Reflections from the “COVID Class”

Student wearing Gonzaga march and a mask.
Join Gonzaga's class of 2024 as they reflect on their resilience and adaptability while navigating college amidst a pandemic.
May 07, 2024
Sydney Fluker ('24)

The world shut down on March 13, 2020.

We got the news our school would shut down the day before. I was practicing a Bhangra dance with my friends that we would perform the next day at our school’s annual multicultural celebration, but that celebration never came. I never returned to my high school.

Life moved on, though. I toured Gonzaga through a Zoom video, and committed based on phone calls with professors and admissions officers who patiently answered every question I had. I finished up my high school classes online.

When high school graduation rolled around, it was held over Zoom. I wore pajamas under my gown and watched the ceremony from my kitchen, then promptly returned to watching Netflix in bed. It was quite the celebration.

The time came a few months later to move up to Spokane. My family packed up our car and drove the 14 hours from the East Bay Area, California, to my new home in Eastern Washington. Over the course of a few days, we unpacked my life into my room in St. Catherine-Monica Hall, separated from potential new friends by six feet of distance and masks.

Move in during covid, people wearing masks.
Parents and students filed into campus for move-in, donning masks.

Though professors and RAs tried to make life seem as normal as possible, there was nothing typical about the start of our college experience. It’s hard to make friends when the Zoom breakout rooms are awkward and monitored by professors. Personalities are hard to gauge when one has to unmute themself to make any sort of a comment. Despite allowing us to continue our education (something I am extremely grateful for), Zoom classes were isolating and difficult to follow.

Socially, the first semester was rough. Wildfire smoke for most of September kept everyone indoors while social distance policies kept everyone separated. Almost everyone in my hall got COVID or sent to the isolation hall two weeks into the semester, leaving it eerily empty as the students who remained avoided each other for fear of contamination. Despite the permission to have a social bubble, community was hard to come by.

I came home for Thanksgiving break that November ready to stay. My parents had to convince me to return to Gonzaga. The first few months on campus had been so traumatic I couldn’t imagine going back, but I did. Boy, am I glad I did.

Though the spring semester of my first year wasn’t much better than the first, I at least knew what to expect. I attended my first in-person class in January of 2021. I made more friends, and found my footing with doing extracurriculars via Zoom. With so much time on my hands, I threw myself into writing for The Gonzaga Bulletin and connected with parts of campus I never heard of. Despite still being masked-up, I made the best of it.

Spike and students in masks in Hemmingson.
Spike, wearing his own mask, joins students in Hemmingson.

Life didn’t return to “normal” until junior year, but it got easier. We got used to the masks and the awkward Zoom pauses. Intramurals came back, the Rudolf Fitness Center stopped requiring reservations and the COG finally got rid of the plexiglass dividers sitting atop its tables.

Looking toward graduation next Sunday, I imagine it will be different from how I ended high school.

For one, I will wear a dress under my gown, not pajamas. I will walk across a legitimate stage instead of standing next to my kitchen counter. I will get to shake the hand of the school’s president, a gesture we couldn’t imagine making with someone outside our bubble at this time four years ago. After the ceremony, I will get to take pictures with my friends and family, hugging my loved ones as we celebrate such an accomplishment.

Patience, empathy, endurance. Whether or not I am aware of it, I carry the lessons I learned through life on a college campus during the pandemic with me everywhere.

Below are brief reflections from other students, some who studied from home and some who came to campus. Though our class had varying experiences, we are all bonded through what we went through. Most importantly, we made it through.

Congratulations, Zags. We deserve it.

Lucy Kramer

Major: English, concentration in literature
Minors: critical race & ethnic studies; women, gender, & sexuality studies; film studies
Status in 2020-2021: On campus

“I’m glad I came [at the start of my first year] because I don’t think I would have been developed socially in the same way,” Kramer says. “I still got to make friends and meet people in a way that would not have happened if I had skipped a year. I’m very glad I didn’t skip that year because I think I am on a good path in my life right now, so if I had taken a gap year I don’t know where I’d be honestly … It was definitely a weird time, though. Thinking about how quickly we all adapted to that was so interesting, because we didn’t really go fully back until our junior year. We’re probably the only people that went through something like that. We just had to roll with it.”

Max Montoya

Major: sports management
Minors: digital marketing, public relations
Status in 2020-2021: On campus

“I’m actually really glad I came to college in that first year because I got to meet people,” Montoya says. “We were all going through the same circumstances, all having graduated during that COVID time, so it was a really good opportunity to meet people … Plus, it was different. I remember in my Indigenous Science class we had to do our labs from home, so I literally dissected an owl pellet on my desk. It's one of those things that’ll be a fun memory when we look back on it, so I’m glad I came. I don’t regret it at all.”

Protas Lembetia

Major: finance, management information systems
Minor: leadership studies
Status in 2020-2021: Remote

“I’m glad I stayed home because it helped me ease into college life and work,” Lembetia says. “I had some time to process what it’s like to be a college student, being involved still with the whole experience but slowly getting to it. I was really appreciative of that … I missed out on that [social aspect], but I found ways to navigate the virtual experience of having to create connections online. I just did what I could to find community and find ways to get involved at school, and I tried to be grateful for the years I could look forward to. Now, with so little time left, I’m grateful for the whole experience, even though it was a little bit different from other classes and even my peers.”


Matt P. Johnson

Major: Civil engineering
Status in 2020-2021: On campus

“I loved that year because I loved my dorm [Goller],” Johnson says. “The biggest thing was most people in Goller had some shared identity because a lot of us are studying the same thing, so we had a bunch of classes together. That [dorm] made our freshman year so good because we were able to hang out with a small group of people and become so close with each other. With that environment, I don’t think a gap year would have been beneficial for me. I think the way Gonzaga handled living on campus with COVID was much better compared to other universities.”

Isabela Ascencio

Major: Nursing
Status in 2020-2021: On campus

“It was hard,” Ascencio says. “Freshman year was just on Zoom, and we were stuck in our dorms. The only place you could really go was the cafeteria to get food, so it felt very isolating. I wasn’t doing clinicals or anything, so my nursing classes weren’t too affected, but the transition from freshman to sophomore year was definitely a punch in the face … I don’t regret coming, though. I met the people I’m friends with now, and I don’t know what that would have looked like had I come in sophomore year.”

Commencement is approaching for Gonzaga's "COVID Class." Learn more about their well deserved celebration!
  • Academics
  • Student Life
  • Health & Wellness
  • Critical Race & Ethnic Studies
  • English
  • Film Studies
  • Hogan Entrepreneurial Leadership Program
  • Public Relations
  • Sport Management
  • Women's and Gender Studies
  • Business Administration