By Sarah Nicell || Layout Assistant

The United States has officially surmounted 400,000 total deaths from COVID-19, a figure so devastating that it becomes impossible to visualize. Approaching ten months since the World Health Organization declared the pandemic and a full year since the first coronavirus case hit the U.S., the virus’s name continues to flood every crevice of life, echo through every household, and invoke fear through every cough. Where crowds once gathered and voices once mingled, the silence is deafening. There is no normalcy, no buzz, and with thousands of Americans refusing to follow basic guidelines, there is no rest for the compliant.

And yet, amid a pandemic, political upheaval, and hundreds of thousands of deaths, there is something students must also dread: their college education. With debt, awkward Zoom meetings, sleep deprivation, hours of readings, and the complete absurdity of learning calculus while the world is seemingly falling apart, young adults, like me, are finding it difficult to keep their eye on the prize.

As Franklin & Marshall’s sophomores return to campus for Spring Semester and freshmen begin their journey learning from home, students must deal with balancing intense quarantine procedures with keeping their academic motivation high. The ability to manage stress during a national emergency has become a crucial skill to possess, and it is important to acknowledge how F&M students are feeling in light of the new year.

 “It’s so much harder to focus and keep myself on track if I’m by myself all day,” explains first-year Munahil Saltana. “I’m an extrovert, and I’m used to being busy and running around doing a million things, but because of quarantine, that isn’t the case. It taught me to be more self-aware and independent and reconstructed my study habits. Towards the end of Module 2, I feel like I finally got to a place where I learned how to be productive in such a different, isolated environment.”

Munahil’s feelings are shared by many of her peers. Lily Gallagher ‘24, expressed, “I have none [motivation]! It’s really hard to do anything when you don’t have social interaction. And since everything is virtual it’s easy to not take it seriously.”

First-year Emily Myers summarized the general state of focus for those currently at home: “I’ve been struggling to maintain the same level of internal motivation I used to possess.” In my current state of mind, I also have to agree.

While some I spoke to seemed ready to take this academic semester head-on despite the quarantine, most felt that their stresses would be amplified. How can one provide their full attention to their education when the world seems to be crumbling outside of their bedroom? The current state of the world undeniably does not aid the already difficult schedule of a college student.

Erin Maxwell ‘23 elaborated, “I dropped my J Term class two days in because of the Module System, and being home burnt me out.”

This is a situation that I, and other Franklin and Marshall students, can relate to. When provided an optional opportunity to learn during the most trying times of our lives, it becomes difficult to find the motivation within ourselves to opt-in.

As students ease into Spring Semester, it is important to remember the times that we are learning in. Although the Module System has lightened the load for some, the burden carried from the pandemic, political chaos, and the threat of the unknown has made it exhausting to focus on exams, homework, and Zoom meetings. For the college community to get through this together, we must first consider the challenges—emotional, mental, and physical—that students may be facing behind closed doors.

Let’s ace those tests, but let’s also remember that most of us need a little extra care during this quarantine slump.

First-year Sarah Nicell is a Layout Assistant. Her email is