The ultimate crossroad every NYU student has come across in the months leading up to this past week’s back-to-school kickoff is whether to stay home or to go back to campus. This wasn’t exactly a decision any student has had to consider in the past, but due to everyone’s concern for safety from COVID-19, it’s certainly one that has crossed their minds. Unfortunately, with no clear end in sight with regards to the current pandemic, there’s no perfect answer.
Armaan Ahmed, who would have been a Gallatin junior this semester, described a gap semester as his “least-worst option.” He claimed it was by no means a simple decision.
The discussion-centric aspect to a majority of Ahmed’s courses is crucial to the unique nature of his Gallatin study. Therefore, having witnessed a disappointing deterioration to the quality of his seminars during last semester’s transition to online instruction, he realized he would be facing the same issue for his fall courses.
“Each semester at NYU is too valuable, both financially and experientially, to be online,” Ahmed said via email. “I am lucky enough to have the privilege of being able to take a gap, as I know there are many students whose financial aid/home situation would not allow for it.”
This was the case for Stern senior Maite Rodriguez Carneiro, who had initially considered taking a leave of absence, but her scholarship would not allow for it. From there, the choice to return to campus was simple for Carneiro, who describes her home in New Jersey as a stressful environment.
“I end up feeling like I’m in high school again where I constantly felt trapped in my own home and couldn’t get anything done,” Carneiro said via Facebook Messenger. “I’m taking my most challenging courses this semester, I’ll be applying and interviewing for jobs all the time, I’ll be running events for my club at Stern, and I’ll be working.”
With such a busy schedule, Carneiro felt she could thrive more on campus, where she is given a space free of any distractions.
“All of this is virtual. I can’t imagine being productive at home with all the chaos that goes on there,” Carneiro said. “Here I feel like I can really focus and not put myself into a lot of trouble in the long run by messing up on my senior year.”
CAS junior Joey Hung, who had decided to continue her fall instruction remotely from Dublin, California, shared the same sentiment as Carneiro when it came to a lack of private academic space at home.
“I feel almost unmotivated to learn and interact when I’m alienated at home, unable to discuss and engage with my peers in a classroom,” Hung said via email.
However, despite Hung’s concerns about staying home, she felt there wasn’t enough of an incentive to return to campus, given the limited operations through New York City due to the current pandemic.
“I didn’t see a reason to return to move back to New York and pay extra for rent when all my classes would be online,” Hung said. “I’d be constricted to my room most of the time. The regular activities, including museum visits, going out to eat, and going out to other public spaces would be extremely limited.”
The unforeseeable future of how long the effects of COVID-19 would last, in addition to Hung’s reluctance to delay her graduation, is what convinced Hung to continue her semester remotely in her hometown rather than to take a leave of absence.
Indeed, no decision seemed perfect for anyone, but students have continued to try their best to remain positive about the struggles they face with the decisions they’ve made.
While Carneiro made the more personally beneficial choice of coming back to the city, she is still navigating the stressors that come with being a senior within a pandemic.
“I want to be optimistic because it’s my senior year, but it was already stressful since I had to make sure I had a full-time job lined up for when I graduate,” Carneiro said. “Now, the circumstances make it harder to find a job and I’m afraid my mental health will get in the way of constantly jumping on opportunities and presenting the best version of myself in interviews.”
Hung is eager to take advantage of her decision to spend time with her family, whom she only sees as little as four total weeks a year. However, she does feel that she would be missing out on a chunk of her college experience.
“I think the college experience is a singular life-time experience,” Hung said. “I’m sad that I’ve missed out on so much of it already by being at home instead of college.”
As for Ahmed, he regrets no longer having access to the many resources that being in New York City provides, such as working in his favorite coffee shop for hours, speaking to professors and making valuable connections. Regardless, he seeks to make the most of his free time by pursuing various projects in his hometown of Clark County, Ohio.
“I am currently working and will continue to work as a contact tracer in my local county, and am planning on starting a clothing line based on my photography,” Ahmed said. “By taking a gap and choosing to stay home I preserve my in-person semester, am able to work, remain as safe as possible, and am not paying $35,000 for, in my opinion, a temporarily substandard education.”
It’s clear that regardless of what choice students decided to make, such decisions have resulted in a semester unlike any other we’ve seen before. Some students have a mixture of online and in-person classes, other students attend those same classes remotely from their hometowns and there are even some who have taken leaves of absences. However, without a clear idea of where the course of COVID-19 will take them, no choice was perfect for any student.
Joey Hung was a previous WSN staff member in Fall 2018.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2020 e-print edition. Email Dana Sun at [email protected]