STU students react to online courses, GNB Level 3 restrictions

    A public health worker directs a vehicle to the Horizon Health Network COVID-19 testing site at the New Brunswick Provincial Exhibition grounds in Fredericton, N.B. on Jan. 12, 2022. (Aaron Sousa/AQ)

    Gabriel Marquez, a fourth-year St. Thomas University student, studied from his home country of Ecuador since June 2020. 

    This month, he is finally coming back to Fredericton. 

    Marquez wanted to be back for his last semester of university in person. He didn’t plan on coming back at the beginning of the fall semester since out of his five courses, only one was in-person, due to his professor’s decisions. 

    “It’s less costly to stay here in my home country and not [spend money] on rent or residence … it wasn’t worth it,” he said.

    Since Marquez is a communications student, he is completing a two-semester internship for class credit. At the beginning of the fall semester, he explained his situation to his internship employer, letting them know he could fly back to Fredericton to work in person, but informed them that most of his course schedule was online. But, his internship allowed him to do the work remotely from Ecuador.

    This semester, Marquez is taking six courses and three of them are online for the whole semester, due to his professors’ decisions. Since he has three courses taught in-person, plus his internship, he figured this was finally the time for him to fly back to Fredericton.

    Gabriel Marquez, pictured here in this submitted portrait, is a fourth-year international relations and communications student at St. Thomas University in Fredericton, N.B. (Submitted: Gabriel Marquez)

    Marquez first bought a plane ticket to Fredericton in August, but since four of his courses were moved online by his professors, he changed his ticket to Jan. 7, with a plan to come back before the winter semester started.

    But on Dec. 16, Marquez’s father tested positive for COVID-19. The following week, on Dec. 27, he, including the rest of his family, tested positive.

    Marquez was in isolation until Jan. 10, which meant he missed his flight on Jan. 7. He then changed his tickets to Jan. 21 so he could make it back in time for his classes to start in-person on Jan. 24.

    Since STU recently announced online classes are extended until Feb. 7, Marquez changed his ticket again to Jan. 27.

    “My family and I [are] living with this uncertainty and I know it’s not the university’s fault because this is a worldwide situation, but these notifications that they are going to extend [online] classes, it’s almost last minute – at least for international students,” he said.

    Marquez said if classes get extended online past Feb. 7, he will be frustrated. But whether STU decides to extend online courses or not, he will not be changing his flight for the fourth time. 

    “I already have my ticket, I really want to go do my last semester in New Brunswick,” he said.

    Emily Fox, seen in this submitted portrait, is a second-year student at St. Thomas University in Fredericton, N.B. (Submitted: Emily Fox)

    Emily Fox, a second-year STU student, only had two in-person courses since she started university.

    Fox started at STU in Sept. 2020, when the whole year was taught online due to COVID-19. Last semester, out of her five courses, three of them were taught online due to her professors’ decisions. This semester, another four of her courses are online, so she was excited for the one in-person course that would allow her to be on campus – until the university moved all courses online temporarily.

    “It was kind of frustrating because you wait all of high school to get out and go to university or college and you hear how amazing it can be,” she said.

    At the beginning of the fall semester, Fox said she was excited when courses were announced to be in-person because she never got to experience campus during her first year.

    Fox said having online courses right now is beneficial since she wouldn’t want to have five different classes on campus which could potentially expose her to COVID-19. 

    She said the first week of online classes this semester was a little hard to get used to because each class has a Zoom meeting.

    “[That] has never happened to me before, I only had one last semester and it was only a little 30-minute lecture, so it’s definitely strange having two Zoom calls a day,” she said.

    Some students have concerns about the new Level 3 winter action plan restrictions that the Government of New Brunswick implemented on Jan. 14.

    Jaime LeBlanc, pictured here in this submitted portrait, is a fifth-year student at St. Thomas University in Fredericton, N.B. (Submitted: Jaime LeBlanc)

    Jaime LeBlanc, a fifth-year STU student, works in the Champlain Mall in Moncton and thinks it’s weird retail store restrictions are staying at Level 2, which means they do not move to curbside pickup or delivery only.

    “That’s only going to encourage people to go out and shop – that’s not going to help anything,” she said.

    LeBlanc said she thinks the Level 3 restrictions are a good step but said people will have their way around it.

    “I think they need to be a lot stricter with it and I think they need to take it very seriously because it’s almost like the government’s normalized [COVID-19] for us and they’re trying to teach us to live with it instead of [fighting] against it,” she said. 

    When Level 3 of the winter action plan was announced by GNB on Jan. 13, they said it would only be in place for two weeks, ending on Jan. 30. LeBlanc said there shouldn’t be a time limit because it’s setting people up to be disappointed if it gets extended.

    LeBlanc said she thinks GNB should have implemented these restrictions back in the summer.

    “I think people definitely took advantage in the summer with travel restrictions being lifted … then taking it away from them is really upsetting,” she said.

    LeBlanc has one in-person class this semester and the other three are permanently online due to the professors’ decisions.

    “I find it really nice because I’m the type of person who will just focus on one class, do the whole thing in one month … I like being able to do it on my own time,” said LeBlanc.

    She said she also enjoys being able to do her schoolwork from the comfort of her house and since she lives in Moncton, she doesn’t need to commute for her one in-person class either.

    LeBlanc said she would like the university to come out with a plan for the whole semester, rather than just extending online courses every two weeks. She wants online classes to remain for the semester so cases hopefully go down. 

    “That’s the only way that cases are going to stay low and I think everything should be locked down until there’s zero cases and then you can start to open back up a bit.”