Student Amber Taylor discusses starting college in pandemic


Nina Martinez / Hilltop Views

A survey on the effects of COVID-19 on college students concluded that the pandemic brought negative impacts to higher education. student Amber Taylor struggled when taking in-person college courses for the first time as a sophomore.

“Terrified” — that’s how sophomore Amber Taylor described jumping into in-person classes this fall semester after starting her college career virtually. Taylor, a political science and global studies double major at St. Edward’s University was robbed of a normal freshman year on the Hilltop. 

When COVID-19 struck the U.S., schools nationwide made the switch to a completely virtual set-up. Next thing she knew, Taylor was preparing for her first college semester. She and many others were never given the closure of completing one chapter of life and starting a new one. Come August 2020, and Taylor moved into Lady Bird Johnson Hall on campus. Where move-in day once meant a campus filled with hundreds of students chatting and tightly hugging their parents good-bye, it was now a quiet, solemn transition to independence.

For Taylor, the biggest hurdle of starting college online was the social aspect. Her freshman orientation — where students tend to make their first college friends — was hosted online, making it difficult to meet new people. Although an outgoing person, she had to get creative when it came to making friends via Zoom and on a partially-filled campus. 

“Having school on Zoom was just … a roadblock in making friends; so I just took that and went around it,” Taylor said. “I would type in the chat and say ‘Oh my god, we’re both falling asleep in class! We should go get a coffee right after’ … That’s how I built most of my friendships.” Taylor even made a friend through required bi-weekly COVID-19 testing. 

Students who lived off campus during the pandemic had to quickly learn the routes and buildings come fall semester. Taylor took advantage of the quiet campus then to get out of her dorm room and learn the ropes of the Hilltop. 

“I was always in my dorm room or outside, or wherever I had class. It was fun to learn the campus while still being able to be in class,” Taylor said. “It could be a lot worse. I could be a junior on campus and not know a single thing. It helped to explore the campus because I would take classes on the complete opposite side.”

But after an entire year of online classes as a first-year student, virtual education was all Taylor knew. Come fall registration, she ensured she signed up for all in-person classes. While the possibility of having a normal semester excited her, she also felt anything but prepared for the new atmosphere. This meant stepping out of her new comfort zone of chatting online to make friends and into in-person interactions with professors and classmates. 

As the fall semester approached she thought to herself, “I don’t know if this is the best choice for me.” Everything seemed so new. 

“I was terrified. I didn’t feel like I was prepared for in-person classes because I taught myself how to interact with people online now, so trying it in person might alter that,” Taylor said. “I was really scared.”

Taylor explained how she felt her teachers were a little more lenient online and pointed out how she “lost a little bit of her work ethic.” According to an article in the U.S. National Institutes of Health’s National Library of Medicine, a survey on the effects of COVID-19 and college students concluded that, “the COVID-19 pandemic brings negative impacts on higher education.” Of the 195 participants in the survey, all from the system of Texas universities, 159 (82%) showed concerns for their academic performance. Sixty-one of the 159 students said the biggest challenge was the transition to online courses. Just a few months later, students like Taylor were asked to transition once more to in-person classes; making them relearn their previously adapted social and academic skills. 

Taylor is finding her niche on campus this semester. Although piled high with work in classes, she hopes to get more involved with the Black Student Alliance on campus and attend more social events. In the meantime, she’ll be sitting at The Meadow (between the bookstore and Main Building) sipping on a cranberry-pomegranate Yerba Mate and enjoying a bacon, egg and cheese breakfast taco from Jo’s.