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Rayael's update from UNC CHarlotte


"Organic Chemistry has made me rethink my major. I originally planned to attend medical school and become an OB-GYN. But now I'm not too sure..."

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What was college life like for you during the pandemic?

I attended UNC Charlotte remotely from home due to COVID. Because I graduated high school with a diploma and an associate’s degree, I entered UNC as a junior, so I am taking upper division science classes with upperclassmen, who I find to be nicer than some of the freshmen and more willing to have group chats.

My first semester was pretty easy. Everyone was still adjusting to online classes and figuring out the best methods. My biggest adjustment was learning to let a bunch of strangers see my room during online classes.

My second semester, however, has been tougher. Online learning has made it difficult to meet with professors for help. For example, it’s not possible to just walk up to the teacher after class to ask a question. Instead, I have to attend office hours at specific times that often overlap with other classes.

The teachers are supportive and are doing their best, but it is often faster to rely on the textbook to get my questions answered than to wait for a professor to respond to an email. At least my independent study skills have improved!

What was your most difficult adjustment to college?

Balancing college and a job is a lot tougher than I expected. If I had a job on campus, maybe it would have been easier. I currently work on Fort Bragg in the food court. I planned on doing on-campus work study, but because of COVID, I never applied.

What has been your favorite class so far?

My favorite class so far is ecology. The class has caused me to be more eco-friendly and to think about what I can do to reduce my carbon footprint and the amount of garbage I produce. In the future, I want to be able to grow my own food and rely less on grocery stores, and maybe even have a farm.

Has it been easy to make friends at UNC Charlotte?

Not being on campus makes it hard to meet people because I don’t see anyone outside of class, and during class there isn’t really time to mingle. UNC Charlotte has had Zoom events and expos, but I never had time to attend them. Most of the people I know are from my high school. Some of them have introduced me to their friends. I’ve also met other people on Instagram as possible roommates or through my major. Fortunately, I’ve also made a few friends at work. 

What’s happening with your major?

Organic Chemistry has made me rethink my major. It’s a tough class and being online makes it harder. If I can’t pass organic chemistry, I will pursue a BA instead of a BS in biology. The BA doesn’t require as much chemistry or physics.  

I have also changed my career goals. I originally planned to attend medical school and become an OB-GYN. But now I’m not too sure about attending medical school right after college, especially after my pandemic experience with school.  

After I graduate from UNCC, I’m thinking of becoming a cardio or abdominal sonographer. I may still attend medical school later or pursue sonography as my career. I’d like to work in prenatal sonography, where I can hear babies’ heartbeats and be part of the gender reveal process!

Unfortunately, UNCC doesn’t offer the training I need, so after I graduate, I will probably end up going to community college for it. Fortunately, I have already taken many of the classes required for the associate’s degree in sonography.  

Now that you’ve spent some time at college, is there anything you’d do differently in terms of preparing for college, paying for college and/or applying to college?

I’d definitely find out about fee waivers available to me as an undergraduate. There were so many things I would not have had to pay for had I asked about fee waivers my first semester. I was eligible for a waiver for housing, but I never used it since I never went to campus. I was also eligible for a health insurance waiver, but I didn’t realize this until later. Since I wasn’t attending classes on campus, I was also able to opt out of some of the smaller fees for services, like transportation.

What are your plans for this summer and next year?

During the summer I plan to live at home, work, and take summer classes. Next semester I’m finally moving to Charlotte to live in an off-campus house with friends and build a garden. I will also have an on-campus work-study job in the veteran’s affairs office, working with people who are using VA benefits for school or parents who have concerns.

Are you happy with your college choice at this point in the school year?

Sometimes I wish I chose another school because I feel like an outsider, especially in the group chats. I tell myself maybe it’ll be different on campus. Academically, the school no longer offers some of the classes I want to take—such as marine biology and animal physiology. But I plan to finish my degree at UNC Charlotte, as I have only one more year left. I’m looking forward to actually being on campus next year and possibly salvaging the college experience I missed out on my first year.


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