A Covid Perspective: How College Students Are Adjusting to the New Normal

3 min read

COVID-19 has raised many questions about the future of learning for all students young and old. The news has been covering the school situation with younger students in elementary school and in high school, but what about those in college? How is COVID-19  affecting those who are studying in the healthcare field or education? How do people in these majors adjust to virtual learning when their schooling relies heavily on in- person contact.

Today I am taking a deep dive into the college perspective of a student who is adjusting to virtual learning in a science field where labs and clinicals are vital. A graduate student at Duquesne majoring in Speech Language Pathology, tells us about her “new normal”.

Speech Language Pathology: What does the major entail?

If you’re anything like me you might have heard of speech language pathology, and you might have a little bit of an idea of what it is but not entirely. “Speech pathologist’s are not limited to treating those who are suffering from stuttering”, Jenna explains to me. They work with non-verbal people, those who have speech impediments, language problems, literacy problems, and most importantly those struggling to feed and swallow. Speech pathologists need to have a background in both education and teaching people, but also understand the anatomy of the throat and how different body parts work.

Jenna specifically works with children K-5, and a couple of middle schoolers.  “I had to take anatomy, neuroscience, and anatomy of speech and hearing…it’s more than just teaching those who are stuttering”, Jenna says. She also notes that stuttering is actually a pretty uncommon phenomenon and that stuttering is only a small part of what she has learned how to treat.

The first two years of this five year major are spent learning in various lectures and classes. In their third year, these students observe clinic, and the fourth year they do therapy at Duquesne’s in-house clinic, and the fifth and final year students participate in externships at schools and hospitals.

Virtual Externships

Externships are extremely important to those in speech pathology. They have to meet certain hours and requirements in their respective schools and hospitals that they are assigned in order to graduate and to practice therapy. They are able to do “simulated” practice sessions but they are limited to the amount that they can do. Currently, Jenna is placed in a school district where she works with three different schools via Zoom. “It’s very difficult, it’s been hard getting students to get online for school, let alone get on a Zoom call for a therapy session… it makes getting in my hours very difficult”, Jenna explains. The children she teaches have a hard time getting online and don’t always necessarily have the best attention span. They attempt to give the children breaks, but it is still difficult to get the kids back on track after the break.

She, out of her other classmates, lucked out and has a really great supervisor that helps her get her therapy and externship hours as much as possible, but others are not so lucky.  It is very dependent on the school or hospital where the students are placed. She has a classmate that hasn’t even begun her externship yet, and they are almost two months into school.

Completely Remote?

Though Jenna is completely remote for her fifth year studying in speech pathology, those at the beginning of the program still partake in in-person lectures and classes, as well as working at Duquesne’s on-campus clinic. I was surprised to learn that the in-person clinic is still operating as normal, and is considered a fundamental aspect in the learning process of the major.

One thing is for sure, things are definitely not the same, but Jenna like many others are working through the virtual challenges and are more determined than ever to make their college experience as normal as possible. 

From retailers, to restaurants, to students- everyone is learning to navigate a new world of virtual meetings, limited in-person contact and online classes. What other perspectives what YOU like to be seen in the spotlight? Let us know in the comments below!

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