By Evan Gamber

Coronavirus. COVID-19. The pandemic. Although people may call the virus different things, it seems that everyone has been impacted by COVID-19 in some way. Through lockdowns, cancellations, and quarantines, the entire nation has struggled to adjust to the “new normal” of these “unprecedented times.” Northwest University (NU) and its student body are no exception to this trend.

Over a year ago, Mary Hudetz and Asia Fields reported in The Seattle Times that the Life Care Center of Kirkland, which is in NU’s proverbial backyard, became “the epicenter of [the] Seattle-area coronavirus outbreak.” In fact, Eric Boodman and Helen Branswell reported to STAT News in February 2020 that this facility had what was believed at the time to be “the first death in the U.S. from the new coronavirus, the first health care worker to be infected with the disease, and most worrying, the first known outbreak in a long-term care facility.” As the virus spread, so did the fear of it and the very real danger of it.

As a result of this, various student activities were restricted, if not cancelled all together. The virus continued to spread, and NU ultimately decided to conduct the remaining Spring 2020 classes through Zoom. For the 2020-2021 school year, NU has incorporated the HyFlex system, which allows students to be in-person for classes some days and virtually attending classes on other days.

These various changes have obviously had an impact on both new and incoming students. First-year student and track athlete Micah Murphy and third-year student Jon Hill were interviewed about the effects of COVID on their respective college experiences.

How did COVID-19 affect your choice in living on or off campus?

Murphy: I am off campus this semester. I actually wanted to be on campus. That was ideally where I wanted to go, because I feel like that college life and stuff like that would be much more ideal living on campus. Once COVID happened, I decided I didn’t want to be there in a mask 24/7, so I just kind of decided to stay home this year, and then see what the restrictions are like next year.

Hill: Well, I’m living off campus right now. I lived at the Red Lion first semester. COVID kind of made it so that it wasn’t really college as much. It was kind of static. I mean, it was still college, but it’s like half college, because you can do other stuff, and normally, you kind of put your life on hold for college. But when college is being halfway put on hold, you’ve got to fill up the time somehow.

Did COVID-19 contribute to your decision to attend Northwest University in any way?

Murphy: I actually pulled a total 180. I wanted to be somewhere warm. I also love my sport, and once COVID started, I asked myself who I wanted to be around if I was injured, and I decided that I wanted to be around my family. So, I started looking at closer schools, and when I looked at Northwest, I really felt like God just opened a door, and that’s where I wanted to be.

As a member of our track and field and cross-country teams, can you give us some insight as to how the pandemic has affected athletics?

Murphy: It’s definitely changed the dynamic a little bit. We don’t really have as much of a set schedule. It’s kind of like, “hey, is there a race we can get in this week, or two weeks from now,” or “oh, these people just opened up their race, let’s go”. Just last Friday, we had a race in Idaho that we didn’t even know about until the week before because [the hosts] got to expand the fields. You just have to have a little more leeway in your schedule for your sport. But when you get to go out and compete, amongst everything else going on, the sport still brings the joy that you’re looking for. We still get that opportunity, even though it’s not exactly the same. There’s not as much interaction, but the joy is still there, which is pretty cool.

Do you feel like some of your experiences as a first-year student have been positively or negatively impacted by the pandemic?

Murphy: I would say that interacting with other students has been hindered by the regulations. On the other hand, the greater accessibility allowed by Zoom is a positive. I’ve been in Hawaii or California and not been marked absent from classes. I get to be with my family more often, or even travel a little more. I was also homeschooled for 12 years, so being on Zoom doesn’t really bother me all that much.

How has COVID-19 impacted your social experience in college?

Hill: I mean, again, I am living off campus, but even when I was there, I hadn’t talked to hardly anyone, other than you and Felix, and you were my roommate. It’s just kind of like we all have our immediate circles, and that’s kind of it.

Do you think that NU is handling COVID-19 well? If not, what could they change?

Murphy: Well, I’m not an expert, but I think the system that they have implemented is very effective, and most of the professors that I’ve had so far are very accessible and lenient. I feel that the school is handling all of this very well. It’s been very smooth. It’s been communicated very well.

Hill: They’ve got good resources, and it doesn’t seem like they’re having too many cases, so I’d say they’re doing a good job. Realistically, I think that we’re going to keep doing HyFlex, and they might be a little less lenient with it. They might even only let you Zoom if it’s your day to be in person if you have a really good reason. Eventually, things will probably go back to normal. Maybe. I kind of honestly want them to get rid of Zoom so that we can have snow days.

Do you feel that HyFlex Learning is as effective as a normal in-class session?

Murphy: I’m a big fan of the HyFlex system that they’ve incorporated. I feel like it also adds some communication between the teachers and the students, even though things like office hours are mostly lost. It’s kind of the same with the sports side of things. We’ve lost some things and gained others. We get new opportunities, and we lose some old ones. Really, we get what we get, and we can’t throw a fit.

Hill: No. I mean, there’s more distractions and more effort. You’re already on your laptop, and you can switch tabs or whatever, and a lot of students have TVs in their rooms too.