Dear Montecito: Clare Kelly

By Stella Haffner   |   September 17, 2020

In response to the novel coronavirus, schools around the world rushed to integrate their curriculum into online learning platforms. Concessions were made by students, teachers, and administrators alike to accommodate a novel learning experience that was, to many, the bane of a semester reaching its conclusion.

I have heard many accounts of slow Wi-Fi and laptop-screen fatigue from friends who are pessimistic for the quickly approaching semester. This week, I am pleased to share with you the perspective of current student and future educator, Clare Kelly. Double majoring in English and secondary education at the University of Portland, Clare’s experience with online education, integration back into family life, and the upcoming school term serves as a dog-eared page representing the young experience of 2020.

Dear Montecito,

A typical Wednesday in Portland, Oregon. I’m walking from my Arabic Literature class back to my dorm, rocking out to my music, and nodding at people in passing as they smile and greet me in turn. Back in my dorm room, I check my email to find that everything has changed. I’ve learned that I have to pack up my life and return home.

Clare Kelly, at the University of Portland, with her residence advisor Peyton, shortly before coronavirus closed down the school

The news of COVID-19 spread quickly through the dorm. Panicked packing. Frenetic freshmen. I’ve always heard the saying “running around like a chicken with its head cut off” but had never seen anything I could relate it to. Now I can say that I have. Amidst the chaos, two freshman girls were trying to Tetris their furniture into the back of a single truck, when they should have had at least a truck each. I’m sure this was happening in dorms all around the country.

One practically empty flight later, I was back home, completing the academic year on Zoom. Classes on Zoom were a unique experience. Early on in the transition to online classes, we all figured out how to change our Zoom backgrounds. This meant that during a serious discussion in my American Literature class, my classmates began to notice that they could change their Zoom backgrounds. The person speaking would be the main window of focus, and their background could be anything from hanging out with SpongeBob in his pineapple home to being in the middle of an alien invasion. Once, my professor figured out how to change his background, and the beginning of class saw him relaxing on the Great Wall, then 10 minutes later he was chilling with dinosaurs during a meteor storm. Things like that definitely made classes more interesting and a little more bearable for us all.

Outside of online classes, I was back at home with my parents and brother, and I found myself looking for ways to fill the time. My parents had a good number of jobs for me to do from research to home renovation. Not being able to go out or work at the job I was planning to have, I now have time to read, write, and bake. Although I’ve always loved reading, I don’t usually have a lot of time to really get into a story – and there’s not much point if you can’t be invested since you can hardly remember what you’ve read half the time. I also enjoy writing my own stories, as it gives me a needed break from the world that we live in. I can create a world where the problems and conflicts of today do not exist.

But one of my favorite new activities has been baking bread from scratch with my father. We now call ourselves the “dubious baguette bakers,” and I know that the rest of my family is always happy when we bake, as fresh, homemade bread is always lovely. Each new batch of bread allows for something new that can be added, something new to explore. Butter, olive oil, and even salt sprinkled on top of the bread before baking can have a big change in the taste and the look of the bread.

Family is important to me, which has made quarantine infinitely more bearable. Since leaving for college almost two years ago, this is the most time I have spent in close quarters with my family. There’s the good and the bad. It is easy at times to become somewhat sullen having been cooped up in my house not able to go anywhere. But at the same time, I have enjoyed a good deal of time swimming and engaging in other activities with my younger brother, having movie nights on the weekend with the family, and of course, the seemingly endless supply of jigsaw puzzles on the dining room table.

As the summer is coming to an end, that means that it is almost time for school to begin again, and although it was originally planned for us to return to campus, it was decided that we will be returning to classes online only. This was not the news that my friends or I wanted, as we had all been excited to return to campus and to see each other once again. The past school year ended abruptly, and many of us did not get to properly say “goodbye and see you next year,” which made us all the more excited to be returning. Now with online classes, we’ll be more estranged than ever. But I will do my best to go with it and try to enjoy my classes, as much as one can truly enjoy their classes. As I’m missing my friends and college in Oregon, I’m hoping that sunny Santa Barbara might have just a couple days of cool weather and fog to remind me of what I’ll be returning to in Portland.


Clare Kelly


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