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For Christendom students, the current health crisis has proven challenging. With campus now closed and the residential life temporarily cut off, students are continuing their education at home like many around the world. Yet, students are discovering consolation amidst the chaos by finding ways to connect with their professors and fellow students, including through shared online classes, virtual student events, and more.

Christendom began online distance learning on March 23, with students now wrapping up their second week of online classes. Not having the in-person connection is hard, but, according to sophomore Kathleen Sullivan, the experience has made the college community even stronger.

“It’s hard to have the same personal connection that we have with each other and our professors with online classes but, by transitioning into them, I have been able to realize how connected our school has remained despite all of us having to leave campus,” says Sullivan. “Even though we are disconnected from our usual routine of seeing each other and working with one another, all of the professors have made an effort to make sure all of us students are doing okay and they have been there every step of the way, making it as easy as possible for us. [Online classes] will never give the satisfaction the in-class environment does, but the lectures our professors have posted make it more personal and have helped us stay connected even though we’re not all together.”

In the case of junior Bridget Schneider, she has been taking online classes a week longer than the rest of the student body. Schneider was in Rome for the college’s study-abroad semester, before being evacuated from the country due to the coronavirus. Losing her Rome semester has been hard, yet Schneider has found strength in her interactions with students, faculty, and staff.

“I left my home in Louisiana at the beginning of February not expecting to see it again until after I had quenched my desire to travel all over Europe,” recalls Schneider. “However, what was supposed to be a 3-month adventure, turned into a 2-week trip when [our semester in Rome] was canceled with the onset of COVID-19 and we were all sent home. Even with this switch we did not expect to lose access to campus and then the campus community altogether. However, I think it made us [Rome students] realize we are all, every student, facing this tragedy together. Now instead of crying ‘woe is me,’ we can all reach out and help each other get through this together.”

The times that Schneider is able to live-stream her classes are so special now because she gets to see the professors and classmates that she misses so much. Besides the classes, she is now calling and texting to keep in touch with her friends whenever possible. For sophomore Daniel Duca, he has been doing the same, calling his friends on a regular basis to discuss and figure things out together. He is even keeping up with his Stronghold — a small student group that holds each other accountable to prayer throughout the academic year. It’s not the same experience, but Duca is finding that the communication he is able to have with his friends and stronghold is keeping him grounded.

“In a certain way, I do feel more connected with my teachers and friends because we are going through such a strange thing together and we’re all supporting each other in that,” says Duca. “But I do feel disconnected though, simply because we are not physically together, hanging out and studying and all that stuff. I really miss just walking to class with my friends or staying up late and hanging out in the dorms discussing what we’re learning or just making food together. Living together changes a lot of things.”

That disconnect from the normal, residential life has been rough for students, including senior Anthony Storey. In what should have been the pinnacle of his Christendom education, he is now at home talking to friends and professors over a computer. While it is not ideal, Storey is appreciating the efforts faculty and staff are making to bring cultural aspects of Christendom life to the comfort of his home.

Every Christendom professor has had to take their classes online, including college president Dr. Timothy O’Donnell.

“I’m definitely feeling more in touch with my professors, who have made a huge effort to stay in communication with us for classes, as well as extracurriculars like [Professor Mike] Brown’s recipes and trivia nights,” says Storey. “We’re all doing our best to adjust and get the most out of this time at home. Thank God for the professors and [college chaplain] Fr. Pollard, whose regular communication with the students reminds us why it’s worth it to keep up with the work.”

Students looking for help with their coursework outside of their live-streamed classes have been able to schedule virtual meetings with their professors and the college’s student support services team. In addition, typical staples of academic life — such as the college’s peer tutors and Writing Center — are now being offered virtually, and the college’s counseling services are now available online also.

Students are working on other ways to bring Christendom to their homes and stay connected. Coffee House, an annual comedy night for students, is now being performed virtually, and students are working on other ways to bring campus culture to their homes as well.

None of the students or professors have faced an event like this in their lifetimes. Nevertheless, they are finding solace in each other and their shared education. Seniors will still have a commencement at a later date, and the rest of the student body is more eager than ever to return to their second home in the Shenandoah Valley.

“In the face of all this, it is beautiful to see staff, faculty, and students reaching out to one another,” concludes Schneider. “It truly shows how much we value and care for the health, both spiritual and physical, of each person at Christendom. After all this is over, I will never again take for granted the community life we are so blessed to have on Christendom’s campus.”

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