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No spring break taxing students, professors maneuvering school year around COVID-19

Nebraska college students are marching through the spring semester this year without spring...
Nebraska college students are marching through the spring semester this year without spring break.
Published: Mar. 11, 2021 at 7:41 PM CST
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LINCOLN, Neb. (WOWT) - On this one-year anniversary of COVID-19, Nebraska’s largest university has some professors worried that students are running on fumes.

Many people are excited to see a finish line, and vaccinations go a long way to pointing that direction.

Spring break was supposed to be next week at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. But last fall, at the height of the pandemic, the Board of Regents canceled it, forcing students to grind out the semester — 14 straight weeks — without it.

It’s taking a toll on some students.

“Be nice if I had some days off because I’m really feeling the burn now,” said UNL freshman Augustus Shald, who only knows college life during a pandemic.

UNL Journalism Professor Matt Waite said Thursday that he’s noticed his students needed a reboot of some sort.

“We’re talking about a year of figuring it out now. The gas tank is pretty empty at this point,” he said.

UNL Professor Matt Waite
UNL Professor Matt Waite

Waite reminded them that these are extraordinary times.

“I noticed in Week 5, they were tired and out of gas, and the students who had been turning stuff in — every time — not turning in anymore. And that grew to two, three, and four assignments,” This week it was time to sound an alarm. I sent out a lot of ‘You OK?’ messages.”

Some students responded. Others gave the impression that they’re done — at least until fall — and the pandemic is over.

Waite also dialed back some assignments to give students a bit of a break during this 14-week stretch of nonstop college.

“It’s very stressful. I’m just looking for it to being over,” one student said.

Friends and family connections help freshman Troy Damman manage the stress. The same for Abby Miller.

“My friends, me, trying to make sure I’m staying on top of my game.”

Waite said he wants to make sure the dynamic of the pressures of college and life isn’t lost on parents, sometimes learning on the fly and being flexible.

“It’s like driving on ice,” he said. “You’re gonna know when to step on the gas. When you can, use the brake. And when to coast — and hope.”

For many, the vaccine is the biggest hope of all.

The university offers a team of psychologists and counselors to help students with how they’re feeling and learn helpful ways to better their state of mind. In many cases, those services are free.

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