Texas college students discuss impact of COVID-19 pandemic, virtual learning burnout

KXAN Live

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Students currently wrapping up their college careers dealt with a lot mentally to reach that milestone — from COVID-19 to Texas’ winter storms as well as anticipation to get vaccinated and and virtual learning burnout.

Three college students discussed the impact the past year has had on them during a live-streamed conversation Wednesday afternoon.

The students who talked to KXAN’s digital anchor Will DuPree included Faith Castle, Ashley Miznazi and Hannah Falcon. They also served as interns for the KXAN news team this semester and chronicled their experiences in their own “College During COVID-19” blog posts.

Castle is finishing her senior year at the University of Texas at Austin, while Falcon already completed classes at Texas A&M University. They’ll both graduate later this month, and they said they’re excited to have an in-person graduation since more vaccinations and fewer infections a.

Castle said she found out Tuesday she’ll get six tickets for her family to attend, while Falcon will receive eight at her ceremony.

“I was skeptical at first, probably at the beginning of the semester, because they asked you to decide so early if you’re going to show up for graduation,” Falcon said. “Now my whole family’s vaccinated. I’m fully vaccinated, so I feel more comfortable knowing that.”

“Of course any large gathering makes you skeptical, but it’s my graduation so I made the decision [to attend],” Castle added. “My parents are also vaccinated, so I think it’ll be okay that weekend.”

They both completed their final semesters in college through all-virtual classes. However, when she returns for her senior year in the fall at UT Austin, Miznazi said she chose to attend all her classes in person.

“There’s a different connection you do get in person. I miss my professors and being able to sit down next to somebody and show them the work you’re doing and get constructive criticism and work that way,” Miznazi said. “Right now I’m in a TV reporting class, which has been really interesting because we’re using Slack a lot and Zoom and showing our videos through the Zoom calls. Sometimes there’s technical difficulties with that, so I think that’s why I made the choice for the most part.”

All three students discussed how the all-virtual model of school led to feelings of burnout because of the lack of separation between their classes and personal lives. However, they said they dealt with it by still connecting with friends and working together on projects.

Castle and Falcon are now applying for reporting jobs at news stations, hoping to secure their first jobs after graduation. Meanwhile, Miznazi is working on a podcast with another classmate about the 2018 Austin serial bombings that she said will likely debut next year during her senior year of college.

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