Scenes from campus during the COVID-19 pandemic

Your Pandemic Year — Looking Back, Looking Forward

Not long ago, we reached a milestone: one full calendar year since campus switched over to remote instruction due to the COVID-19 pandemic; and now we're nearing the end of the 2020–21 academic year—another major milestone. Each of us has faced burdens, disappointments and unique challenges in that time—but alongside those, many have also found silver linings and unexpected reasons for hope. 

We asked students to share their own struggles and silver linings, and you delivered! From your real thoughts about online classes to new hobbies and feathered friends, Aggies have continued to grow and make the best of a year like no other.

How has the pandemic changed your life?

Digital learning, having a more active and healthy lifestyle, and time management challenges have been big changes. Part-time work has also been affected, so there have also been financial difficulties.

-Paula Vargas Sullivan, Cognitive Science ‘23


This pandemic has taught me to value the time that I spend with my family and pets more. It has also taught me to be more cautious about my own health, as well as the health of others around me. I am grateful for the extra amount of time that I’m able to spend with my family because of the pandemic.

-Kendall Garcia, History ‘23


I lost several jobs due to the pandemic. I lost family members (who died), and close family members have gotten sick. I was also unable to have a commencement ceremony [at my community college].

-Jose Samano Catalan, Psychology ‘22


The pandemic allowed me to reflect, plan, and finally get help for my anxiety.

-Devin Bach, ‘24


Neha Panchal

Different aspects of life have been affected during the pandemic in ways I never imagined. I understood that we are very resilient, and as difficult as it was to transition to virtual formats and find innovative ways to keep the world moving, we did it. Mostly, I like how this last year has shown me that no matter how difficult things get in this world, there will always be people who care and want to do good. That’s my inspiration to keep going! I have learned the importance of having a routine, family communication, and I’ve had time to pause and reflect about myself.

-Neha Panchal, Mathematics ‘21 (pictured)


In a negative way, it’s made me lazier and has made me slack off because it feels like I have no control with work, homework and even my eating habits. But in a positive way, I’m focusing more on self-care because I noticed that I was getting lazier.

- Dali C., Sociology ‘21 ​​​​


While the pandemic limited in-person activities, I still had the opportunity to do many things for school and my commitments, even though everything is online. When shelter-in-place started, I was a high school senior that was somewhat shy.  Now I am a more confident community college student who is ready to transfer because of all the support I received, the opportunities I have taken, and the connections I made from online resources. Most importantly, the pandemic definitely increased my perseverance and I learned to quickly adapt to each change.

-Ellaine Frances Arroyo, Biological Science ‘23


Have there been any silver linings from the past year you are grateful for, in spite of the many difficulties and hardships?

Photo of Nikolaus Wylie

From March to September 2020, I went back home for spring quarter and summer, and I was able to spend a lot of time with my family. It was nice spending the early days of the pandemic at home, where I had my family as a "support group.”

-Nik Wylie, History ‘22 (pictured left/above on mobile)


I’m grateful that COVID has helped me appreciate the small things. I took for granted a lot of things we used to do and places we would go that now that they’re closed because of social distancing, I miss them!

-Dali C., Sociology ‘21


I am learning how to be more flexible with my time and manage it in a more productive way.  I’ve also spent more time with family and had more room for personal growth.

-Paula Vargas Sullivan, Cognitive Science ‘23


Quarantine forced my family to have much-needed conversations that brought us closer.

-Jasline Dimapilis, ‘24


Seeing how much effort UC Davis was putting in keeping the students tested and vaccinating people as soon as possible was my silver lining. I know things will be close to normal soon. Also, knowing that every day spent in these tough times is only making me stronger, and that I’m learning how to adapt and deal with uncertainties.

A white chicken and a brown chicken

-Neha Panchal, Mathematics ‘21


I have been able to make so many new friendships. It’s been easier to connect online and grow closer with people that live hours away from me. I have also been able to join more clubs and be part of virtual meetings!

-Olivia Rodriguez, Animal Science ‘25


I was able to finally get the chickens (pictured right/above on mobile) that I have always wanted!

-Samantha S., ‘25


Getting accepted into UC Davis was one of the best things to happen to me during this time. It gave me some hope and excitement for the fall. I am eager to be back on campus, and to meet with my peers and professors.

-Kendall Garcia, History ‘23


This has been a difficult but interesting experience, and has allowed me to grow as a person. The pandemic provided an opportunity for me to reset and find a more mindful work-life balance to avoid burnouts. Even though I experienced a lot of challenges, such as Zoom fatigue, I am still glad I am connected to my support system, campus, and local communities through many virtual platforms as a student and a leader.

-Ellaine Frances Arroyo, Biological Science ‘23



What have been the best AND the most challenging parts of online classes?

The best part of virtual learning is that it gives me more time around the class hour. I can get ready five minutes before class and still be on time. I’ve actually faced many challenges, but also had support systems to get me through. I discovered success coaching with the Office of Educational Opportunity and Enrichment Services (OEOES), and they helped me with tips and strategies to get through.

Paula Vargas Sullivan

-Neha Panchal, Mathematics ‘21


The best part of online class was the flexibility of watching and learning within the week. It gave me more time to work on myself and more time with loved ones. The challenges included staying on track with everything and managing the many different platforms we use for classes.

-Paula Vargas Sullivan, Cognitive Science ‘23 (pictured)


The best part was finding creative ways to connect, but the most challenging was having the self-discipline to do homework.

-Melanie G, ‘23


The best part of online classes is the ability to do classes whenever and wherever I'd like. The most challenging part is that there's no real difference between watching lectures and doing homework now. They both blend together—it can feel pretty exhausting.

-Nik Wylie, History ‘22 ​​​​​​


The most difficult part was building a schedule and sticking to it. The best part was learning at my own pace, and being able to go back and review lectures.

-Jose Samano Catalan, Psychology ‘22 ​​​​​


The best parts are the independence and flexibility with my schedule. I can choose how to spend my day, whether I will utilize most of my time doing assignments and reviewing concepts for my courses, working on my research projects, and/or dedicating my time to work and extracurriculars. However, the most challenging part is virtually engaging with my peers. In this online format, it takes a little more work with technology to create study groups, compared to in-person courses where I can simply talk with nearby classmates.

-Ellaine Frances Arroyo, Biological Science ‘23


The best part is more flexibility, because if you miss a class, they’re recorded. And some teachers are becoming more lenient with deadlines, which is much appreciated. A challenge is that some professors assume that because classes are online that we need more and harder work. They assume that since they’re online, students have more free time and shouldn’t have such a hard time … but if anything, it’s worse now than it was when it was in person. Things are piling up and it has become even more stressful. 

-Dali C., Sociology ‘21


The most challenging part about online learning for me has been the lack of interaction between myself and my peers and professors. The best part about online learning has been the flexibility to do schoolwork whenever I please.

-Kendall Garcia, History ‘23


What is something you started doing during the past year—a new hobby, habit, skill or lifestyle change—that you want to keep doing?

I cultivated multiple habits that will benefit me in the long run. I learned how to bullet journal (can you believe there’s a seminar class for that?!) and that has helped me stay organized when I have tons of virtual commitments giving me anxiety. I started growing house plants, finally! Most importantly, I check in with friends and family more often now, which helps me feel connected.

-Neha Panchal, Mathematics ‘21


Roller skating!

-Julia Lay, ‘22


Over the course of this pandemic, I have started to walk my two dogs three miles a day around my neighborhood. I have come to really enjoy it, and it is something that I will continue long after this pandemic is over. My dogs enjoy it, it gets me out of the house, and it gives my mind a break from all of the schoolwork.

-Kendall Garcia, History ‘23


Olivia Rodriguez stands among trees with a dog

I’ve been eating healthier and being more active outdoors by running and cycling.

-Paula Vargas Sullivan, Cognitive Science ‘23 ​​​


I have started to make a lot more crafts. It is an easy way to destress after school while also making gifts. I love learning new techniques and different items to make for my friends. I really want to keep crafting to bring joy to my life and to others.

-Olivia Rodriguez, Animal Science ‘25 (pictured)


I joined a baseball team.

-Jose Samano Catalan, Psychology ‘22


Manifesting and being in tune with my spiritual self.

-Savannah Mintz, ‘24


I’ve started attending the gym every day to make sure I stay on top of my health. I’ve also taken to cooking new recipes from different cultures and painting on canvases (although I’m not very good).

-Dali C., Sociology ‘21


One lifestyle change I started doing in the past year is journaling. I’ve stopped at the moment, because I am busy finishing my last term before transferring to UC Davis, but this is something I would like to continue because I noticed how valuable it is for processing my thoughts and reflections. I found how helpful my planner is for journaling, goal setting, doing calligraphy and using my creativity, which is a great stress reliever and useful way to stay organized.

-Ellaine Frances Arroyo, Biological Science ‘23


How do you think life will return to the way it was before the pandemic—and how will it remain different? 

Hanging out with friends without fear of spreading the virus is what I’m looking forward to the most! I’m also looking forward to having more outdoor experiences, visiting theme parks and doing the tough mudder again! I feel it’s going to be a while before I can do all that I mentioned above because, while I’m vaccinated, not everyone is yet. Life will be different, too—I think everyone is stronger than ever after surviving a year of difficulties, which gives me the confidence I need right now when I’m about to graduate!

-Neha Panchal, Mathematics ‘21


I think there will be more structure with in-person classes. I also think there are a good amount of students who would prefer the online format of classes rather than the in-person ones.

-Paula Vargas Sullivan, Cognitive Science ‘23


It will be relatively the same, but with masks on.

-Jose Samano Catalan, Psychology ‘22 ​​​​​


I definitely think I will still remain cautious about my health, even though I have already been vaccinated. We still need to be vigilant about protecting ourselves and others, in case this pandemic comes back. I will definitely continue to walk my dogs every day, and I’m eager to move to Davis in September.

-Kendall Garcia, History ‘23 ​​​​​​


Ellaine Arroyo

Life will return to the way it was in that places will begin to reopen and masks will become obsolete. However, it will remain different in that we will become more health conscious. We will begin to notice when someone gets sick more and more, probably maintain social distancing, etc.

-Dali C., Sociology ‘21


I think what will return to “normal” is the in-person social interaction and engagement with everyone following safety protocols. However, we will not return as the same people we were before the pandemic. We will have a new mindset, knowledge, and awareness because of the experiences and challenges we faced. For me, I learned and did new things I did not think of doing before, and that changed my perspective and allowed me to improve myself.

-Ellaine Frances Arroyo, Biological Science ‘23 (pictured)


I think we'll cherish our time with others more; I'll be hugging my friends again!!

-Michelle F., ‘23

About the Authors

Sophia Meals, a fourth-year Communication major, is the Editorial and Content Creation Assistant at Student Affairs Marketing and Communications.

Nathaniel Curiel, Content Specialist at Student Affairs Marketing and Communications, can be reached at