NECC Observer

The student news website of Northern Essex Community College, Haverhill and Lawrence, Mass.

Two neurology students share their thoughts on a year of pandemic learning

Ryan Partland, a neurology student who has been attending university in Denver, Colorado throughout the entire pandemic, is eager to return to a full workload of in-person labs, demonstrations and lectures coming up in August.

Partland’s girlfriend, Liliana Morris, who was studying neurology alongside him prior to the pandemic, traveled home to Haverhill, Mass., in April of last year. She has been taking classes fully remote since then, and is terrified of launching back into the intense workload so soon.

Partland, a wired, brilliant student with a mind that flits and eloquently dances between a thousand different points at once and eyes that follow, graciously took the time out of his 26-hour work day to briefly explain to me what the life of an up-and-coming neurological disorder specialist has been like during the Covid-19 pandemic.

In an interview taken a week before final exams, Partland said, “I’m in an accelerated program, right? So I started off with a lot of difficult classes from the get-go. Now, taking eight classes at once mostly through Zoom lectures, has been beyond difficult. There’s no words for it. I don’t really sleep too much; maybe a few hours every few days? There’s three labs a week, and the rest is on-line. I can’t just drop classes either, or I won’t graduate on time. I have a job lined up, you know?”

Partland’s university is planning on returning certain degree programs, such as his, to full in-person learning in the Fall. I could not reach a spokesperson of the university for comment and couldn’t find anything on their website. The callback to in-person learning seemed to be an unofficial statement announced to students within certain degree paths.

On the prospect of a return to basic learning, Partland said, “Honestly, it would be a blessing. I have a year left, right? I want to pack as much [learning] as possible into the last couple semesters I have, comfortably. This seems to be the only way I can do that.”

As our interview drew to a close the question of whether this was a shared thought came to mind, especially for students who weren’t on campus. Unfortunately I’d run out of time, but he directed me towards his long term girlfriend, Liliana, who’d been accepted to the same accelerated program, but was taking the same classes from home, in Haverhill, Mass.

In an interview over coffee, Liliana Morris, who shared the same unnatural characteristic of exploding into a new idea before finishing the first, second or third, explained her fears over the “rapidly approaching” Fall semester.

“It’s been almost a year since I’ve attended a lab, taken part in an experiment, or anything else at the college. I’ve adapted to my [on-line] classes now. I’m excited to go back, but nervous. I had to take courses in the Summer, and will again [this Summer] to prepare myself for the shift back, but its still nerve-wracking. How will things be different, the same? Will I be ready? i have no idea to tell you the truth. I don’t like not knowing how things will be changed. [It] makes anxious thinking about it, even now,” Liliana said over tentative, hasty sips of her triple shot espresso.

She tried best to explain the differences between her and her boyfriend’s work, but she quickly bypassed any language I could understand or accurately write down, denoting mostly to scientific language, mile-a-minuteexplanations, and, believe it or not, charts and diagrams scribbled out on stationary from her bag. As she delicately put it as we were wrapping up the interview, and i accepted with finality, it was beyond my comprehensive ability.

From my tentative interviews with two similarly brilliant yet overworked minds, the only conclusion I could gather was that I didn’t have what it takes to keep up with the inner-workings of stressed, sleep deprived pre-med neurologists.