The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Thursday June 8th

Two years of COVID-19: A look back on UNC student experiences

From the class of 2021 to 2025, The Daily Tar Heel spoke to UNC students who reflected on their experiences throughout the last two years of the pandemic.

Chapter 2: 'That's what the rest of your face looks like?'

There was a curtain in the middle of Kayla Dang’s room.

Held up by the strongest Command hooks her family could find, it split the second bedroom in her Chapel Hill apartment in two during most of the fall 2020 semester — one half for Dang and one half for her younger sister, a first-year at the time.

Dang's sister had moved into her apartment after residence halls closed a few weeks into the semester due to rising COVID-19 cases on campus.

“I remember sometimes she just ripped the curtain open,” Dang said. “And with the way my Zoom was positioned, you could see her walking around in the background, or she just laid on her bed, and her foot would be popping out and I'm like, ‘Hey, put your foot away, everyone can see!’”

During fully remote semesters, like the fall of 2020, Dang said she didn’t venture out of her apartment much, other than when she went to her job at a local daycare center, KinderCare.

She said the kids were great with social distancing and masking, but it was hard at first when they wanted physical interactions, like hugs.

“They really understood that they had to do what they needed to do to keep themselves safe and others safe,” Dang said. “And it was so weird to see when a kid would take off their masks at lunch or something — I was like, 'That's what the rest of your face looks like?'”

Though classes were all online at the time, Dang said she had flexible professors, and students had their Zoom cameras on. She still felt a human connection.

The next year, though, brought her more burnout and concerns about safety, especially with a return to primarily in-person classes in the fall of 2021. Dang said her mental health was deteriorating. She often skipped class and felt like she was was falling behind before she graduated in December.

But Dang said the pandemic brought her and her classmates together in a way that she had never experienced before, even though they were online.

“I think the best thing for me has been actually becoming closer with a lot of my classmates and my teachers,” Dang said. “Like I feel like I could genuinely tell them anything. And I have never felt that way about friends before.”

When asked about a photo that represented the last two years, Dang submitted this photo — taken in her room where she often Zoomed from for class. "I also got super into plants during quarantine and I like to think I tried to find the 'bright spot in a dark place,'" she said.

Click here to read the next part, Chapter 3: ‘The importance cannot be understated’

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