Alumni’s first year of college not what they expected

Alumni share how distance learning is effecting their freshmen year of college.

Nancy Medrano


Distance learning for college students started just a few months ago, but alumni Keona Paniagua, Evan Vargas, Samuel Torres and Christopher Sarenana have faced many challenges.

Paniagua was known in high school for playing varsity volleyball since her freshman year and being selected for the Posse Foundation scholarship. Paniagua, who is majoring in sports medicine, started virtual learning at Pepperdine University on Aug. 17. 

“It’s really hard to make friends,” Paniagua said. “I’d consider myself a pretty outgoing person, but even with that being said, it’s hard to make real meaningful connections with people through Zoom.” 

…It’s hard to make real meaningful connections with people through Zoom.

— Keona Paniagua

Going to college during a pandemic brings challenges because there is a lack of socialization, more procrastination and unfamiliarity with the apps colleges use. Aside from having a difficult time with social interactions, students have found themselves not keeping track of their assignments. Students have difficulties trying to navigate Canvas, a website similar to Schoology, that lets students know their grades, class assignments and have discussions with other students. 

Vargas began his first day of school at California State University, Northridge (CSUN) on Aug. 24. Vargas was known for being a competitive basketball player during nutrition and lunch. You might have found Vargas helping out other students with their homework as well. Similar to Paniagua, Vargas also finds it difficult to interact with other students through distance learning.

“Challenges I’ve faced with (virtual learning is) interacting with others and (having) learning opportunities,” Vargas said, who is a majoring in sociology.  

Torres was a staff writer during his junior year and the opinion editor for his senior year for The Pearl Post. Torres was known for being passionate and outspoken about things he believes in. He has also found himself playing music to keep him busy.

“When I do school online, my biggest challenge is that I tend to lose track of assignments and I am more prone to procrastination,” Torres said, who is a journalism major at CSUN.

Sarenana was a Media Editor for The Pearl Post during the 2019 – 2020 school year and was a staff writer during the 2018-2019 school year. You could’ve found Sarenana on the basketball court similar to Vargas or being the class clown. Sarenana is now attending CSUN and also struggles with this issue. 

“Some challenges I am facing with school online is figuring out our online system Canvas (and) getting adjusted to my math online program…,” Sarenana said, who is a journalism major at CSUN. 

Online learning has its benefits as well. From being able to sleep in longer to having more time to work on assignments. Sarenana makes sure to remind himself about the positive benefits of

online learning. 

“What I’ve enjoyed so far about online learning is (being able) to get up five minutes before your first class and join Zoom,” Sarenana continued saying. “We are given more time to finish assignments before they’re due.” 

Pepperdine University is still expecting in-person learning to take place during the spring semester as they originally planned. CSUN has already announced in-person learning will not begin until the next fall semester. Many college freshmen were excited to finally experience college in person and making new friends. So, hearing this news brought a lot of distraught as well.

“I was very excited to be able to go back to classes my next semester and it’s upsetting to know that I won’t have my real college experience until next year,” Torres said. 

Although students would like to return to campus, they all know that staying home is the best decision for themselves and their family. They would rather learn virtually through Zoom, than running the risk of coming across someone who has COVID-19. 

“I know everyone wishes to be on our campus but we all need to do our part by being as safe as we can,” Sarenana said.