out of state courtesy collage

Five out-of-state University of Georgia students share their perspectives on their unique circumstances during COVID-19. From left to right: Michaela Gearty, Cole Cornell, Sunny Hakemy, Linda Cullen and Jake Specht. (Photos/Courtesy)

Michaela Gearty, a first year University of Georgia student from Port Washington, New York, said she will never forget when she found out that UGA would move instruction online for the remainder of the spring semester.

Following the COVID-19 outbreak, all in-person instruction for the 26 University System of Georgia institutions was suspended, according to a March 16 USG announcement.

As UGA’s campus closed, students have experienced several abrupt life changes in little time. Out-of-state students find themselves in unique circumstances. Students living in residence halls had to move out between March 19 and 27. Some out-of-state students weren’t able to return to Athens to move out during that period.

According to the UGA Fact Book, 3,195 undergraduate students enrolled in fall 2019 were from a U.S. state but not from Georgia. These students represented 10.7% of the undergraduate student body that semester.

From coping with mental health issues to transitioning to online instruction and returning to their home states to live with their families, these students all faced challenges in the past few weeks.

The Red & Black interviewed out-of-state students from around the country to get their perspectives on the issues at hand and how the COVID-19 outbreak has personally affected them.

Michaela Gearty is a freshman intended advertising major from Port Washington, New York.

Interview conducted on May 2.

R&B: How has COVID-19 affected your mental health?

MG: My mental health has taken a bit of a hit. I haven’t really seen anyone besides my family which is hard. My whole family is working from home, including my sister who is also in college, so it has been really stressful and it is creating an anxious environment in my household.

R&B: How has your education been affected with online instruction?

MG: I have lost a lot of motivation because I really don’t have anything to look forward to right now. I had a lot of problems with my browsers crashing during exams, my Zoom classes not working and not being able to submit things because the WiFi in my house is being used by my whole family at the same time.

R&B: What is the environment like in Port Washington?

MG: Honestly, it is really awful here. It’s miserable. There is no other way to put it. It is so frustrating to see people not even following social distancing in the state where there are the most cases. I can’t even bring myself to watch the news anymore.

R&B: Have you moved out of your residence hall?

MG: I have not moved out yet, and this is because during the two week break, I couldn’t fly to Atlanta, so I had no means of getting to UGA. My plan is to move out after my last final, even though it’s still a hazard. I don’t know when else I would be able to get all my things.

Sunny Hakemy is a freshman intended marketing major from Southlake, Texas.

Interview conducted on May 2.

R&B: How has COVID-19 affected your mental health?

SH: This situation has been the worst on my mental health. I went from having all my new best friends that I made in college to going back to my small town with no social life. I have a lot of people living in my house, so I never have any alone time or space to focus on myself or my school work. I am so used to being so independent, but now I am back and have all these strict rules I have to follow. I don’t have any freedom anymore.

R&B: How has your education been affected with online instruction?

SH: I have no motivation anymore so this transition has been particularly hard, especially during finals week when I need to focus. I have procrastinated so much. I feel like I am not truly learning anymore because my professors are not properly teaching the material as they would during actual class time, so I am basically teaching myself. Overall, my classes are pretty manageable, and I am pushing through.

R&B: What is the environment like in Southlake?

SH: It’s honestly pretty relaxing here in Southlake, but I am still being cautious when I go grocery shopping.

R&B: Have you moved out of your residence hall?

SH: I moved out on March 27 and there weren’t really travel restrictions in place in Texas so I flew into Atlanta just fine. It was obviously very sad though because my freshman year got cut much too short, and I was left with the memories I made only in my first semester. I wasn’t expecting to do that so soon.

Jake Specht is a junior real estate major from Winter Garden, Florida.

Interview conducted on May 3.

R&B: How has COVID-19 affected your mental health?

JS: I would say at times I feel better because I’ve been spending more time going biking and doing things outdoors, but when I’m actually in the house I get really bored and just want to be out with people doing things. I really enjoy being back with my family because they make things enjoyable.

R&B: How has your education been affected with online instruction?

JS: Online school has been hard for me because I’m not great at keeping up with online dates and assignments — I like being reminded in person. It also has been hard to find motivation, especially right after we got back from the extended spring break because we had been out of school for such a long time.

R&B: What is the environment like in Winter Garden?

JS: I actually haven’t minded the environment I’ve been in because my city has been allowing me to go out for bike rides and walks so I’ve been getting out more than I typically do. However, it’s weird going into grocery stores and seeing empty shelves and people wearing masks and gloves, so there is a bit of an eerie mood everywhere.

R&B: Have you moved out?

JS: I have moved out. Moving out was weird though because it was so sudden and didn’t happen in the big waves that it normally does at the end of the year. Instead there were just a few people moving out the day I was, and Athens as a whole was empty.

Linda Cullen is a freshman psychology and criminal justice double major from Newport Beach, California.

Interview conducted on May 2.

R&B: How has COVID-19 affected your mental health?

LC: This has affected me pretty horribly. Being where I live is so hard because there’s a lot I can do: I have the beach, I have Disneyland and so many places close to me where I could be spending my time but cannot. I have been stuck in my house and can’t really see my friends properly. I do acknowledge that I am lucky for being able to live in Newport, though, because the weather is really nice, and I can walk around my neighborhood to keep my thoughts positive. However, once school is over, and I really have nothing to do, that’s gonna be really rough on me.

R&B: How has your education been affected with online instruction?

LC: I really do not like online instruction because I am generally the type of person who needs to be in a classroom environment to study and do well. In my normal honors classes, I was not allowed to have my phone out, but now that nothing is being enforced, it has been difficult to focus on the online lectures. It’s pretty stressful because I’m a perfectionist and want to get good grades. It’s like a never-ending cycle.

R&B: What is the environment like in Newport Beach?

LC: One word I would use for the atmosphere here in California: tense. It is a real mess here at this point and has turned into a very political situation. All the beaches [were] closed in Orange County, and there [were] protests happening in Huntington Beach. This has created a very angry and divided environment which has been very stressful for me.

R&B: Have you moved out of your residence hall?

LC: I have a really weird situation. My roommate and her family are from Atlanta so they moved me out when she was packing up her things as well. All of my things are in a storage unit in Athens. I am planning to fly to Atlanta on May 20 to get everything, but who knows what will happen. Even though we have a booked flight, there’s a possibility that it may get canceled.

Cole Cornell is a freshman intended finance major from Southold, New York.

Interview conducted on May 1.

R&B: How has COVID-19 affected your mental health?

CC: My mental health has not been affected that much to a large extent. The only thing that is frustrating is that I am missing out on a good portion of my college life from this pandemic. However, when I put myself in perspective of other people where their family members are, I can see that I am extremely lucky and have nothing to be complaining about.

R&B: How has your education been affected with online instruction?

CC: Most of the online work is something I have to figure out or teach myself about. I liked being able to go to my classes and learn from the lectures. I have found myself focusing much more on other things such as investing, finding ways to make money in various ways and other distractions like playing games with my brothers or going on my boat.

R&B: What is the environment like in Southold?

CC: The environment is very quiet with very little going on other than people riding their bikes or going on walks.

R&B: Have you moved out of your residence hall?

CC: I had to pay some of my fraternity friends to go to my room and clear mine and my roommate's room. They shipped the essential things I needed and are storing the rest of our things in Athens for when we return to school.

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