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Brianne DeLain ’23 shares her experiences starting a college career in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Starting and Ending Your SNC Years During the Pandemic

Brianne DeLain ’23 and Gavin Sorensen ’20 are two of about 1,000 SNC students whose college careers – at the very beginning or the very end – were interrupted by the coronavirus pandemic. Here, the two reflect on their experiences, which made them appreciate St. Norbert all the more.

Brianne DeLain ’23
Coming into my freshman year at St. Norbert College, I couldn’t have been happier with the school I had chosen. Adapting to the culture of college can be very different than what a high school student is used to, but I was navigating this new chapter of life along with my classmates. You plan your week around your class schedule and make sure you fit in enough time to study, practice, eat and socialize. I was finally getting the hang of things toward the second half of the fall semester.

During spring semester, without warning, COVID-19 threw a wrench into everyone’s plans. Within a few weeks, we witnessed colleges across the country sending students home for extended spring breaks, and it wasn’t long before SNC followed in their footsteps. Soon enough, my professors started to enact plans to move courses online – grappling with how to teach the remainder of the semester from home. I said goodbye to friends when we left for our extended spring break, hopeful I would see them in a few weeks. Of course, that wish never came true.

Academically, I struggled with the new format of online learning. My workload for all of my classes seemed to triple; I went from classes being three full days a week to five days, and sometimes even six! In addition, all of my classes were pre-recorded lectures followed by online assignments, quizzes and tests. I became burnt out from staring at a computer all day without face-to-face interaction. It was also difficult to stay on track and focused while working from home, with my entire family at home working virtually.

Due to the difficulty of remote learning, most of my professors encouraged the use of notes on quizzes and tests, which helped alleviate some of the burdens with online learning. I am so grateful to all of my professors – and peers – who supported me through this challenging semester.

In light of everything, I learned that online school comes with unique challenges that make me appreciate the amazing in-person experience SNC offers. When SNC released their back-to-campus plan, I couldn’t have been more thrilled. I am grateful to have most of my courses in person this coming semester. I think most students would agree that they are willing to make the changes and take the precautions needed to keep everyone safe in order to stay on campus.

Gavin Sorensen ’20
Gavin Sorenson '20Although my college career was cut two months short, its substance outlasts its length. Sleeping in my college house to suddenly moving back into my childhood bedroom was quite the shock and was not how this was supposed to go. Yet there was a small piece of me which felt oddly content. Then I realized it was because I had done it. I had completed the college checklist.

I made friendships that will last my lifetime. I completed classes that I excelled in and classes which I struggled in, and there may have even been a dropped class somewhere in there … I had the great late nights and suffered the too-many aching mornings. I experienced the silent library floors and the loud blaring music coming through my thin bedroom walls. I consumed the typical college kid diet (frozen pizza, bagels, RX bars, coffee) and even went through the phases of going to the gym.

The real world came knocking a little earlier than expected for the Class of 2020, but so what? Why let the real world impede on the good memories? When I think of my completed objectives, there is no room for bitterness. And maybe there’s even room for a little laughter. I went from seeing my classmates in desks to seeing them in small squares on my computer screen. From a communal roommate bathroom to sharing one with my perfume-friendly teenage sister. From the delightful sounds of coffee being served at Ed’s Coffeeshop to my dog’s barking mixed with my dad talking way too loud on a conference call.

There is nothing to say about my past college experience except, “Thank you.”

Sept. 10, 2020