For Class of 2021, final exams provide comfort, familiarity amid COVID chaos

Posted November 14, 2020 3:31 p.m. EST
Updated November 14, 2020 3:34 p.m. EST

The days and weeks leading up to final exams are generally a time of distress for college students. But this semester, amid COVID-19 and remote instruction, some students are finding the more-familiar, time-consuming stress to be comforting.

“I think it's gotten a lot easier. It doesn't feel like life is going by without us. I feels like everything is normal even though things are very not normal,” said Sharmi Amin, a senior at Duke University. “Because we are motivated to wrap the semester, it doesn't feel like class is just sitting through a Zoom lesson anymore; it feels like active learning.”

Many local universities are operating on a condensed or abbreviated schedule due to the ongoing pandemic. With only a week remaining before exams at Duke, UNC Chapel Hill, and NC State, some students are being sucked into a “mental drought.”

NC State senior Bryce Royal says he’s just now pulling himself out of one.

NC State senior Bryce Royal

“There is definitely a lot of work to do in a short amount of time,” said Royal. “There have been a lot of ups and downs with my experience with NC State this semester. It's definitely been different. It's probably changed me for the better, as far as being adaptive to unfamiliar situations.”

At UNC Chapel Hill, Vivian Le, too, is currently inundated with “school work, work; work and school work,” but to her that means, “It’s kinda normal. It's just like any other year. It's just this year is a lot more at home.”

Vivian Le, a senior at UNC

And it is hunkering down to “grind” for finals that is familiar to so many college students.

“I think at the beginning I had a lot of trouble doing work in my apartment. I would constantly be checking my phone, I have a lot of fear of missing out even though no one else was doing anything,” said Amin referring to the beginning of the semester.

Sharmi Amin, a senior at Duke University

”Now, because I’m busy, I kinda wake up, and I make a list of things to do, and I actually feel so much more comfortable doing work in my apartment. Everyone's sort of just gotten back into a flow of doing work.”

Despite the comfort of a busy final exam season, what comes after is another, and this time final, semester of uncertainty.

“It feels like we’ve graduated, and it doesn't feel like senior year,” said Amin. ”I feel like everything that I witnessed freshman, sophomore, junior year regarding senior year, this isn't it. But it's been okay. The experience we’ve had – it’s been totally normalized at this point. It’s definitely not what I imagined though.”

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