Summer 2020

On Henry Mall

Young woman works on her laptop computer at a table in a bright, naturally lit kitchen.
Jori Skalitzky, a sophomore majoring in life sciences communication and environmental sciences, tackles her coursework from the kitchen table at her parents’ home in Marshall, Wis., during the COVID-19 pandemic in April 2020. Photos: Jesse Skalitzky


Jori Skalitzky is a sophomore majoring in life sciences communication and environmental sciences. She wrote this perspecitve in mid-April 2020, several weeks after classes moved to remote delivery at UW–Madison. Skalitzky works in the CALS External Relations Office.

It has been a weird time for all of us at UW–Madison. I honestly never expected to be in a situation like this. I don’t think anyone really expected it. Instead of spending springtime on UW’s lovely campus, I’ve found myself back at my family home in Marshall, Wisconsin. It’s only about a 40-minute drive to campus, but it feels like a world away right now.

I’ve spent the last few weeks floating around various parts of my house — bedroom, kitchen, basement — trying to make sense of the constantly changing information about COVID-19. I knew things were starting to get rough when I heard that K-12 schools were closing. UW wouldn’t close, right? Wrong. On March 11, the Wednesday before spring break, I got the email that the university would suspend in-person classes until April 10. Yikes! I should’ve guessed then that in-person classes would be suspended for the rest of the semester.

I was excited to spend spring break in London — a nice refresher before the semester started up again — and to hang out with friends without the worry of schoolwork. Excitement quickly turned into shock, disappointment, and sadness. My family decided to cancel our London trip (for good reason), and I decided to stay at my home until further notice. So long, Madison apartment.

It’s been a difficult adjustment. I haven’t been home with my parents, brother, and sister for a long time, but we’re making it work. We’re all dealing with things in our own way. One of my favorite pastimes has been going outside and taking a walk — sometimes with the family dog, Margo. It is a good way to clear your head and get some fresh air. I recommend it.

A young woman holds a small dog in her lap on a bench outside.
To help cope with the isolation of the COVID-19 pandemic, Jori Skalitzky finds solace in walks outside and time spent with her family’s dog, Margo.

Online classes have been, well, odd. It’s not the situation that anyone has hoped for, but I am very thankful that I am able to continue my education, even if it has to be virtually. I know others aren’t as lucky. Still, it has definitely been a different experience so far. My professors have done an incredible job with the transition to online learning. Aside from occasional technical difficulties, videos have been easy to access, and virtual sessions have worked fairly well. I would much rather be on campus attending lectures and discussion, but virtual classes have been going well enough. If I’m being honest, though, watching multiple videos each day can get a little tiring.

For all three of the classes I am taking, my professors have uploaded videos every week to go along with the other material. The videos are broken up nicely for the different days of the week. Most of my classes aren’t “live,” so I watch the assigned videos on their assigned days (a little bit like going to class!). The only “live” class I have is my calculus discussion, which takes place on BBCollaborate at 11 a.m. every Tuesday and Thursday. My TA will have the day’s worksheet on the screen and talk through problems while also answering the questions we type in the chat. (Shout-out to Ivan for making the transition to digital great! It’s nice to have a resource like him when we don’t have in-person class.)

I’m in a chemistry class, which isn’t ideal for an online format because lab work is a big part of the curriculum. It’s unfortunate, but thankfully there are plenty of online resources — videos on Kaltura and programs such as WebMO — to use in place of actually doing a lab. On Kaltura, we get to watch Dr. Wilkinson demonstrate how to do the lab (even though we won’t be in the lab anytime soon). WebMO is a cool program that lets us look at different molecules up-close, which allows us to answer questions about their shape and polarity. At least we are still learning something!

One thing that the transition to online hasn’t really affected for me is how I do homework. Chemistry and calculus have always had online homework through websites, such as Cengage, and my research methods class has always had quizzes online. The switch to online quizzes has been fine for my other two classes.

Honestly, online classes have been pretty smooth; it’s just tiring. It’s been tiring only because we’re all trapped inside. There isn’t really much to do that is productive besides schoolwork. It’s an unfortunate situation, but we have to do our part to flatten the COVID-19 curve.

I miss seeing my friends and others that I care about. I talk to them on a daily basis with the help of social media, which is nice, and videochatting has been a really fun way of staying connected. But it isn’t the same as seeing them in person.

Hopefully, if everyone continues to do their part, things will return to normal sooner than later. I’m looking forward to being back on campus!

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