Opinion | A reflection after an academic year completed during the COVID-19 pandemic

After completing a year of my undergraduate degree during a global pandemic, I’ve never been more grateful for an academic year to be over.


Hannah Pinski, Opinions Editor

I was in my violin seminar on March 11, 2020 when we received the email that the University of Iowa suspended in-person classes for two weeks following spring break. As my studiomate’s and my phones lit up with the announcement we knew that was bound to come, a part of us suddenly felt scared by the uncertainty of the future.

It was the same day that I had my last full orchestra rehearsal for over a year. It was the same week that I was in the Daily Iowan newsroom for only the second time before the early stage of my career shifted into a remote setting.

As we approached closer to that Friday the pit in my stomach grew larger as my friends and I came to the dreaded realization: we weren’t coming back. Our freshman year was over.

Over a year later, I am almost halfway complete with my undergraduate degree. So far, the majority of it has been completed in a pandemic world.

It hasn’t been easy to say the least.

I knew going into the fall 2020 semester that things would be different. But I didn’t realize how different — or difficult — until I returned to campus after almost being away for five months.

Fifty-person rehearsals with stand partners and shared music and live performances in a full concert hall turned into split-up ensembles and pre-recorded concerts that were streamed online. Working in what was a hustle and bustle newsroom was now Zoom meetings in my apartment living room and writing content sometimes from my bed.

As the first semester continued, I found myself getting frustrated with the situation. Administrative decisions from refusing to move to a 100-percent online format despite a spike of more than 500 COVID-19 cases to canceling spring break made me want to scream.

But it wasn’t just my academics that made it difficult. I learned that the world was more unkind than I thought when I experienced racism from being labeled as a virus.

The academic challenges and lack of empathy for the community made it a perfect recipe for what could be called an emotional rollercoaster.

So when I was finally able to return home for the winter break, I felt like I could take a second to finally breathe. But I also knew I was only halfway done, and it probably wasn’t going to be any easier second semester.

I started the following semester stepping into the role as opinions editor, where I learned what it meant to be a real leader with real lessons — I may not be at my best, I still had to give 100 percent to those around me.

While I had gotten used to a pandemic college experience, this semester had its challenges from learning how to be a leader to completing 16 weeks of school with no break.

I know the pandemic isn’t over yet, and it won’t be for a while. In fact, I somehow have more online classes for next fall than I do now. But we made it through one of the toughest parts. I have never felt so burned out, and I have never been so relieved for an academic year to be over.

I don’t know what next year will look like. But I’m hoping that as I have received my second dose of the vaccine and as others do as well, things will be different than they were last year.

But I know I will be making music and taking part in telling stories for the Iowa City community. I’m excited to see where the UI School of Music Orchestral program goes under a new director and to continue leading the opinions team while also stepping into the role as Amplify editor.

But before I start looking ahead, I’m going to sit back like many of my friends are and take the moment to just be grateful we made it through the 2020-2021 academic year.

Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.