Alexander Oddo 4 min read Coronavirus

How is Georgetown University Handling COVID-19?

There’s something so enjoyable about looking out of the window of a plane. As I gaze from above, I like to imagine the happenings within the ant-sized buildings of the humans below ─ somebody down there played ping pong for the first time, somebody spent too long observing the antennae of a grasshopper, somebody had the best day of their life so far…

 

And somebody down there got COVID-19.

 

For this reason, I got to experience the joy of high altitude window gazing far earlier than anticipated ─ my study abroad program at King’s College London was cancelled. I came back home to finish my semester at King’s online and begin my next semester online as well. Come, let me tell you about my COVenture and how Georgetown University has handled the pandemic.

 

Lessons in e-learning

 

After much internal debate within the administration and several changes in plans, Georgetown decided to conduct almost all of its classes online. A small group of students are taking classes on-campus this semester because of one of the following reasons: their home environment is not suitable for online learning, they have to take lab classes this semester in order to graduate on time, or they are completing the 5-year accelerated master’s degree program. 

 

As a History student minoring in French and Russian, I find my online workload to be quite similar to how it was in-person. The work I am doing is mostly based on history readings, in addition to a few short essays, quizzes, midterm papers, and final papers/projects/exams. 

 

Professors have been more flexible with deadlines this semester; assignments, which used to be due at the end of a class period, are now due after several days of “take home” work. International students are given additional flexibility when it comes to taking assessments, with many taking Georgetown Qatar classes to reduce time zone differences. Discussions in my classes have remained lively, perhaps even livelier than they were in-person, though we all face one common problem ─ connection issues on Zoom. 

 

I have avoided screen fatigue by letting natural light into my room and recharging outside. Screen fatigue has not worn on me as much as what I call “chair fatigue” has ─ on some days I have multiple classes in a row with breaks in between that are too short to spend outside, especially when my professors finish their lectures late. My back and neck tend to feel tired after so much sitting, and I can confirm from memes that others are feeling the same way. The broken-record solutions of good posture, sleep, and exercise are the best I have for now.

 

Dorms and Dining at COVIDtown

 

Around 500 Hoyas are living “on the hilltop” at this time. On-campus students are spread out throughout the dorms, which are mostly empty but do have Residential Assistants. The dining hall is open in a limited capacity ─ students can eat in and be served at a table, or they can have their food delivered to their dorm. 

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Social Scene

 

Going to the dining hall and RA social events are unfortunately some of the only chances students have to interact with other humans, as the rest of our clubs are being run on a shared online platform by the Hoya diaspora. University events, such as talks with former ambassadors and networking opportunities, are continuing in the virtual realm.

 

The most fun is to be had slightly off campus, where groups of students are renting townhouses while taking online classes. Some of these students have put on “lit” gatherings that weren’t socially distanced, and the university has heavily reprimanded these groups. 

 

Testing 

 

Outside of a few instances in the neighborhoods around Georgetown, students have generally adhered to the CDC guidelines. They can freely move around campus, though their university ID cards swipe them into few buildings beyond their dorms and where they take classes. They must always wear masks, stand six feet apart from others, and cannot have unsponsored gatherings of more than ten individuals. On-campus students are required to be tested for COVID twice per week, while half-on-campus students from the neighborhoods have to be tested once per week. 

 

Financial Aid

 

Georgetown has been decently accomodating with its financial aid since the beginning of the pandemic. During the exodus this April ─ while I was frantically leaving London and my peers Georgetown ─ the university allowed students in need to stay on campus, and kept the dining hall, essential services, and charity drives running just for them. The university also helped low-income students travel home, while study abroad students received reimbursements for prepaid non-refundable plane tickets and housing expenses.

 

Tuition was decreased by 10% for all students this semester, the student activities fee was reduced to $25, and off-campus students do not pay for room and board. Low-income students in the Georgetown Scholars Program receive extra support, and professors have uploaded scans of the majority of required books for class. The university is also giving more attention to financial aid appeals than in previous years. While Federal Work Study is included in aid packages, Georgetown’s main financial aid shortcoming this semester is that there are few online FWS opportunities available. 

 

Georgetown has approached COVID-19 with studied trepidation and a penchant for changing plans. Despite the obstacles, the university has honestly done its best to live up to its motto of cura personalis ─ care of the whole person. The future is unpredictable with the Georgetown administration, and the university has made no official statement yet about the Spring 2021 semester. I am confident that regardless of where we study ─ even if I end up graduating in the backyard ─  the Georgetown community will come together as strong as ever. 

 

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Short bio
Georgetown University Class of '21. History major, minors in French and Russian. Passionate about writing and the human condition.