College Life as a Remote Out-of-State Student

Left: Redwood trees in the Bay Area; Right: Crosby Hall, University of Rochester

After leaving Rochester last March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I was already eagerly awaiting my return to campus in the fall. However, with all the uncertainty surrounding the pandemic, I ultimately chose to study remotely this semester.

Although I miss seeing my classmates in person, I’m thankful to say my college experience has remained enjoyable and enriching from afar. Despite being across the country, I’m still proud to be a Yellowjacket!

Given the (hopefully) once-in-a-lifetime circumstances right now, I thought it’d be interesting to document my college experience during these unprecedented times. Below I’ve examined a few aspects of my college life as a Rochester student in the San Francisco Bay Area:

My schedule during a typical week

1. Time zone adjustment

Since I’m in California, my school-related commitments are now three hours earlier, which unfortunately means my morning classes begin at 6 a.m. and 8:05 a.m. I’ve admittedly taken more naps than usual this semester, but overall the adjustment has been manageable. On the plus side, I’ve been motivated to finish assignments earlier to avoid any time zone confusion, and my classes end by the afternoon.

And, three hours is nothing compared to what my international peers are dealing with, so I’m very lucky in my situation!

My amazing marketing class teammates!

2. Classes

All of my courses are fully remote so I can’t speak to the hybrid experience, but personally my professors have done a great job transitioning to a virtual format. I’m taking three English and two business classes, all of which include a participation grade, so I attend lectures live via Zoom.

Since my English classes are small—my largest having only 15 students–we raise our hands to participate like we would in person, and our discussions feel as lively and informative as any other semester.

My business classes are both medium-sized lectures with around 40 students each, but my professors utilize Zoom features to keep students engaged. I even find the “Polling” and “Yes/No” functions a unique advantage over in-person classes, since professors can gather feedback in a way that normally isn’t practical in moderately sized classes.

While meeting classmates is definitely harder in a virtual setting, I’ve found team projects are a great way to stay connected. My marketing class involves a lot of collaborative group work, so it’s been nice to make some new friends from that (shout-out to Isabel and Nan!)

The Campus Times website

3. Extracurriculars

Three out of the four clubs I participate in continued remotely, so outside of class, my extracurriculars have helped me stay rooted in campus life. In particular, being on the Campus Times editorial staff—which has been my main on-campus involvement since freshman year—has lent a sense of normalcy to my remote experience. I’m thrilled we could resume working together, and my teammates on staff have done an amazing job communicating virtually.

That being said, Zoom meetings are no replacement for being face-to-face, so I’m excited for the next time CT staff, and my other clubs, can safely convene!

Hiking around CA redwood trees!

4. Free time

This semester one of the most notable shifts has probably been in my social life; physically distanced meetups are out of the question for me, and I can only contact my Rochester friends virtually. However, since I’ve kept busy with classwork and activities, I still feel included in our school community despite these changes.

I’m also fortunate that many of my favorite hobbies—writing, yoga, and binge-watching fashion videos on YouTube, to name a few—are equally doable from home, so some areas of my leisure stayed the same.

In addition, since I love walking my dog, pestering my brother, and hanging out with my parents, living with my family is another perk of being in quarantine!

While I’m crossing my fingers that next year a conventional campus experience will be possible, I’m still happy with the value I’ve gotten from my education remotely. It’s been a tremendous privilege to be in a safe environment, and I appreciate the University’s efforts to accommodate students globally.

Near or far, being a University of Rochester student is a huge honor for me, and I’m grateful to be part of our community. So, I’m looking forward to the next time we can all be reunited on campus!

About the author

Carolyn Richter

Hi! I’m a member of the Class of 2022 majoring in marketing and creative writing with minors in journalism and legal studies. I was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, but I’m thrilled to share my experiences about the second home I’ve found at the University of Rochester. On campus I participate in the Campus Times, Forté Campus, Cancer Awareness Club, and Hatha Yoga Club.


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  • Hello Carolyn. I’m the Mother to a Daughter that has the University of Rochester on “her list”. We too live in California and that’s what caught my eye about you. We specifically live in Long Beach (Southern CA) so there’s about a 6 hour drive difference in our locations. My Husband went to school at Hastings for Law School so we’re very familiar with the Bay Area. Our Daughter is currently a Junior in HS & plays Soccer (both HS & Club) along with many other activities. She’s in a very good HS program, with an excellent GPA w/ lots of AP’s and Honors Classes. Right now she’s shown interests in Computer Science, Engineering & possibly playing College Soccer – BUT, wants to attend a well-rounded College for just in case she were to change her Major. We are going thru your posts. Now that you know a little about our Daughter, is there anything about your experience at Rochester that might help her in her decision making? Thank you in advance & I hope that you are doing well thru this pandemic & with distance learning. Respectfully Yours, Chiyeko S Perry

    • Hi Chiyeko,
      Thanks for your comment—I’m happy to see another Californian interested in Rochester! Your daughter sounds like a very well-rounded student, so that makes sense that she’d look for that in a college!
      You mentioned she may want flexibility to change her major, so something that may interest her about UR is the Rochester Curriculum. This means we have no general ed courses, which gives students more time to discover/explore their interests. The only classes you need to take outside your major are a writing requirement and two clusters of your choice (although, depending on which engineering major your daughter is interested in, she may only need one cluster). However, people often decide to turn their clusters into a minor or an additional major! You can also apply to create your own major, so if she realizes she has a more niche interest, she can request approval to design her own program of study.
      Hopefully this information helped. Best of luck to your daughter, and I hope your family is doing well through this pandemic!

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