Financial Aid for Beginners

Graphic by Kate Korepova

Written by Duncan McIntyre

In the age of COVID-19, students in higher-education institutions around the world have had to cope with a rapidly changing collegiate landscape. Classes are largely being held virtually, and students have had to deal with the financial strain caused by a global economic downturn. Some students may now, more than ever, need additional resources to help pay for school.        

For students at Austin Community College, this help can come in many forms. In addition to federal grants and loans, emergency relief funding from the American Rescue Plan now offers assistance to students who have been financially impacted by COVID-19.

The process to apply for financial aid can be difficult to navigate, and some students may not know what assistance is available. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is one of the most commonly utilized tools for students seeking aid, but there are also lesser-known avenues that students can take.                                                                          

Belinda Peña, an outreach coordinator for the ACC work-study program, discussed some of the benefits of applying for FAFSA.                                                                                        

“The main benefit is you’re applying for several types of financial aid all in one application,” Peña said “With just the FAFSA application, students are applying for grants, loans and work-study, which is a type of part-time work that students can do on-campus or off-campus.”                              

Another application, the Texas Application for State Financial Aid (TASFA) is also available. “The TASFA is very similar – it’s just for a specific population of students.” Peña said “So if they’re undocumented, for example, they may qualify. With the TASFA they’re applying for grant money and work study.”                                                                                                      

The financial aid department also offers resources for students who need help applying for FAFSA and other types of assistance. On their website there are videos with step-by-step instructions, and a chatbot that students can use 24/7 to locate relevant information.                     

The department also offers virtual workshops at certain times of year. In October, when the FAFSA application for the 2022-2023 school year opens; there will be a month of workshops that students can attend to get help completing their applications.                                                   

Peña also encourages students to seek alternative forms of aid. “Here at ACC we have over 600 scholarship opportunities that only require one application,” Peña said “On our website we also have a list of external scholarships. You can apply for external scholarships that are offered through different nonprofits and organizations throughout Texas.”                                                    

Isabel Torres is a single mother, an ACC student, and a participant in the work-study program. In regards to the financial aid process, Torres said “It was super easy. Financial aid was really good about giving me the steps for doing the financial aid application and explaining the differences between the grants.”                                                                                                        

Torres also connected with student assistance services, where she was able to find help caring for her child while continuing to pursue her education. “I have a daughter who’s 4, and she goes to the ACC child lab. She’s got great instructors,” Torres said.                                        

Isabel Torres smiles at the camera wearing a red sweater while her daughter sits on her lap smiling as well.
Austin Community College student, Isabel Torres, and her daughter. Torres has utilized ACC’s student assistance services to complete her FAFSA and access childcare which is helping her complete her schooling. Photo provided by Isabel Torres

Before coming to school, Torres was concerned about the affordability of education. “It was not in the budget at all,” Torres said. “Financial aid was a really crucial part of continuing my education.”                                                                                                                          

Students may be offered participation in work-study in their financial aid package. In work-study, they can earn $15.60 an hour, but unlike traditional aid such as grants and loans, students don’t have access to all the money offered at one time.                                                           

Torres recommends the program to all students. “The best thing about it is that you can make your schedule, you’re not going to be forced to work 40 hours a week,” Torres said. “The program is really flexible.”                                                           

As a participant in the program, Torres is employed by Student Affairs and works closely with advising and academic coaching counselors. In doing so, she has gained essential skills that will help her in careers to come.              

“I learn a lot of tools that are essential, especially interacting with people. Communication is going to be essential no matter what career I intend to go towards,” Torres said.                  

For students who are curious about the work-study program, or are trying to find help paying for school, Isabel has these words of advice: “I feel that at some point each student should try to meet with an advising counselor or check out student assistance resources. There are so many good tools that we offer. They really do want to help. You can ease the burden of responsibilities and focus on your future.”                                                                                                                          

The FAFSA application for the 2022-2023 school year opens in October, but applications are still available for students who have already started classes and who need aid.  Students looking for help paying for school can contact the student services help desk by calling 512-223-4243.

Graduating Virtually

Graphic by Kate Korepova

Story and Video By Pete Ramirez

In order to protect ourselves from COVID-19, much of our lives and work have been pushed into virtual settings. Austin Community College’s spring 2021 commencement was no different and was also forced to be held virtually. 

ACCENT wanted to check-in with students graduating during this unusual time, so we reached out to a pair of recent ACC graduates, Emily Pesina and Ashley Silva. ACCENT editor-in-chief, Pete Ramirez, spoke to both graduates to understand what their graduation experience was like and what they had planned for the near future.

A picture of a smiling young woman named Ashley Silva. And a small screen with a picture of a smiling young man named Pete Ramirez.
Ashley Silva, a recent Austin Community College graduate and recipient of the spring 2021 Chancellor’s Student Achievement Award, speaks to ACCENT editor-in-chief, Pete Ramirez, about the her graduation experience.

Pride Month: Legislative Edition

By: Kyrios LoNigro

This year is seemingly the worst on record for LGBT+ equality. More than 250 anti-LGBT+ bills have been introduced in state legislatures across the U.S. Texas is the leading state with 12 bills being proposed this legislative session, targeting transgender youth. One banning a type of school sports participation and, another, health care access to transgender children. and another. Debates over transgender people living freely in the U.S. have been shown to have negative consequences on their mental health.

Mateo Marquez, theater student, says his K-12 experience was exhausting. In high school he encountered more than name-calling, just for being a transgender student.

“Freshman year I was threatened,” Marquez said. “I was harassed [by one specific classmate.]”

Marquez’s classmate told others at school that transgender people needed to die. Despite this harassment, Marquez says the school did not seek disciplinary action against the boy. This type of discrimination causes many transgender students to drop out of school.

The Trevor Project is the country’s biggest LGBT+ youth crisis phone line, focused on supporting suicide prevention efforts for those under the age of 25. Phone calls drastically increase when when trans-phobic rhetoric circulates and bills are proposed.

Missi Patterson an ALLY at ACC said, “I hear so many people in the lawmaking community say, ‘You’re either a man or a woman. It’s just science.’ I want them to understand that that’s not even true.”

Texas and Florida are the two top states with the most instances of Fatal Anti-Trans violence, according to the Human Rights Campaign.

“It’s scary because your life is at risk here – they’re making fun of you solely because you’re trans.” Marquez said. “You don’t want to be hate-crimed for it, but you also want to stick up for yourself.”

Ari Thomas, a health science student who is also gay and non binary. Although they believe their sexuality hasn’t received negative responses at ACC, they have not come out as non-binary.

“I’ve never had anybody say anything to me just because I’m gay,” said Thomas. “People don’t know I’m non binary at ACC but that’s mostly because I’m doing online classes and haven’t gone to in-person classes yet.”

Thomas expressed that if they did encounter discrimination they wouldn’t know how to handle it due to lack of face-to-face interactions with instructors in remote classes and online information.

“I’ve never seen anything LGBT related on the website,” said Thomas.

Neither Marquez nor Thomas knew about ACC’s LGBT+ Equity Committee, whose aim is to provide education to faculty, staff, and students at ACC about LGBT+ issues.

A primary component of the committee is their advocacy for long-term systemic change that can be achieved by policy revisions and support networks through their ALLY program and events.

Despite one of the committee’s goals of providing support, the committee is not often easily accessible. A Google search brings you to their Facebook where little information is provided on the committee – only their email.

“You have to know how to search for us,” Matthew Campbell, co-chair of ACC’s LGBT+ Equity Committee, said. Campbell said the secrecy is due to bigoted language they have received in response to trying to reach students through ACC’s email contact lists.

“It’s usually on the lines of homophobic or religiously motivated,” Campbell said. “We don’t do that anymore.”

Campbell also shared the committee is working with ACC to require students to participate in sensitivity training to mitigate the issue after they expand their ALLY program. So, for the moment, the committee is building their own email lists and operating by word of mouth.

 “All organizations have to go through a chain to be able to access those email addresses,” Campbell said.

Interested students must opt into receiving their newsletters and emails. Campbell shared that the committee has been receiving more engagement recently, but the pandemic has made connecting to students difficult, being that information isn’t as easily found on posters on campus or other ways.

In her psychology class, Patters creates space for her LGBT+ students by asking them to put their pronouns in their zoom names. Additionally, she asks them to provide their preferred name at the beginning of class.

The Ally Program trains ACC employees to create space and support for LGBT+ students. Employees of ACC can become an ally by filling out an interest form. Interested parties will be notified when a training is available.

“[The training] wasn’t difficult at all,” Patterson said. “We had an incredible guest speaker from UT and it was really enjoyable.”

In addition to the ALLY training, Patterson recommends training on how to be an advocate through organizations like the Texas Freedom Network, Texas Rising, and Equality Texas.

Many LGBT+ youth and adults are not accepting of these bills filled with trans-phobic rhetoric being proposed into the Texas legislature.

“We don’t need people checking our genitals. End of story. We are who we are. We are just like everyone else,” Marquez said.


Mateo Marquez, Ari Thomas, Missi Patterson, Matthew Campbell
(left to right) Mateo Marquez, Art Thomas, Missi Patterson, Matthew Campbell

Taking Initiative: Why, and How Students Should Start Honoring Asian Heritage This Month

ACCENT spoke to Asian-American career counselor, Shun-Heng (Henry) Tsai, TV production major student Opal S. Framnes, and engineering student Alex Hsu who spoke on several aspects relevant to Asian American heritage month.

By: Renata Salazar

How much do you know about Asian American heritage? 

This is the question students at Austin Community College should ask themselves when learning to embrace and honor different cultures and their traditions– a crucial factor to creating a welcoming and inclusive community at ACC. ACCENT spoke to Asian-American career counselor, Shun-Heng (Henry) Tsai, TV production major student Opal S. Framnes, and engineering student Alex Hsu who spoke on several aspects relevant to Asian American heritage month.

“Something I will never forget is where I come from, my background and origin is from Asia,” Tsai said.

Tsai honors his Taiwanese heritage in America by enjoying local Asian food as well as keeping up with films and books from his culture.. There are also official and local communities with events to celebrate diversity through Asian art, political issues, food, and other traditional rituals. Tsai is also able to help students with their career goals as an Asian American career counselor at the college like Hzu.  

Hzu, an engineering major at ACC, is a taiwanese student who moved to Texas four years ago. As a minority in the U.S. Hzu consistently absorbs and learns more about different cultures, while still honoring his own.

 “A big part of our Asian culture/heritage is having a very strong family bond,” Hzu shares, “we have a lot of festivals that are meant to be celebrated with family members, such as Lunar New Year, Moon Festival, and Qingming Festival.”

Student Opal Framnes, an Taiwanese student and mother working towards a major in TV production, believes being able to interpret and explain your own culture is an important factor when letting people hear your story.

“We have to do our own part first, and create opportunities that allow people to understand our culture”  

“Everybody has different stories no matter who you are, so we need to let people listen to us”

“Even though most of our cultures are not similar at all, I think ACC, or any other institutions should do the same to educate their students to be open-minded” states Hzu.

“Different departments officiate events organized by the college that allows students and staff to participate and learn more about or even just help promote social justice.” 

Implementing these events to get to know other people from various cultures sparks a conversation where students can mutually benefit from each other’s experiences.

To shed a light on the positive and interesting aspects of Asian heritage Framnes believes “It comes down to being a better person, we are living in a different country and we can contribute to a lot of things.” 

Educating students, and ourselves is pivotal. Whether through your own research online or participating and seeking to learn about different heritages, you are taking the initiative to honor a different culture unlike your own. It is common for ACC students to come from a homogenous background. Tsai believes it is “very important to promote awareness of the idea of multiculturalism, diversity, equity and inclusiveness coming from any curriculum design”  

ACC’s Dean  made a statement regarding recent hate crimes against Asian Americans, officially demonstrating their stance of support against anti-Asia hate crimes. “The college is working to establish a new Asian-American cultural center and it has been an ongoing project now becoming part of the 2022-2025 Academic Master Plan.” 

“It will be so nice for students to know that they have a student organization that belongs to them, and feel comfortable sharing their culture.” Tsai states.

With the following steps: hiring personnel and establishing other aspects, we should look forward to seeing ACC’s Asian American Cultural Center be installed in Spring 2021. 

Alongside the new cultural center, students like Hzu are also in search of ways to get more Asian American voices involved at ACC. One of Zhu’s goals is to become a person that advocates for Asian American voices like his own. 

“People only listen to the ones that are influential, so to let more people know our heritage, the way is to succeed and use your power and influence to change what people thought about you stereotypically.”

“This is all about educating oneself,” With relevant climates pertaining to Asian Hate crimes, it is important to know what you can do to support Asian Communities and prevent racially motivated crimes, and his response was–participate. 

“Everything comes down to being aware of the prejudices and stereotypes we might usually project on to other races,” Tsai says. 

Signing Up with a Study Group

The Study Session I attended has introduced me to an additional resource on my academic journey, one that I will be heavily utilizing in the future. I recommend that any student struggling with a class or requiring a place to review take advantage of all the Learning Lab has to offer.

By: Jaxon Williams

In this time of remote learning, Austin Community College resources have found ways to support students in challenges that come with virtual classrooms. Shortly before the pandemic, the Learning Lab began offering study group sessions where students could easily register for a wide array of online tutoring sessions with their ACC Gmail accounts, held through services like Zoom and Google Meet. As more and more students transitioned to remote learning the attendance numbers for all Learning Lab online sessions shot up. So much so that the Learning Lab made the effort to hire full time online instructors to help meet the new demand. Wondering myself exactly what benefits students were receiving from participating in these sessions, I decided to register for one myself.  

After attending my first online session, it was clear to me that the Learning Lab at ACC is one of the most valuable resources available to students. A resource that I myself have not been taking advantage of. My experience with the Learning Lab and with their online methods of instruction was nothing short of insightful as well as convenient. From the process of registering to the actual delivery of the instruction, the Learning Lab has definitely managed to make something that could be difficult to navigate and plan out so streamlined and quick. All students need to do is visit ACC’s website and register for a session under the ‘Tutoring’ tab. There, students will find a calendar with a list of future sessions in a variety of different subjects. It only takes registering with an ACC ID and email to reserve a space for you in the session held through Google Meet. The session that I attended was centered around Redox Reactions in Chemistry. I myself am not majoring in science, but surprisingly I was still able to keep up and participate in the session. The instructor took the time to answer any questions I had while also making sure that what was being reviewed was being fully understood. No stone was left unturned. No question unanswered. The experience as a whole was surprising and incredibly insightful. It made me wonder how I had gone for so long without taking advantage of such a useful service. 

After having such a positive experience, I decided to reach out to José Resendez, a tutor at the Learning Lab, to discuss what benefits students saw after participating in online study groups. Resendez shared that students who participated in these study groups on a regular basis saw an improvement in their class performance. Not only that, Resendez also reported that the majority of students who attended the Learning Lab sessions were successful in both graduating and transferring to other institutions. He credits these figures to the fact that by attending sessions on a regular basis. Resendez said that “Students begin building the good study habits that are the foundation for success.”. 

The study session I attended has introduced me to an additional resource on my academic journey, one that I will be heavily utilizing in the future. I recommend that any student struggling with a class or requiring a place to review take advantage of all the Learning Lab has to offer.  Getting started with these good study habits is as easy as going to ACC’s website. There, you will find the option to sign up for online study sessions under the Tutoring tab of the Student Support section of the website. All available upcoming sessions will be shown in the list of Learning Lab Virtual Events. 

ACC Students Take on Virtual Events

Three students of Austin Community College share their perspectives on how virtual events have impacted their life, and what they believe could be done better; a guide for officials to consider, and implement into the academic format we now consider our new normal.

By: Renata Salazar

Austin Community College has continued virtual learning during the global pandemic for over an academic year, as of now. As we approach another semester of online education, it is easy to become overwhelmed during the school year when navigating online classes and might often feel discouraged from the lack of every day interaction  with classmates and staff. ACC provides more than education, as students continue to develop relationships and interact with each other through student organizations and events. From Arts and Crafts with April Seabourn, to online advising, ACC continues to provide several virtual events and resources that allow students to unwind between classwork, and tips to stay on track with  online courses. 

ACCENT spoke with student Katheryn Pharr, an active member in the Student Life community, Vice President of ACCess Autism Iva Millsap, and Todd Snow, a student pursuing studies to qualify for a bachelor’s in software development at ACC to learn how student organization can be another resource for peer support. Three students with varying perspectives share their take on the perks and disadvantages of ACC’s online presence and what the school and student organizations can do to improve them.

Pharr feels that in-person events are more casual and provide a sense of community that virtual events lack. 

“Student life is doing a great job making sure we can still connect with each other even though we’re all isolated and spread out” Pharr says. 

Pharr attended Arts and Crafts with April Seabourn, a recurring event within Student Life. One thing Pharr appreciates from virtual events is the ability to go back and review the event with recordings. Pharr is open to the potential virtual events possess with the fact that abilities such as recordings and screen grabs, allow students to utilize the information from events at any given time.  Regarding school resources, Pharr primarily takes advantage of online advising and the ASL IT Lab online. 

“I appreciate that even though we are not able to be in-person on our respective campuses, that these services are still available. Although helpful, there is something lost by not physically occupying the same space,” Pharr says. 

She added that it is easy to become distracted during online advising, whereas “in-person the advisor can probably tell when the student loses focus.”

The increase of virtual events in student life has made some student organizations get creative and implement new perspectives into their events.  Vice president of student organization ACCess Autism, Iva Millsap believes the new virtual platform has driven them to find new ways to make events more interactive by implementing new concepts. 

“We had an event where our members would create artwork on how their autism affected them in sensory ways.,” Millsap says.

Though Millsap feels she has been equally involved during the pandemic similarly to in-person events. She still prefers attending events in person due to the sense of community that in-person events can bring to some students. 

Virtual events may seem more complicated than a casual in-person event, but ACC’s online platform has encouraged some students to give Student Life a try. Snow shared that his involvement with Student Life became more frequent once Student Life events began going virtual. What kept Snow from getting involved with in-person events prior were factors such as commutes and personal obligations, which can be the case for many other students.  

“Virtual events have been great for me. These events have allowed me to explore aspects of SL and ACC that wouldn’t normally pique my interest or just would not have been a priority,” Snow says. 

Proving virtual events do present advantages towards students thanks to their accessibility. Snow aforementioned the knowledge they have provided him and how much more understanding he is of what ACC offers to students. Adding he believes the benefits are definitely there when contrasting to in-person events, hoping that “any events in the future conducted in-person maintain a virtual component.

Virtual events and resources prove to have both pros and cons. Though students seem to prefer in-person events as they present a sense of community that can’t be rendered through a screen,  they have managed to adapt and make amends with the pandemic and restrictions we abide by during this era. 

Some students are even benefiting from this  virtual environment and are becoming more  involved with Student Life at ACC for the first time, just like Snow.  

“I have a much broader understanding of campus operations and the ACC mission.  Virtual events have shown me great opportunities for apprenticeships, internships, and have fundamentally altered how I look at my career and academic choices.”

Career Searching: Landing Your Dream Job

ACCENT multimedia reporter, Pete Ramirez, interviews Trish Welch, Career Services Director at ACC, Pam Fant-Saez, Digital Skills for Today’s Jobs Director at ACC, and Gloria Walls, an ACC student who just started an I.T. apprenticeship with the help of Career Services.

By: Pete Ramirez

As the 2021 spring semester comes to a close, Austin Community College is doing all it can to give its graduates the skills to snag the jobs they want. This often overlooked work is driven by the Career Services Department, who offer free tools and career coaching to any current or former student in  need of help navigating the current job market. 

“Job postings have increased,” said Trish Welch, Career Resources Director at ACC. “The number of employers who are interested in hiring ACC students has dramatically increased.”

Welch believes the challenges students are currently facing revolve around preparing for employment.Through career coaching and innovative technology, Career Services may be able to help relieve some of the stress that comes along with looking for a job, while improving the chances of an applicant landing an interview.

In the current hiring market, artificial intelligence is heavily relied upon by companies to filter through the thousands of applications they receive. These technologies are programmed to search for keywords within resumes to find solid candidates for the position. Career services’ solution to this problem is Jobscan. 

Jobscan is a way for students to optimize their resumes by comparing their resume against a specific job posting. The platform then awards a score to the resume which indicates if the applicant is a good match for the position.

“We don’t consider that resume complete until it has a score of 85%,” said Skills for Today’s Jobs Director, Pam Fant-Saez. “[With that score], we know that the chances of it getting through to see human eyes escalates way up.” 

Fant-Saez said that the platform can do the same with a student’s LinkedIn account to optimize their profile so that it doesn’t slip through the cracks either.

Career Services also offers assistance in preparing for interviews by utilizing another piece of technology: Big Interview. Big Interview allows a student to practice being interviewed by an avatar to alleviate some of the potential pressure of being put in the hot seat by another person.

With each recorded session, the student can continue practicing until they’re comfortable with what is being asked. The questions the avatar asks can also be changed depending on which industry the student is attempting to enter.

“Students don’t realize how amazingly powerful this is,” Fant-Saez said. “And then they get hired in 10 days as opposed to eight months.”

Students interested in improving their job seeking skills can access these tools by  applying to the free, monthly classes Career Services offers, Strategies for Today’s Jobs.

One student who completed these classes and credits them for her success is Gloria Walls. Walls recently started an Information Technologies (IT) apprenticeship at Saber Data, a local tech company in Austin.

These classes taught Walls the t-chart strategy, one used for writing a cover letter. To use the strategy, place the job description in a column on the left and on the right column describe how your qualifications match what the employer is looking for. 

Walls said, “I think it also helps to prepare you for your interview because it helps you think about what skills you have.”

Fant-Saez is also a fan of cover letters and encourages students who have something compelling to say to take the time to write a cover letter. She feels it can allow an application to shine brighter among the rest.

“When you don’t have a lot of experience, it might be good to express immense enthusiasm,” Fant-Saez said.

Walls said that any ACC student who is looking for a job should take advantage of this free career training course.

“I think it helps you organize your materials, think about what your skills are and helps you to really get that thing that is going to make you stand out from other candidates,” Walls said.

Self Defense 101

Learning self-defense extends far beyond just discovering how to protect yourself. It also boost your confidence and self esteem. ACCENT spoke with former Austin Community College students Kevin Walter, and Carla Crisostomo, who have gone through the self-defense program at Austin Community College, and Kaci Kai, the co-owner of Krav Maga Atx to get their input on tips to help you feel safer.

By: Kimberly Dalbert

COVID-19: How a Pandemic Changed The Way We Live

Whether a student or a professor, or working at an office, or at a store, life has changed. As the number of cases in Travis and Williamson County continues to rise, life will continue to be different and will never be the same.

By: Angela Murillo Martinez

It is no surprise that nobody’s life is the same as it was before the pandemic occurred. Whether a student or a professor, or working at an office, or at a store, life has changed. As the number of cases in Travis and Williamson County continues to rise, life will continue to be different and will never be the same. Many have had to embrace change as they’ve had to continue working or even going to school, and as time continues it becomes more of a new reality. New routines are being built and embraced openly as there is no other option, but to continue in the midst of a pandemic. 

According to the CDC, as of July 25th, the total number of cases in the whole United States is 4,099,310. A major spike in cases occurred as many states allowed public spaces to re-open such as stores, amusement parks, churches, workplaces, and many more. In the state of Texas, it is reported that there are 369,826 cases. Although the number of cases continues to rise in the state, public spaces in the state continue to remain open. In Williamson County alone, so far 5,145 cases have been reported in one day, and in Travis County, 18,939 cases have been reported.

 It is important to remember to follow safety procedures to avoid furthering the spread of COVID-19 and to make sure that everyone remains healthy and safe. If one finds themselves going out, don’t forget to bring a face covering. As of the third of July, all Texans are required to wear face masks in public spaces. Failure to comply with such orders may result in a warning at first and in further violations, one can be fined up to $250. Additionally, it is important to respect the space of others and maintain a six feet distance when out in public. The Texas Health and Human Services also recommends washing one’s hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds and also mentions avoiding touching one’s face with unwashed hands. Amongst other actions shared on their website to prevent the spread of COVID-19, an important one is too often disinfected surfaces that are often touched by others. 

With this being said, people have to keep working, students have to continue going to school, and in general, life has to continue. The only difference now is exactly how life is being continued by people. For Stephanie Murillo, a student studying criminal justice and obtaining her paralegal certification, she has had to not only adjust to a new job but also adjust to working from home and taking online classes. It had been only two weeks at her new job as a court clerk when her office was closed and she had to start working remotely. Now it’s been five months and she’s had to learn everything through zoom calls and emails, while also managing her online classes. She admits that it has been hard having to manage to work at home and taking online classes, especially since her hours at work have extended. No longer being able to follow the usual seven to five schedule she had been following before the pandemic. “Before I was able to leave work at five and it would stay there, and I would be able to come home or go to school. 

But now I just feel like I work extra hours because my office is my room.” On top of that, she admits that taking her classes online has required more time and commitment. To her, it seems that her days have only gotten longer and the workload has become heavier. 

Furthermore, she has felt it was a difficult transition to have to learn everything she needed to know remotely and to also learn how to manage all the technology necessary to continue. “I was in the process of learning my new position but then when the pandemic started, I had to be trained in something that was new to my co-workers, which was working remotely from home.” Despite the difficulties and challenges she has had to face, she has grown to like working from home and admits that she will find it difficult to return to the office. Although she’s been told that they will return to the office since June, so far the official date is still uncertain and continues to change as the situation escalates. They have planned to return to the office on August 17th, though this isn’t a set date. So for now, she continues to work remotely and learn as much as she can while being physically apart from her co-workers. 

For other students such as Kylie Birchfield, a talented photographer studying photography, she’s had more time to focus on her passion. Though she did find the last couple of months left in the Spring semester difficult as a result of transitioning to online classes, she has found herself with more free time on her hands as a result of the pandemic. Not only has she been able to work more on her own personal photography projects, but she’s also been able to get an internship with Austin Woman Magazine. “I know not a lot of people have gotten good things out of this, but for me, I’ve had a lot of good things come out of it.” In her internship with the magazine, she has been able to do a feature with them on COVID-19 where she photographed three women who find themselves on the front lines of the fight against the pandemic. 

She has found that as more people spend more time on social media, the more people she has finding her page and lining up to work with her. Although now, there are certain safety procedures she follows to avoid furthering the spread of COVID-19 such as maintaining a distance and wearing a mask when working with others. As the previously mentioned guidelines are more implement into one’s new daily routine, she often has to remind herself of bringing her masks and maintaining a distance at photoshoots. 

“Sometimes I have to rethink what I’m doing in photoshoots. I can’t get up close, can’t move their hair, I have to ask them to move their hair around.”

 With this being said, she continues to find herself with more opportunities and considers this a “kickstart” for her career. Despite losing her job as a result of the pandemic, she finds herself blessed to have the free time she has now and has been using it to do what she loves. 

Others like Mary Monk, a student studying Government, no longer finds herself having to commute to her classes. Hence, saving her time that she would spend taking the bus and traveling from class to class. While she did find it hard to transition to online classes at the end of the Spring semester, she realized that in most of her classes they were easy to finish without meeting in person. As a result of the pandemic, she has found it hard to find an internship or a 

job. 

“Your Freshman summer is supposed to be the time where you get internships and jobs, and it’s so hard because I applied to so many internships and they’ve just been like ‘oh, we have to see because of COVID’… So it’s been really difficult in that regard,” said Monk

Although Monk was used to her friends going to different schools and living far, resulting in not being able to see each other often. She now finds herself talking more consistently with them through text and video calls. 

“With family, at first, I think we were all on the same page, but as time goes on, and people are in their homes for longer, our family gets a little divisive on what we should be doing, and what caution we should be taking,” said Monk 

 But as far as her immediate family, she finds herself at home with them safely and spending more time together as they are unable to go out. As she continues to take online classes, she sees this as an opportunity to further her studies. 

“I feel like I can take on more than I probably thought I could if I had to do them all in person because with actually going to school, physically, you have to take into account how long it’s going to take you to go from one building to another.”

 Now, Monk takes her classes online, her room becomes her classroom and she no longer has to leave it to attend class. She plans that if the pandemic continues on for longer, which she thinks it will, she will most definitely take more classes and hopes to find an internship that can begin to prepare her for her career. 

Despite being unable to meet on campus or be physical together, organizations are still continuing to meet through video calls. One of those organizations being the German club, which has met every three weeks during the summer. Although there are certain things that have changed and other things that they are no longer able to do since moving to video calls, the club hasn’t changed that much. “We do the same things, we just do them differently. We used to play board games, and we obviously don’t do that anymore, but we played hangman at a bunch of the meetings I remember going to, and we still play hangman online,” said the club president Lauren Sanders.

Though their group has gotten smaller since they transitioned to video calls, they have built a small, defined group who all meet together and converse in both German and English. They do admit that it has been harder to get people involved since they are no longer able to put posters around the Highland campus or have people show up after German class, but still, they continue to meet and encourage that all those interested in German no matter the level of expertise, to join them. 

Since the pandemic started, the club never planned on stopping and quickly continued moving forward.

 “I thought the club was going to end, seeing how things were going, only a few of us were left. But when they were saying, we have to decide who’s going to be the president, treasurer, and secretary, ‘I was like ok, we’re still doing this. I’m in’ and I mean it’s something to do when I’m at the house quarantining all day,” said Emiliano Antunano. 

 This same resilience has kept them going through the pandemic and continues to push them despite having to continue meeting online in the upcoming fall semester. The club which consists of German speakers of all levels has a supportive and welcoming community, where they are all helping each other improve their German, but also keep each other company in the midst of the pandemic. In the words of a club 

member, 

“I hope to go to the in-person meeting when all this ends since I haven’t been able to go to those since I joined after all this happened,” said Marshall Brown. 

While life had seemed to pause at the beginning of the pandemic, people were unable to continue like this forever, and life has had to continue. As people begin to return to work at their offices or at stores or begin to go out again or return to campus, it doesn’t mean that the pandemic has completely gone away. If anything, the number of cases continues to rise, and therefore, everyone should continue to be careful to protect not only their health but the health of others. Everyone is having to face a new reality and is experiencing new routines, so no one is alone in this situation. Although life continues with uncertainty, if everyone works together and follows the necessary precautions, soon we’ll be able to all be together again on campus.

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