November 12, 2021

What I heard during the pandemic

By Sarah Heavren ’21

Every Providence College student who faced the COVID-19 pandemic had a story to tell. During the spring 2021 semester, I collected oral histories from the PC community for the PC Archives and Special Collections and the Rhode Island COVID-19 Archive. I heard about students trying to navigate their ways home from foreign countries as their study abroad experiences abruptly ended, the challenging and emotional decision to study remotely for one or both semesters during the 2020-21 academic year, and what it was like trying to continue classes from the Marriott while isolating from the virus. While the college worked tirelessly to salvage a college experience against all odds, students were still faced with seemingly endless transitions and adaptations that seemed counterintuitive to college life. There were common threads across all experiences: the toll of constant uncertainty, the yearning for togetherness, and a greater appreciation for the little things that make life at PC special.

Sarah Heavren '21 at commencement in May 2021.
During the spring 2021 semester, Sarah Heavren ’21 collected oral histories from the PC community for the PC Archives and SpecialCollections and the Rhode Island COVID-19 Archive.

Although there were losses to be mourned — abbreviated study abroad experiences, cancelled sports seasons, a McPhail’s milkshake drought, not seeing friends or beloved professors who worked remotely — the Friar family leaned on family, friends, and faith. Despite the mental and emotional strain of online classes, isolation, and uncertainty, students had positive messages. Caroline O’Connor ’22 said, “Just hope, that’s all” — hope for a better tomorrow where the Dunk could be at max capacity, where Civ seminars would return to Ruane, and where the campus community would wear smiles instead of masks. Regarding missed internship opportunities, Estarlyn Hiraldo ’21 reflected, “If it’s bound to happen, it’ll happen. But the time that we have now, the present, you never get that back.”

The pandemic forced students to face unthinkable obstacles, especially during the September lockdown and as the number of cases fluctuated. In times of isolation, self-care and concern for others seemed even more important. “Be creative and keep finding new ways of taking care of yourself and other people,” advised Hanna Johnson ’21 from her home in Canada.

The gradual but long-anticipated easing of restrictions that coincided with springtime weather gave students a much-needed sense of normalcy as the tumultuous and unforgettable year came to a close. The pandemic left its mark, but the resilience and spirit of the Friar family inspired self-reflection and opportunity for change. “We’re all coming out of it a little different than before. And I hope everyone can walk out of it a little
better than before,” said Abbey Wheeler ’21.

Sarah Heavren ’21, a triple major in history, American studies, and mathematics, was one of three top-ranked students in the Class of 2021. She is the granddaughter of Thomas Heaven ’60, the daughter of Thomas Heavren ’84 and Susan Heavren ’84, and the sister of Thomas Heavren ’19. She plans to pursue a master’s degree to study the social and cultural causes and implications of climate change to promote the dignity of creation.  

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