News & Events

A #SafeReturn back home for students

By Melanee Terry

photo of Halle GarnerStudents living on campus at the University of Maine at Presque Isle will be adapting to another change in their lives as they travel back home for the holidays. Halle Garner, a sophomore Education Major will be traveling home this week to Murray, Utah. Those students taking in-person classes at UMPI will spend time adjusting as they go fully online for the last weeks of the semester.

As a Secondary Education major with a concentration in Mathematics and a Minor in Coaching, Halle will stay busy as she makes her journey home this week. She is a member of the softball team and is currently working on her field observation hours. It was important that she was able to be on-campus this fall for softball practice and the ability to complete her Education major requirements.

Many schools around the country have not been allowing in-person classes. With safety protocols in place, UMPI allowed a number of students to come back to campus and live in the dorms. The University also ensured that both in-person and online classes would be available. This is a big deal for students who prefer to receive their education in-person, rather than online. Living at home while taking college classes can be very difficult and Halle took the opportunity to come back to Presque Isle for her sophomore year.

“Coming from Utah, one of the reasons I decided to come back this semester was because classes were being taught in-person,” Halle said. “My professors have been amazing in preparing for students to come back to campus and keep us safe.  It is weird to have to wear masks and sit 6 feet apart but being safe allows us to continue having in-person classes.”

Living in the dormitories on campus for out-of-state students is a unique experience. These students do not have the opportunity to travel home on weekends, like local students, and that means they are spending a large amount of time in their rooms over the course of several months. Like many other students far from home, Halle does not have a car to travel off campus. Living with COVID-19 regulations in the dorms adds another layer of difficulty, but Halle said she has been adjusting to life in Emerson Hall.

“It has been great living in the dorms this fall,” Halle said. “Things have been different with the regulations, especially only having four people allowed in a room because I was used to hanging out with my friends without a second thought, but now you have to keep in mind the rules.”

Halle is another student who does better with in-person classes, so the switch to online learning has been difficult. Half of her classes this semester are through distance modalities, so as someone who takes her education seriously, Halle has adapted to Zoom and online classes. She also has worked to improve her time management and organizational skills because she can no longer depend on professor’s verbal reminders about tests and due dates in-person.

Education majors at UMPI are required to complete field observation hours, which look a little bit different this semester. With a couple schools in the area not allowing any outside visitors, it has been difficult for some UMPI students to get hours in. As a student with no connections to the Maine teaching community, Halle depended on her Education professors for assistance. An education professor of Halle’s was able to connect her with a teacher, so she could work on her hours. Halle has also been tutoring middle school students and even had her first experience with one a few weeks ago.

“It was one of the best teaching opportunities I have ever had,” Halle said. “I was able to work with a student and help her with her math homework, and I was able to see that lightbulb go off and it made me so happy and excited for my future in teaching.”

When she travels back home to Utah, Halle will be finishing her fall classes on Zoom.

“Adjusting to all online classes when I get home won’t be a big challenge for me because many of my classes are online anyways, but the biggest challenge I will have is getting up earlier.  I’m from Utah and, with the two hour time difference, my classes will feel so much earlier and I’m definitely not a morning person,” Halle said.

Residence students are required to be out of the dorms by Nov. 25, with a few exceptions. Students will stay home for Thanksgiving and not return until next semester. This is to prevent the spread of COVID-19 on campus. Leaving the dorms now, though, is bittersweet for students: they will be leaving their friends and professors, but when they travel home they will be with their families again.

“I am going home on the 18th.  I am so excited, I’m practically counting down the days,” Halle said. “I will miss seeing my teammates, friends, and professors around campus, but besides that, I’m super excited to go home and spend the holidays with my family.”

This past year has been difficult for college students as they attempt to adapt to all the changes in their lives, but Halle believes that the challenges she has faced have helped to make her stronger.

“From this major world event, I have taken away the fact that I can do tough things.  I never thought that my first year of college would end up the way it did–getting sent home in March and having my first season of college softball cancelled,” Halle said. “It’s hard but it’s how you bounce back from it that makes all the difference.”