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Grad CLAS student quarantine life: How are we dealing?

By Riley Gerenda ’20 MA

Since our world changed with the COVID-19 pandemic, graduate students in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences have had to adapt to a new way of learning and living. I reached out to a few Grad CLAS students to see how they are dealing with these unprecedented times.

Psychology graduate student Aarti Bodas

Psychology graduate student Aarti Bodas is across the country at home in Seattle earlier than she expected. Being three hours behind her classmates has been an adjustment, and the biggest change to her academics since moving online has been the high probability of proposing her master's thesis project online. She says, “It’s a big moment and it just doesn’t feel the same as doing it in person.” Although she doesn’t get to spend as much time with her family as she’d like because of balancing her assistantship and classes, Aarti is thankful for the ability to take classes and complete lab work from home.

Finding the silver lining in this situation is keeping Aarti’s positivity afloat, and she keeps an eye out for little things that help boost morale. Spending time with her family, video chatting with her Nova family, and learning new and interesting information and skills, such as recipes for Indian foods and baking, help keep her spirits up. Aarti stays up to date with all things coronavirus and is very relieved to see that the country might be slowly and surely flattening the curve. While social distancing makes Aarti sometimes feel out of touch with everything and everyone, being with the people she cares about most reminds her of how lucky she is to be less affected than others.

Tara Gates ’20 MA, Education

Life has slowed down since the social distancing order has quarantined Tara Gates ’20 MA, Education, with her husband and children at home. She had spent a lot of her time on campus as a full-time student and Learning Support Services intern this semester. Tara's final semester has been bittersweet as she completed her degree remotely. She missed running into fellow students to chat and growing relationships with professors, who have been some of the most helpful and encouraging people Tara has met. Leaving teaching after 18 years to prepare to work in disability and learning support services in higher education was a huge leap of faith. Now, with hiring freezes in higher education and the inability to relocate, Tara, who is a certified special education teacher, has decided to return to teaching next year. She remains optimistic that she will be able to pursue her dream job at some point and turns to her family for extra support in these hard times.

For starters, there is a new addition to the house. Doc, Tara’s newly adopted puppy, has been a great distraction, as he requires quite a lot of attention. Cooking has become a group effort, and the kids help Tara with menu planning and kitchen support. She makes sure to challenge her children, who are missing sports desperately, with physical activities. Daily walks help Tara check in with her husband, who runs a small business and is working quickly to diversify some businesses practices. Zoom meetings with undergraduate friends from all over the U.S. serve as weekly happy hours to catch up and share what is going on in different corners of the world, and Tara is thankful for being able to reach family and friends easily online. Tara and her family continue to be active members of their community by grocery shopping for and helping older people in her neighborhood, tutoring students struggling with online learning, and donating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to a local homeless shelter.

As huge fans of Villanova Athletics, Tara and her family will continue to visit and support their favorite teams. Her time on campus has been very special, she says, ““I feel very proud to now call myself an alumna of Villanova University.”

John Shindelar ’20 MA, Political Science

John Shindelar ’20 MA, Political Science, was a regular in Old Falvey’s Graduate Student Lounge. Since the spread of COVID-19 and quarantine have forced him online, however, John has found new ways to connect with his studies while embracing time at home with his wife and children.

While John tries to get as much done on his research projects as efficiently as he could, things look different now. His mornings have become the most productive, academically. John is happy to take little breaks to steal a few minutes with his two- and four-year-old children and eat meals with them. Simply talking with his wife or even watching a show together helps John decompress, and chasing his older “chainmail”-clad son around with a drone can add some entertainment to an otherwise mundane day. While John’s plan to travel across the U.S. and France with his family this summer has changed as a result to the pandemic, he finds light in his relationship and faith in God, research around conflict and reading a lot of war memoirs. When all else fails, John turns to chocolate (we’re talking 78% cocoa content baseline) to cheer him up.

John looks forward to organizing more virtual hangout time with friends from Villanova after graduation, and, in the meantime, he and his family have been donating food and supplies to local kids from lower-income families while he awaits the status of his post-graduate job opportunity working in counter-terrorism. A silver lining in the move to online interactions, John says, is “[getting] to know my professors better. I’ve had more one-on-one time with them, and the ongoing situation has led to more conversations about personal life than before.”

Riley Gerenda ’20 MA, is a recent Communication graduate and served as a graduate assistant in the CLAS Office of Graduate Studies.

About Villanova University’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences: Since its founding in 1842, Villanova University’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences has cultivated knowledge, understanding and intellectual courage for a purposeful life in a challenged and changing world. With 39 majors across the humanities, social sciences and natural sciences, it is the oldest and largest of Villanova’s colleges, serving more than 4,500 undergraduate and graduate students each year. The College is committed to a teacher-scholar model, offering outstanding undergraduate and graduate research opportunities and a rigorous core curriculum that prepares students to become critical thinkers, strong communicators and ethical leaders with a truly global perspective.