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A Look Back on the Past Academic Year with the Gummere Fellows

Gummere Fellow Collage
March 25, 2021

To reflect on the past academic year, we sat down virtually with three Gummere Fellows, Aaron O’Neill ‘21, Margaret Blackstone ‘22, and Gabe Anzeze ‘23 to discuss all things student-life after moving back to campus for the spring semester.

They shared insights into the transition to remote learning and back again to a hybrid model, as well as what they learned about themselves on the way as they adapted.

Aaron O'Neill '21

Major: Economics and Politics

Minor: Legal Studies

Hometown: Franklin, TN

Student Involvement: Men's Hockey, Inter-Text Humanities Journal, Gummere Fellows, Economics SAAC Representative

Q. Back in the spring and even this fall semester, what was the transition to remote learning and work like for you? How long was the adjustment period?

A. Workwise the transition has been fairly smooth. Much of my work was through an online platform anyway and has required minimal adjustment. As far as school, that has been a little more challenging in the sense that both us and the professors didn’t have a great idea of what to expect. I think it took about a month into the fall semester this year to be completely used to the routine and what to expect from class.

Q. What was the transition like back to campus this spring? What’s your class schedule like – in person, hybrid, or completely virtual?

A. My transition has been fairly easy. I was here during most of the summer and was able to get fully adjusted to my work schedule and the Chicago COVID protocols. I am also fully remote for classes this semester and am only taking 1.5 credits which has made it fairly straightforward. The biggest transition was the testing and protocols with regard to athletics.

Q. How did you practice self-care during this time? Are you still practicing these habits?

A. It has been difficult in the first part of the semester with an inability to see others and feeling fairly isolated. I am very fortunate to have 3 roommates that keep me entertained and have been careful to take time in the evenings for things I enjoy such as watching movies and sports.

Q. What is one important thing that you learned about yourself or your habits?

A. The biggest thing I have noticed is that I don’t necessarily enjoy being alone as much as I previously thought. When you are alone 90% of the time it helps you realize how much help you really need from others and how important we are to each others’ lives and health.

Q. What aspects of virtual learning do you most enjoy? Were you surprised at anything you ended up enjoying?

A. I have enjoyed the convenience, you don’t have to get up and walk through the snow to get to class and it makes it easier to find time for meals, calls, and emails during the day.

Q. Were your original school/work/internship plans for the 2020-21 academic year altered? How did you adapt?

A. My work/internship plans weren’t adjusted too much, I was able to take my finance internship online and continue working in a similar capacity. If anything the change has provided some added benefits as my semester internship has turned into a year-long experience and has allowed me to develop much stronger relationships with the people I work with than I would have initially expected. I have been fortunate to work with supervisors that have been very flexible and understanding with everything going on and it has made the transition much easier.

Q. Have you developed any new hobbies as a result of spending more time at home?

A. I haven’t developed any specific new hobbies, but I have started setting up for a sports blog with two of my friends so hopefully that comes to fruition in the near future.

Q. What advice would you give students who are looking to make the most of today’s virtual environment?

A. Take advantage of the additional time you have, whether it be reading more, keeping up on news, or developing a new skill. Also, don’t be afraid to better understand what ways technology can help your life or make it easier for you.

Q. What are you most proud of this year?

A. I am most proud of my ability to consider graduate school, financial, and athletic factors to ultimately make the best decisions for myself for the spring semester.

Q. How has the College helped with the transition to remote and then the transition back to campus?

A. I think the school has been very open and honest with their thought process with regard to the decision to go remote and subsequently return to on-campus learning. I know the administration and faculty have worked tirelessly to provide us with the best learning experience possible and we, as students, are very grateful for that.

Margaret Blackstone '22

Major: Business and Music

Minor: Music Education

Hometown: Roseville, MN

Student Involvement: Concert Band, Relay for Life, TEDxLakeForestCollege, Student Ambassadors, Gummere Fellows, Intramurals, Alpha Phi Omega 

Q. Back in the spring and even this fall semester, what was the transition to remote learning and work like for you? How long was the adjustment period?

A. The transition to remote learning was a slap in the face—I wasn’t prepared. I have a lot of music classes, so we’d have to do them online and it just wasn’t the same. The adjustment in the spring took a little while, but in the fall, I took the time to get as much out of the class that I possibly could. Finding a whole new schedule and a new pace for how to take notes online and how to study for online exams took a week or two, but I eventually got there!

Q. What was the transition like back to campus this spring? What’s your class schedule like – in person, hybrid, or completely virtual?

A. The transition back to campus in the spring was a lot easier than I thought it was going to be. It was just like riding a bike again being back on campus, it was so much fun to get into everything again. My class schedule is all virtual, except I have Concert Band in person, so we are at least able to make music.

Q. How did you practice self care during this time, are you still practicing these habits?

A. I have learned over quarantine that I am more of an introvert than what I thought, so after just taking time to be by myself and knowing that being by myself is okay, I started reading new books, trying a bunch of different foods, baking and cooking, and I actually also started running. I trained for a half-marathon during quarantine and I’m continuing to run, and that has been great!

Q. What is one important thing that you learned about yourself or your habits?

A. In a joking sense—I learned that I get really "hangry" and usually when I find myself annoyed, I just need to be fed. But more seriously, I’ve learned what it means to relax. For me, relaxing is just shutting off the laptop and going on a walk, or it’s taking a nap and just learning how to balance all of my activities with getting the energy that I need.

Q. What aspects of virtual learning do you most enjoy? Were you surprised at anything you ended up enjoying?

A. One of the aspects of virtual learning that I enjoyed the most was just the fact that people can Zoom in from all over the world. I think it was so much fun that in one class, we had someone from Poland, I was from Minnesota, and we had someone from Hawaii all in one class talking about the weather in each different place. I’m not gonna lie, I also enjoy being able to roll out of bed and go to class. I was surprised at how much work the professors put in, and I still learned a lot through it all.

Q. Were your original school/work/internship plans for the 2020-21 academic year altered? How did you adapt?

A. I was supposed to be abroad this semester and when I found out, I definitely cried. Instead, this semester I ended up coming back to campus and taking some classes, and finding different work opportunities even though I wasn’t supposed to be here. Through the extra credits from the College, I am now going to graduate a semester early in December, and I am going to go backpacking through Europe for a couple weeks before I join the workforce. 

Q. Have you developed any new hobbies as a result of spending more time at home?

A. Yes, I started running a ton and I’ve started reading which I really enjoy. I also played a lot of games with my family. We played a lot of card games and one of our favorite games that we started playing was Catan. 

Q. What advice would you give students who are looking to make the most of today’s virtual environment?

A. I would say, still find ways to meet people. If you see someone in a Zoom call, reach out to them! With everyone being virtual, we’re just looking for social connection so don’t be afraid to reach out and make new friends.

Q. What are you most proud of this year?

A. One thing I am most proud of personally was that I had an internship with UNICEF over the summer. Being able to help kids (especially during COVID-19) and being able to fundraise and spread awareness was an incredible experience. Also less personally, my brother got married and I was a proud little sister. Now, they’re expecting their first child which is so exciting and I’m going to be a proud aunt!

Q. How has the College helped with the transition to remote and then the transition back to campus?

A. The College was extremely accommodating when we first went remote with a new Pass/Fail policy, and my professors individually would reach out to me all the time. It’s nice when you know you’re not alone through a crisis, and just having the support of knowing you’re not alone is fantastic. In the transition back to campus, I was actually an Orientation leader and that helped a lot. I was able to still meet new people and see people in person as we’re prepping the first-years, and that is always a fun experience.

Gabe Anzeze '23

Major: Politics and Economics

Hometown: Nairobi, Kenya

Student Involvement: President of UMOJA, Gummere Fellows, College Council, Black Men's Group

Q. Back in the spring and even this fall semester, what was the transition to remote learning and work like for you? How long was the adjustment period?

 A. The transition was particularly difficult at the beginning because everything seemed monotonous as I spent entire days sitting on my desk through classes and meetings with no change in environment. Although it was exhausting, it certainly did allow me to do more things than usual since nothing required commuting!

Q. What was the transition like back to campus this spring? What’s your class schedule like – in person, hybrid, or completely virtual?

A. It was absolutely brilliant to finally see the campus come alive after spending the entire time here when it was shut down. I intentionally took one class that is in person just so I could get off my computer and actually go to a classroom every so often. All my other classes are online but it's much better this time since there's actually people around campus.

Q. How did you practice self-care during this time? Are you still practicing these habits?

A. During the summer and Fall 2020 I used to cycle around Lake Forest everyday and go for a swim at the lake every Saturday morning at 6am and it was always so good (the sun rises at the lake so it's always breathtaking at that time). It's too cold for any of that now so I use the gym for exercise.

Q. What is one important thing that you learned about yourself or your habits?

A. I learned that I enjoy reading autobiographies! I started the summer by reading the autobiography of a renowned Kenyan journalist, Jeff Koinange, and couldn't stop after, so I went on to read seven others and continue to do so! 

Q. What aspects of virtual learning do you most enjoy? Were you surprised at anything you ended up enjoying?

A. I thoroughly enjoy the flexibility it provides, I could attend class literally from anywhere! I actually did one of my summer classes from the beach last summer and it felt too good to be true. Since I work at the greenhouse, I added a space where I can do my schoolwork from and it has been the best decision ever!

Q. Were your original school/work/internship plans for the 2020-21 academic year altered? How did you adapt?

A. Fortunately the Richter Scholar Program continued virtually so I enjoyed doing that for the first part of summer in addition to summer classes. My biggest plan for summer of course was really to just go back home in Nairobi, Kenya, which was not possible because of the pandemic so fingers crossed for this summer!

Q. Have you developed any new hobbies as a result of spending more time at home?

A. Well, Moore Hall was my home the entire time but I began cycling more often around Lake Forest and that was amazing! (One of the Professors who retired donated their bike to me so I've been having a ball!) 

Q. What advice would you give students who are looking to make the most of today’s virtual environment?

A. Take very intentional breaks away from your screens! It will really allow you to focus when you have to be on your screens, plus it will save your eyesight.

Q. What are you most proud of this year?

A. Apart from surviving the pandemic thus far, I am actually very proud of being able to carry out my role as President of UMOJA remotely. It was a real challenge and continues to be and I could not have done it without the entire executive board! They're amazing.

Q. How has the College helped with the transition to remote and then the transition back to campus?

 A. ​The ITS office I must say has been EXTREMELY useful in this transition. They respond to inquiries super fast and that helped everyone work better, myself included. The re-opening plan for spring was very thorough and it gave me confidence in the College's capability to keep us safe. Being on College Council also allowed me to witness the thoroughness and detail with which everyone worked towards making this possible and I am eternally grateful!