Class of 2021: CLAS Graduates on Finishing School During COVID

Students from the UConn graduating class of 2021 reflect on what they realized while attending university during a pandemic.

Chloe Murphy and Zhian Xie, graduating students in the class of 2021, pose for portrait photos.

Editor’s note: This is the second story in our annual College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Graduating Student Spotlight series. This year, students with a broad array of backgrounds and majors reflect on their college experience, remembering the good times and how the COVID-19 pandemic changed their senior year.   

Question: What is the biggest thing you’ve learned from COVID? 


Zhian Xie ’21 (CLAS), BA

Major: Applied Mathematics
Hometown: Nanchang, Jiangxi, China

Zhian Xie smiles at the camera for a photo.
Zhian Xie ’21 (CLAS) in the Student Union Building on March 18, 2021. (Bri Diaz/UConn Photo)

I really appreciated all my friends that helped me to get me through that period. Personally speaking, I sometimes would feel extremely exhausted whenever I needed to meet someone online, no matter if it was before the meeting, or after the meeting. The lack of face-to-face interaction has really caused a huge impact on my life. So I am really grateful for all the online mental sessions that are addressing similar problems.

Kristyn Leamon ’21 (CLAS), BS

Major: speech, language and hearing sciences
Hometown: Manchester, Connecticut

It tested whether this was the field I wanted to go into. I wasn’t getting hands-on experience, but just learning about the topic still intrigued me. I still had interest in it, so it was reassuring. It helped me realize that actually being in the field and doing hands-on work, I might feel even better.

There was a lot more mental stress, not just on me, but probably on a lot of students, so there was some flexibility in deadlines for assignments. Those kinds of things really helped take some stress off my shoulders. I had really great professors who were understanding of my situation.

Yasaman Homayouni ’21 Ph.D.

COVID has made me realize that we really can accommodate a lot of needs people have, and lots of times all it takes is a brief conversation around logistics.

Major: Physics
Hometown: Tehran, Iran

All of us have dealt with relentless circumstances in the past year. Being on the job market during the pandemic came with many anxieties, and transitioning to remote working was very difficult for me initially. I have come to realize the importance of mental health and pacing myself while working. I now have a better handle on when I need to take a mental health break and simply enjoy a cup of tea.

Isaac V. Faustino’ 21 (CLAS), BS

Major: Molecular and Cell Biology
Minor: Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
Hometown: New Haven, Connecticut

COVID has made me realize how easy it is to take things for granted. When it felt like the world was ending in March 2020, there were so many things that I was looking forward to later in the semester, but would understandably be cancelled. Before, I remember saying “there’ll be another time” leading me to put something off when in reality, “another time” isn’t promised.

If I could time travel before March 2020, I would have spent more time with people knowing
that this may be the last time I would see them before we take on adult responsibilities and
experience the real world.

Chloe Murphy ’21 (CLAS), BA

Chloe Murphy looks at the camera for a photo.
Chloe Murphy ’21 (CLAS), an Africana studies major. Courtesy photo.

Major: Africana Studies
Minor: Sustainable Community Food Systems
Hometown: New London, Connecticut

COVID has made me realize that we really can accommodate a lot of needs people have, and lots of times all it takes is a brief conversation around logistics. I hope that going forward, supervisors, team members, partners, no matter the nature of their work, can commit to being flexible so that people can rest when they need or receive support to be able to do their best work.