On the morning of Oct. 5, Rachel Martin joined her Zoom class from her family’s cottage in northern Michigan.
The senior marketing and entrepreneurship double major was set up in the middle of a room that had large windows on either side, one looking out onto an expansive forest and the other onto Lake Huron.
After her classes, she could go for a relaxing walk or sit by the lake with her friend. Later that week, they rode the ferry to Mackinac Island for a day trip. They ate brunch, went shopping and admired the lake.
This was vastly different from Martin’s usual day, joining classes at her desk pushed up against a wall in her 1,500-square-foot apartment in Oxford, where the only thing you could see out the window was the street she lives on. After classes, she would usually just sit around, procrastinating on her homework and hardly leaving her apartment.
Martin, like some other remote students, took advantage of the fact that she could take her classes from anywhere. When she realized this, she and one of her roommates decided to spend a week in Michigan to relax.
“I was really hoping for a break this semester because this semester has been one of my busiest, and I would say that it’s directly because of the online environment,” Martin said.
Although she still had to do a lot of homework and take three exams on her trip, she says it was still worth it because it was a reminder that life expands beyond the Oxford bubble.
“I feel like when you’re in Oxford, sometimes college just consumes you,” she said. “And when you leave this bubble that is college, you remember, ‘Oh yeah, I have a life, I have a family, I have fun things to do, I can be a person.’”
Sophomores Brynn Pierce and Leila Evans also wanted to be able to explore outside of Oxford. They didn’t get an apartment or house off campus like some other sophomores did, so they decided it would be better to do remote learning.
“[Dorm life was] gonna be a little too restricted and [COVID-19]cases were already really high, so we decided it would be safest for us and be more enjoyable if we stayed [remote] and kinda did our own thing,” Pierce said.
Pierce and Evans, along with another friend of theirs, have made many stops on their travel journey, including trips to Cape Cod, New York, North Carolina and South Carolina. They are also planning a trip to Michigan for later this semester.
In order to stay safe, they check COVID-19 case numbers before they travel anywhere to make sure they’re not super high. They also don’t travel by airplane or stay in hotels, opting for road trips and Airbnbs to limit their contact with other people.
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Part of Pierce’s reason to stay remote had to do with the financial aspect.
“I knew that if I were to pay for room and board, I would end up being in my room a lot and on weekends, not have a lot to do,” she said. “And for me, that’s not as logical a way to spend my money as it would be to travel and try something new … and see new places.”
While they get to go to the beach and hike and explore new towns, they always prioritize school before vacation-time wherever they go. This means making sure they’ll have access to Wi-Fi and a workspace. They have even used hotspots to join Zoom calls while in the car.
Evans says it’s not that different from balancing school and a social life while on campus because they just do things in their offtime, but sometimes it is difficult.
“There are times where it would be easier to focus if you were in a school environment, ’cause when you’re in such a pretty place, you don’t wanna be sitting on your computer, and you kinda wish you were in a library or something to be more focused,” she said.
Martin found the school/vacation balance to be a little more difficult because of her workload that particular week, plus all the things she wanted to do. But she ultimately was glad she took her trip.
“Having to do more vacation things did sometimes add and distract me from my tasks, but they were still fun vacation things ... I wouldn’t have normally done.” Martin said. “I felt like I was taking care of my life versus just school.”