Unlike anything else in history—what’s it really like being a college student in 2020?


BSC 9796 scaled Unlike anything else in history—what's it really like being a college student in 2020?
Campus has some new accessory trends this year. Photo via BSC

2020 will be a year remembered and taught in school for decades to come. For college students, their experience will be like none other in history. We caught up with a college freshman and a college senior in Birmingham to get an inside look.

Meet the Students

Kazia Taylor

Kazia1 1 Unlike anything else in history—what's it really like being a college student in 2020?
Kazia is a Community Coordinator on campus, which means she oversees an entire residence hall. Photo submitted

Kazia Taylor is a senior at Birmingham-Southern College (BSC). She’s originally from Riverdale, GA—about 30 minutes outside of Atlanta. Kazia is majoring in Business Administration with a concentration in Marketing.

Sadie Bekurs

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Hopefully Sadie’s next graduation will involve a lot more group celebration! Photo submitted

Sadie Bekurs just started her freshman year at BSC, and she’s originally from Hoover. Graduating high school and heading off to college during a global pandemic isn’t exactly something people prepare for, but I admired Sadie’s take on the year.

The Early Days

Kazia 2 Unlike anything else in history—what's it really like being a college student in 2020?
This ResLife staff went through a bit more training than your typical RAs. Photo submitted

Of course, these two students were at different life stages during the first days of this. Kazia was wrapping up her junior year of college, planning on spending those last months making memories with older friends that would soon be heading off into the real world.

Most of my friends were graduating seniors, so now the rest of the semester we had together was taken away from us….

This would have been the last four months we had to spend time together before we become adults.”

Kazia Taylor, Senior

Sadie was gearing up for all the high school milestones—prom, graduation, senior events, stocking up on dorm room supplies. Neither had any idea what was in store for them and so many other students.

“All of a sudden, in the middle of March, we just didn’t go to school anymore… It was just so strange. Being in quarantine wasn’t mentally great for a lot of people… it was really hard.

The uncertainty of not knowing if we were going to school in the fall—you just want so badly to have some stability.”

Sadie Bekurs, Freshman

Coming Back to Campus

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This is the kind of photo you’ll show your grandkids one day. Photo submitted

The weeks leading up to the students’ return to campus were filled with uncertainty from every angle. Every institution had slightly different methods, but all with the same goal: give the students the best experience possible while keeping them safe.

“I just appreciate how much effort Birmingham-Southern is putting into making sure our college experience during this time is actually good. I have so many friends that are having to take online classes while locked in their rooms…

BSC wants us to have the college experience, and that means a lot.”

Sadie Bekurs, Freshman

Birmingham-Southern College welcomed students back to campus with warm smiles from behind masks. Their safety measures like random testing, mandatory quarantining, temperature checks at move-in and more have kept classroom doors open so far.

“I love that we do random COVID testing here. It makes me feel like the campus is monitoring the situation…

Around 350 students get tested in the random testing pool each time, and we have to have two negative tests before we come back to school.”

Kazia Taylor, Senior

Navigating a New World

BSC 9647 Unlike anything else in history—what's it really like being a college student in 2020?
Move-in day is still an exciting time. Photo via BSC

For many students like Kazia, coming back to a familiar campus in a new time is hard to accept. Last month, we got advice from a BSC expert about how to stay focused when it comes to work.

However, the social aspect of college is another huge element, and there’s no amount of self-care tips that can make this feel normal.

“I feel like I’m hiding instead of being a part of the community. I’m so involved, I used to sit in the caf or be in common spaces, and now I’d rather be in my room, which is weird.”

Kazia Taylor, Senior

For freshman and first-year students like Sadie, it’s hard to make friends and acclimate to a whole new environment in the middle of all this.

“So far, most of the activities have been outdoors and spaced out…

It’s just really difficult to meet people when you’re not supposed to be around people. Especially for freshmen—we don’t know anyone going into this, so it’s hard.”

Sadie Bekurs, Freshman

Looking Forward

HO3A9776 scaled Unlike anything else in history—what's it really like being a college student in 2020?
BSC choir students have special masks made for singing and hold all their rehearsals outside. Photo via BSC

In less than a year’s time, Kazia will be graduating from BSC and heading out into a very different job market than the one most of us entered. I asked her about how her perspective on her career and job search has changed.

“I have a new perspective on what is essential and how I need to make sure my career will always be vital…

It feels like I need to make sure that whatever career I build for myself is essential just in case something happens again. I want to be prepared and know I can continue to make money.”

Kazia Taylor, Senior

This concept was really interesting to me, so I asked if it’s a common thought or conversation among Kazia’s professors, advisors and peers. Not only did she say yes—she also pointed out that it’s already changing her business school curriculum. With every business plan they create or study, they also have to craft plans that can be easily adapted to entirely digital models.

For Sadie, this way of doing college is all she’s known so far, but she said it’s made her even more eager to dive into the full college experience once things get back to normal.

“Once this is all over, I want to experience everything to the fullest. In my high school career, I wasn’t the most involved person…

I know as soon as this is over, I’m ready to go. I want to meet people and get involved and just enjoy it all.”

Sadie Bekurs, Freshman

If you know a college student, reach out and show them a little extra support right now. College students, start writing your memoirs—they could be worth a lot one day!

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Beth Cunningham
Beth Cunningham

A Birmingham transplant who can usually be found hitting a new hiking trail or restaurant opening when she's not writing stories and snapping photos for Bham Now.

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