everyone in Ruth’s life seemed relieved to spend the holiday together. Ruth hosted Thanksgiving at their apartment and their parents and brother came over to make dinner. 

“It almost felt normal, almost like a regular holiday,” Ruth said on Dec. 3. “Knowing that I can at least see my parents get some food for a day, be with them and actually not be alone is great.”

On Dec. 14, Ruth woke up feeling a little nervous, as they would be saying goodbye to their boyfriend who was returning to his New Jersey home for the holidays. 

Last time Ruth said goodbye to him, three weeks away ended up becoming six months apart. But, this time, the two knew they could call each other and play video games together to feel connected while he was gone.

Ruth had four exams and a final portfolio due at the end of the semester. Though they weren’t thrilled that they may end up with a B+ in one or two classes as result of their time working and difficulty learning in Zoom classes, they didn’t stress about final exams. 

Ruth will still take all online courses in the spring but has scheduled them so they have no classes on either Tuesday or Thursday so they can take breaks from constantly balancing classwork and their job.

Still, Ruth was more focused on getting this semester over with so they can fully prioritize work during winter break.

“It hasn’t been a bad one, it’s just been an interesting one, I wouldn’t call it good either,” Ruth said on Dec. 14.


Nastasia Radovic, a senior media studies and production major, stands outside of her apartment building on 15th Street near Oxford on Nov. 2. | COLLEEN CLAGGETT / THE TEMPLE NEWS


Nastasja Radovic, a sophomore media studies and production major, focused on improving herself by prioritizing self-care and landing a new job.

offee in hand, Nastasja Radovic’s morning starts on her small apartment terrace, sometimes journaling, sometimes meditating, sometimes just enjoying the autumnal air.

“I’m actually pretty proud of myself for how I’m doing,” said Radovic, a sophomore media studies and production major, about halfway through the semester. “I was super worried I would have really bad anxiety and just not want to get out of bed, but I’ve actually been pretty good.”

Although Radovic initially feared the COVID-19 pandemic would ruin her college experience this fall, she found a silver lining within a semester of turmoil by focusing on improving her relationship with herself and the world around her, especially by prioritizing self-care.

Laidback and optimistic, Radovic transferred to Temple University from the University of South Florida in Tampa, Florida at the start of the Spring 2020 semester, excited to be attending a school in the northeast. A nature lover, she planned to join student organizations like the Temple Outdoors Club and Temple University Snowboarding Club to connect with other students and hoped to explore her other interests, like art and thrift shopping.

Before she could fully settle into her new routine, school and life in March, the COVID-19 pandemic forced Radovic to pack her things and return to her hometown of Jersey City, New Jersey.

Radovic did the only thing she could: roll with it. 

“Packing up to go home wasn’t the worst thing in the world,” she said on Aug. 27. “If it had been spring and beautiful out with a lot of things happening, then I probably would have been more upset.”

Radovic quarantined at home in Jersey City with her mom and brother. As she watched the spring and summer monotonously trudge by, she ran outside and worked on art projects while waiting to return to Philadelphia. 

“You just have such a small space and the same people every day, so it’s just exhausting,” Radovic said on Aug. 27.

And in the dog days of August, Radovic finally drove back to Main Campus just ahead of the fall semester, where she and her roommate moved into an apartment on 15th Street near Oxford and reconnected with the city they hadn’t seen in months. For Radovic, this was a “reset.”

“It’s like a new life almost, everything’s different,” Radovic said.

When the semester officially began on Aug. 24, Radovic was enrolled in two in-person classes, two hybrid instruction classes and one online class. Her in-person classes were held in Charles Library and a television studio in Annenberg Hall. 

“People need in-person classes,” Radovic said on Aug. 27. “It’s a big part of college, especially if they’re not going to reduce tuition.”

Temple’s Board of Trustees approved plans to freeze prices for undergraduate and graduate tuition for the 2020-21 academic year at their meeting in the spring in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Four days into the semester, Radovic felt slightly nervous Temple would fully transition to virtual instruction because the university was reporting 39 COVID-19 cases among students, a number that would only rise for a couple of weeks.

But as she gradually warmed up to her online class during the first two weeks of the semester, her nerves eased. She was also surprised she enjoyed the online portion of her hybrid Embodying Pluralism class, a dance course she thought would be nearly impossible to take virtually, even though it meant dancing with her laptop camera instead of with other people. 

“I’m seeing that I don’t really mind doing a little bit of online,” Radovic said on Sept. 3. 

Even though she liked her online course more than she anticipated, Radovic was not prepared for Temple to pivot just a few hours later. The university temporarily paused, before later fully suspending, all non-essential in-person instruction on Sept. 3 after reporting 212 COVID-19 cases among students. For Radovic, this meant she was facing another fully virtual semester, whether she liked it or not. 

The nerves set back in.

“When I saw the first announcement, I was just really, really shocked and disappointed because, within one second, it totally shifted my idea of how the semester was going to go,” she said that day, an hour after finding out. 

Radovic feared a fully virtual academic schedule would give her few reasons to leave her apartment — her new classroom — because she’d no longer have to do things like walk to campus, which could take a major toll on her mental health by making her feel trapped indoors.

“The body and the mind are not made to be in a box, staying home all the time,” Radovic said. “We’re humans, we’re not made to live like that.”

Specifically, Radovic feared working from home constantly would destroy her sense of organization and motivation to complete her coursework, especially for her asynchronous online class. 

Over time, the opposite happened.

When her classes first became fully virtual in September, Radovic set aside specific days of the week for completing her coursework.

“I have more freedom to move my schedule around how I want,” Radovic said on Sept. 16. “I’m planning on getting all my work done within one or two days of the week, and then having the rest of the days to do whatever I want.”

She found a rhythm with her schoolwork by the end of the month and used her new schedule’s flexibility to her advantage by taking a job as a waitress at Pinefish, a seafood restaurant on Pine Street near 12th. She loved her coworkers and commuting to Center City helped her explore the entire city, not just Main Campus.  

“On my way to work, I like to pop into a new cafe every day, or get food at a new place,” Radovic said on Sept. 16. “I like how Philly has a bunch of little districts, like a mini New York City.”

After finding a job, next on Radovic’s agenda was joining student organizations, a goal she’d been forced to set aside since she transferred to Temple. And as October ushered in crisp fall weather, Radovic finally had the golden opportunity she’d been waiting for since January: she attended her first Zoom meeting for the Temple Outdoors Club. She also attended a few Zoom meetings and even shopped in person with Thrift and Flop at Temple University, a student organization for those interested in repurposing and thrifting clothing.

Although she liked learning more about the clubs and their members, joining organizations wasn’t as fulfilling as she hoped because she felt like it was difficult to make connections with people virtually.

“The circumstances suck and they tried their best by holding Zoom meetings, but it’s hard to get to know people when only a few sign on for the meeting,” Radovic said on Oct. 14.

Radovic plans to try joining organizations again in the future, especially when in-person operations resume.

However, rather than isolating her from the Temple community like she feared, the lack of in-person activities on campus made Radovic more social by motivating her to talk with new people, not just friends, whenever she gets a chance. 

“I feel like I talk to strangers now with more ease,” Radovic said on Oct. 14. “If I see people on the subway and we smile at each other, I’ll just strike up a conversation. I just take opportunities to meet people without thinking about it.”

As the semester stretched on, Radovic dedicated just as much time to improving herself as she did to connecting with others. 

She started small in September by making little switches every day, like eating more intuitively and drinking more water. As these changes became habits, she began incorporating larger practices like meditation and journaling into her self-care rotation. Midway through October, this evolved into a morning routine full of introspection and self-improvement.

The routine started on her terrace with her cup of coffee. She did her best to stick with it through the end of the semester, despite the December chill. 

“I’ve definitely become more in touch with myself,” Radovic said on Dec. 10. “I learned that we’re spending so much time at home by ourselves that, at some point, you have to look at yourself from the inside and start listening to yourself for guidance.”

As she reflected on the changes she made this semester, the challenges of adjusting to online classes and her growth as an individual, Radovic was most proud of how well she took care of herself this semester, both physically and mentally. 

“It’s really about perspective,” Radovic said that same day. “In the beginning, I was obviously really frustrated with what’s going on, but I’ve learned to be more patient about it and stop trying to resist it.”

More than anything, Radovic hopes she’ll be able to attend in-person classes throughout the entire spring semester so she won’t have to surrender a full year of her college experience to the COVID-19 pandemic, she said. 

“Once the weather gets nice in the spring, we’re all going to want to be outside and living our lives,” Radovic said. “I’m ready to get back to the real world.”


Jonathan Atiencia, a sophomore communication and social influence major, stands in the doorway of his parents’ house in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania on Oct. 12. | COLLEEN CLAGGETT / THE TEMPLE NEWS


Jonathan Atiencia, a sophomore communication and social influence major, saw his work in student government, classes and his friendships become more complicated by limitations of the COVID-19 pandemic.

onathan Atiencia’s morning routine was considerably shorter this semester without his usual hour-long commute to campus: sit up in bed, rub his eyes and open his laptop. 

Last year, he woke up at 6 a.m. each day to commute from Upper Darby, Pennsylvania to Main Campus in time for his 8 a.m. class. Now, he could log on to Zoom from his bed without even changing out of his pajamas. 

The extra sleep was welcomed, but not without feeling disconnected from Temple University and his peers.

For Atiencia, as long as he could stay safe from COVID-19, the Fall 2020 semester was nothing to worry about. After navigating an online class last spring, he felt confident he would do well in the fall and that avoiding getting himself or his family sick was worth missing Main Campus and his friends. 

But that assurance didn’t stop him from wishing he was learning side-by-side with his peers. 

“I do miss being at Temple and walking around campus and being with friends and meeting for in-person discussions,” said Atiencia, a sophomore communication and social influence major on Aug. 24, the first day of fall semester classes. “It’s kinda like, lonely to be at home with your parents, like doing nothing.”

Before Fall 2020, Atiencia, a 19-year-old continuing studies student who has a learning disability, was used to living with his parents, his younger brother, his dog, Cookie, and his cat, Mango, while attending in-person classes at Temple University. A typical semester for him involves taking one class and doing online tutoring twice a week to work on assignments.  

This semester he attended Analytical Reading and Writing online on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and online tutoring sessions on Tuesdays and Thursdays, a big change from spending the majority of his days last year on Main Campus, going to class, participating in Temple Student Government meetings or getting lunch with friends. 

Without many reasons to leave his house, he began feeling isolated within the first few days of the semester. Still, he maintained the priorities he set while planning for the fall: keep his family safe and minimize traveling.

“I’m staying safe for my family, I’m being cautious about being on campus,” Atiencia said on Aug. 24. “I’m pretty worried and scared to go back. I wouldn’t go back to campus until there’s a vaccine from the government.”

He started to figure out his new routine within the first few weeks of classes but felt the workload was higher than in previous semesters when he was taking in-person courses. Atiencia often felt like there wasn’t enough time to complete his homework before more was assigned, and he spent the first few weeks of class figuring out how to be more organized and plan out his workload better than before. 

Jonathan Atiencia, a sophomore communication and social influence major, works on a paper for his English class on his laptop on Oct. 12. | COLLEEN CLAGGETT / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Online tutoring was huge assistance for Atiencia this semester as being able to meet with them kept him on top of his classwork.

“It’s been difficult to handle, I’ve been working separately on doing weekly assignments, then my essay assignments, so I separate it so my tutors help me,” he said. 

Early in the semester, as he followed COVID-19 cases rising on campus, he watched for Temple to cancel in-person classes because he worried about the risk for residents around Main Campus. Then, on Sept. 3, Temple suspended most in-person classes and he felt “relieved.”

Although the university’s decision didn’t affect his day-to-day routine, the COVID-19 case numbers on campus made him worry about how students living on or near Main Campus were affected by the sudden changes. He tries to think about these students and their needs in his work with TSG. 

For the last two years, Atiencia has advocated for the needs of students with disabilities like himself as the Disability Resources and Services representative in TSG’s Parliament.

In this role, Atiencia writes resolutions based on the needs of students with disabilities and works to get them passed through Parliament. He always tells students they can reach out to him through email, social media or in town halls about issues they are struggling with so that he can identify policies and resolutions to help.

But this semester, he had to consider how to get students the help they need at home, whereas in past years he was focused on campus resources and improvements. Atiencia tried to think about how to provide students with the help they are used to getting in the classroom, like assistance with note-taking, which may be harder to access virtually. 

“There’s been so much more to do with student government, we are trying to hear the Temple administration and to hear the students’ voices and let them know the concerns they have during COVID,” Atiencia said on Nov. 21. 

For example, an initiative he hoped to complete this semester was to help ensure campus facilities are compliant with Americans with Disabilities Act requirements. He passed the resolution for it in 2019 to form a task force that would begin verifying buildings on campus met these requirements by Spring 2020. But when Main Campus closed due to the pandemic’s onset in March, the assessment was postponed, he said.

“COVID came and prevented me from making that happen, so we never done actually some of the resolution policies that we want to have on campus,” Atiencia said. 

Without much interaction from student organizations like TSG or campus events, Atiencia began using social media sites like Facebook and Instagram more often in September. He would post about TV shows he’s watching, video games he’s playing and current events he’s interested in an effort to connect with others and combat loneliness.  

“It’s kind of lonely to have to talk to people online, I see other people on their Instagram profile having fun with other people, I don’t want to be by myself all the time,” Atiencia said on Sept. 22. 

But he found that watching comic book TV shows on his laptop, playing Resident Evil 4 with his brother on his Playstation 4 and walking Cookie could bring him joy too. 

Especially as October started to bring colder days, he loved to grab blankets and hot chocolate and watch a movie from the couch.

“That kind of thing makes me really happy, I don’t see that as loneliness, I see that as more constructive activity,” Atiencia said on Oct. 6. 

As October went on, he saw friends posting about the presidential election on social media and would join in and comment his thoughts about the presidential debates, President Donald Trump contracting COVID-19 and voter participation.

He voted by mail in mid-October and, although was disappointed to not get an “I Voted” sticker, he was able to temporarily relax about the election because he had already made as much of a personal impact as possible by voting.

Only two weeks later, though, he was anxiety-ridden. His TV was always set to the local news channel and he was constantly checking social media to see if a winner would be declared, as election results took multiple days to finalize in several states to count mail-in ballots.

“I’ve been watching the news day and night,” Atiencia said on Nov. 7, only hours after former Vice President Joe Biden was declared the winner of the presidential election. “It’s been giving me worries, but I’m feeling excited.”

When he heard about Biden’s victory, he immediately opened his Instagram account to post on his story and celebrate the news with friends.

Atiencia stayed busy in November with school work, filling out internship applications for the summer and preparing for an interview for an internship he hoped to get in Washington, DC with a disability and civil rights organization.

Next semester, Atiencia will continue in his routine: taking one class online from his room in his parents’ house, doing homework, playing video games and working on resolutions for TSG.

He successfully turned in his last two essays assigned for class on Dec. 10 and is patiently waiting on an email to see if he is hired for the internship. He isn’t worried about the spring because this semester went well for him and he feels next semester will be similar. 

“We’re staying positive, everything is going well with my family,” Atiencia said on Dec. 13. “I don’t think I would change anything from this semester.”


Joseph Callahan, a senior music education major, stands near Ridley High School across the street from his home in Ridley, Pennsylvania. on Nov. 20. | JOSEPH CALLAHAN / COURTESY


Joseph Callahan, a senior music education major, found more time to spend teaching and writing music this semester by being at home.

oseph Callahan considered taking a leave of absence this semester.

But with the format of his classes having changed, he remained in classes and ended up having his best semester yet.

The COVID-19 pandemic changed how Callahan’s work, classes and activities operated, requiring him to spend much more time on his computer, but also giving him free time to write and play music. Despite having to record himself singing alone in his home office instead of performing live with others, he felt like the work was rewarding.        

Callahan already faced an eventful year after taking a medical leave in the Spring 2020 semester and then later returning to classes, which had been moved online once the pandemic began. Coming into the Fall 2020 semester, he then worried about becoming stressed completing his course load and the safety of going to Main Campus for class.

“It can be nerve-racking to start a new semester in general,” Callahan said. “But starting one with a pandemic happening is extra scary.”

In past semesters, Callahan would wake up in Ridley, Pennsylvania, head to Morton Station, get on the train and do homework during his 40-to-50-minute ride before reaching Temple University. During the first week of fall classes in August, Callahan commuted to Main Campus for three of those days as five of his eight classes had in-person components. 

Some of his classes were still virtual, though. While Temple had spaces available for students to attend virtual classes like Charles Library, Callahan scrambled to find places where he could sing on camera for his choral ensemble course without disturbing others.  

In early September, as COVID-19 cases among students on campus rose, Callahan considered taking a leave of absence if the in-person classes he had signed up for did not move online.

“I just kind of had to make the decision of, ‘Well, if I do this semester, whether it ends up being in person the whole time or online, then I get a step further to my degree, which is a good thing. If I withdraw from the semester or if I drop the semester, and then things go online, I’m going to feel like an idiot because I just dropped out of college and they ended up going online, which is exactly what I wanted,” Callahan said.

When the university moved 95 percent of its instruction online on Sept. 3, including all of Callahan’s classes, due to an outbreak of COVID-19 among students, he felt “so much better,” as the switch made attending classes easier for him.

“Going back and forth within a day was very difficult for me as a commuter because I didn’t have like a dorm or off-campus housing in walking distance to do my Zoom classes and then go to my in-person classes on campus,” Callahan said on Sept. 3.

Now, he could spend most of his time working out of a small office space at home with his girlfriend, her parents, her grandparents and their three dachshund dogs. Time he normally would have spent sitting on the train to get to class he could now spend writing marching band music, classical and jazz music on his piano. 

In his free time, Callahan instructed a high school marching band and touched up his piano playing in private virtual lessons.

One of Callahan’s eight classes was an externship, and so it required students to teach virtual music lessons to peers in the class for practice and then grade school students in Philadelphia.

Between October and November, Callahan conducted virtual 10-minute lessons teaching students to sing songs like “Hot Cross Buns,” and a song from “Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood” in kindergarten music classrooms. He also taught an after-school choir about melody and rhythm. 

“These students are in the same situation that we are, they’re online and honestly a lot of them don’t have the same resources that college students have when it comes to education online, so it’s really awesome just to interact with them and see the smiles on their faces,” Callahan said.

Working with younger students who didn’t know how to turn their microphones off or on, Callahan became used to loud noises interrupting lessons or silence from lack of participation. 

“The way I kind of think about it, it’s less of the standard classroom, it’s more kind of like Blue’s Clues in a way, where you’re kind of waiting for a response so you say something like, ‘So what do we think, what kind of note was that?’ And you stop for five seconds and you’re like, ‘Good! A quarter note! Exactly,’” Callahan said on Sept. 22.

This format compared to his assignments for his music courses, where instead of performing in person, he was recording performances and turning in files. For a performance in University Singers, a Temple choir Callahan was in, students sent in individual vocal parts and the recordings were edited together and then streamed, he said.

“Virtually, it was a very different experience ’cause you can’t hear the other students so you’re just kind of singing solo the whole time,” Callahan said on Oct. 13.  “It’s no longer like, really communal. It’s more like, you know, just like by yourself.”

As midterms passed and November came, Callahan thought the presidential election was an “elephant in the room” in many of his classes, even though he felt it impacted students’ lives. He felt that who would become the president would determine how much of a chance students had to return to in-person classes.

On Nov. 7, the morning before media outlets reported that former Vice President Joe Biden and was elected next president, Callahan was trying to go about a usual Saturday, except his anxiety about the impending election results stirred in his mind. 

“One side is that you know, I didn’t want like Trump to win, and the other side of it is I didn’t want people who supported Trump to get mad about him not winning,” Callahan said on Nov. 17. “So in that way it was a little scary, I guess.” 

When the election results were announced, he was happy with the outcome and moved on with his completing coursework and teaching. Before Fall Break, he was surprised about how moderate his semester felt after getting through the first few weeks. 

“I wouldn’t say it was easy, but it was nothing that was insane,” Callahan said on Nov. 19. 

Looking ahead, next semester will be his last of completing coursework before part-time student teaching in Fall 2021. So, he felt extra time he spent teaching in his own virtual classroom this semester proved beneficial for him. 

“I’m feeling pretty happy with my progress this semester in terms of both my grades and also just progressing as a teacher and gaining more experience in externships,” Callahan said. “Teaching actual students helped.” 

Overall, feeling proud of his progress grade-wise, teaching-wise and music-wise, Callahan said it just “feels pretty good to be almost done,” whatever the format of his schooling is. 

“I’m kind of one of those people that just wants to get this degree at this point,” Callahan said on Dec. 7, the last day of classes. It’s more of whatever cost it takes, I’m just gonna do it. Whether it’s online or whether it’s in person, I’m just gonna do it.”


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.”


Lindsay Messina, a senior public relations major, stands on the stoop in front of her house on McClellan Street near Sartain on Dec. 17. | LINDSAY MESSINA / COURTESY


Lindsay Messina, a senior public relations major, navigated COVID-19 fears, internship searches and a changing social life while living at home.

hen Lindsay Messina started her senior year at Temple University this semester, her first goal was that nobody in her family, including herself, would contract COVID-19, especially after her 80-year-old grandmother beat it in the summer.

“That’s my goal, that’s my hope, that’s my number one,” Messina, a senior public relations major, said on Aug. 27.

More than two months later on Nov. 8, as reported COVID-19 cases in Pennsylvania rose to more than 4,000 a day, Messina was in contact with someone who tested positive for the virus, spiraling her semester into a race to get tested for it while keeping up with schoolwork.

The direction of Messina’s senior year at Temple was the last thing she could’ve predicted. 

In Fall 2020, Messina rarely stepped on Main Campus because of concerns about COVID-19, as cases on campus peaked at 350 after the first two weeks of the semester. With her classes and sorority events held virtually and her study abroad plans canceled, Messina’s campus was confined to the walls of her bedroom where she spent some of her final months at Temple in front of her computer.

Despite the disruptions, Messina exudes hope at every turn: she began the semester thankful to be a senior because she’d already experienced in-person sorority life and internships. Messina was always an “independent learner” in her classes before the pandemic started in March, so she appreciated the shift to online learning in the Spring 2020 semester. 

Messina had lived at home in South Philadelphia since March when Temple moved classes online for the spring semester and decided to stay there initially for the majority of the fall semester. Messina signed up for all online classes this fall because she didn’t feel comfortable taking in-person classes.

Because she worked at the Main Campus Bookstore, Messina planned to only visit Main Campus for her job. But once Temple suspended in-person classes for two weeks in the second week of the semester due to rising COVID-19 cases, Messina feared for her job security if the bookstore closed and for her health if she came in contact with someone who had COVID-19, making her unsure whether to return to campus for work.

“I feel like I haven’t really had this anxious feeling about getting sick since like all of this started,” Messina said on Aug. 31.

Her manager at the bookstore reassured her she wouldn’t be penalized if she didn’t feel safe coming to campus, she said, so Messina spent the next two weeks away from Philadelphia, moving to her partner’s house in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, where COVID-19 cases were lower in September. At the time, Messina hoped to move back to South Philadelphia and re-evaluate returning to work on campus if cases decreased.

Just days after Messina left the city, Temple canceled most in-person classes for the Fall 2020 semester after reporting 212 cases of COVID-19 among students. Although it didn’t affect Messina’s classes, she stopped working at the bookstore at the end of September.

With her additional time, Messina focused on her classes and finding an internship for the spring, but had difficulty learning and focusing with her whole life now online. Because she “barely left the house” after stopping working, Messina’s days began to “fade together,” and the only way she could keep track of the day of the week was through relying on her planner.

“[Working] was a nice break to get away from the computer because I just felt like I was spending all of my time on my computer and everything was just kind of blurring together,” Messina said. 

Although Messina was living with her family in South Philadelphia, her mother and sister worked during the day, so Messina spent her mornings and afternoons alone with her cat, Batman. But a few nights a week, her family sat down for dinner and talked to each other, helping reduce Messina’s feelings of isolation.

Gradually, Messina also picked up an old hobby — journaling — using it to document her feelings about the pandemic and the presidential election. She got the idea from a friend who started journaling the names of Americans who contracted and died from COVID-19 at the start of the pandemic. Messina journaled once a week during the semester and felt it helped to manage her stress.

Messina was critical of President Donald Trump’s ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic, but what set her “over the edge” was learning that he allegedly downplayed the severity of the pandemic in a phone call with a reporter in February. So when the presidential election came around, Messina was firmly resolved to vote for former Vice President Joe Biden.

Although he wasn’t her preferred candidate — she originally supported Sen. Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primaries — Messina felt Biden would address the issues that were most important to her, like gender equality, reproductive rights, racial equality, climate change and health care. She was already passionate about these issues, having spent her summer attending demonstrations in support of the Black Lives Matter movement and engaging in classroom discussions around them in the fall leading up to the election.

After Biden became the projected winner of the election on Nov. 7, Messina didn’t attend the celebrations in Center City because of fear of contracting COVID-19 and the potential of post-election violence. Instead, she stayed home and celebrated privately.

Messina’s life was then thrown into disarray the next day when she went to brunch with a small group to celebrate her friend’s birthday. After spending the day with them, Messina went back home and got a call from one of her friends: they tested positive for COVID-19. 

Messina got tested for COVID-19 as soon as she could and got a negative result, but she started feeling sick a few days later.

“I feel like I’ve been doing a lot of stuff right, and it’s just dumb because I went out with some people and it wasn’t like I was in a big crowd or anything, but it’s funny because that doesn’t matter anymore,” Messina said on Nov. 17.

In the second week of November, Philadelphia averaged 721 COVID-19 cases a day, its highest weekly average since the pandemic began, leading to new restrictions in the city on indoor dining, indoor gatherings, outdoor gatherings and businesses on Nov. 16. The next day, Pennsylvania tightened restrictions on travel into the state and mandated mask-wearing between people of different households even when social distancing is maintained.

Despite the negative test results, Messina still spent the next two weeks at home. This meant that for the first time in years, Messina would spend Thanksgiving with just her immediate family instead of with her extended family.

At a usual Thanksgiving dinner, Messina’s family gets dressed up and “makes a big deal” about the holiday, but in November they had a “chill Thanksgiving” where they wore pajamas instead.

When it was time to sign up for spring semester courses in the middle of November, Messina planned to take entirely online classes once again. Her main focus was still to find an online internship to graduate in May, but Messina was “trying to keep the faith” about her success after watching her peers find internships during the fall semester.

“We have to make it work at this point,” Messina said on Nov. 17.

Coupled with spring internship worries, Messina was also nervous about finding a job post-graduation in the summer as the national economy recovers. Before then, she was hopeful for the spring semester, wishing to see her friends and extended family more after spending fall away from them. 

But at the end of her semester, Messina tried not to focus on what she’s missing out on, something she did when the pandemic began in March, she said. Instead, she focuses on her life right now, which is “the best situation that it can be.”

“It’s just crazy looking back at where I was last year during New Year’s, I thought my life would be in a completely different place, and I think a lot of people felt the same way, that we would be in houses for all of 2020,” Messina added. “My hope for 2021 is just not to be stuck in my house. I just wanted to spend time with, I don’t know it sounds cheesy but I want to spend time, I want to spend time with the ones that I love, and to graduate.”

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