With classrooms and study halls out of sight, students are packing up their laptops and studying on the road.
Instead of being stuck in their childhood bedroom for the semester, some students said they are traveling to places like Maine and Egypt or planning cross-country road trips while they enroll in online courses. Students said they wanted to take advantage of the flexibility of virtual learning through travel, and the change of pace has helped improve their attention in school.
“Being online can give you more freedom in your life to do what you want because you’re not in D.C. all the time,” junior Jordan Paladini said.
West coast road trip
Paladini headed out west from his home in New Jersey earlier this month to visit his brother and sister-in-law in Park City, Utah.
The trio headed to Cheyenne, Wyoming, for a drive-in concert and finally hopped over the border to nearby Colorado for more outdoor adventures, he said. Paladini said they hiked the Unitas mountain range in Utah, made fresh juices out of vegetables and fruits from local farmer’s markets and explored several hiking trails if they had the time.
He added that the outdoor adventures with family allowed him to reset between classes, improving his focus on Zoom calls.
“It was actually easier to focus on my classes [while traveling] because I knew once my classes were over I could do really fun things that I usually can’t do when I’m home [in New Jersey],” he said. “It kept me focused on the work.”
Heading up north
Up a dirt path in a small rural town in southern Maine, junior Sydney Horlbeck and four of her GW friends are staying in a log cabin until early October.
Spotty WiFi slightly hampered online classes, but she said the group has stayed in good spirits by hiking and reconnecting with one another. She said the group hiked up Peary Mountain, which led to a “breathtaking” view 500 feet above the region.
Horlbeck said she enjoys being with friends because she hasn’t spent time with them in months, and the getaway makes her life feel like it’s back to normal.
“It’s nice to be somewhere where, half of the time, we don’t have to think about coronavirus unless we’re putting on our mask to go to the grocery store,” she said.
Senior Jessica Miller and her roommates didn’t want to be blindsided with another short-notice announcement to go home. She said her roommate suggested embarking on a “semester abroad” – but in the United States.
Miller and two of her friends picked Toledo, Ohio, because one of the trio was from the region and could tour apartments to rent before the other two arrived. All three live together in an apartment in the city while working at a nearby chiropractor’s office.
She and her two roommates make use of an empty conference room in an office building where her roommate’s father works to complete their online classes. She said living in Toledo is cheaper than living in D.C., allowing them to take more road trips and shop.
“Being in D.C., spending all that money and having to worry more about social distancing just did not seem worth it to me,” Miller said.
Sort of back home
Junior Zena Osman headed from Boston to Egypt – where her family is originally from – for the semester. She said she lives with her father, mother, sister and grandparents in Cairo.
She said her only obstacle in taking online classes is the six-hour time difference. When she isn’t waking up in the early hours of the morning to attend student organization meetings or watch lectures, Osman said she likes to go to the beach or try local street food.
“As nice as it is being in D.C., it’s a very fast-paced lifestyle,” Osman said. “I usually feel more stressed there, which makes it nice to be in Cairo even though it’s a pretty unconventional and crazy time to be a college student.”
Cross-country road trip
Senior Arielle Jordan is gearing up for a solo cross-country road trip in her family’s SUV during which she will drive through 15 states, starting in Virginia and ending in Tennessee.
She said she plans to stop at eight states before heading to Florida – where she lives – for Thanksgiving. At each of the eight states she will actually stop in, Jordan said she will camp or stay in Airbnbs close to family or friends.
“It’s a little nerve-racking to go alone and know how things will change in each state and be monitoring their COVID protocol and guidelines, but I’m also trying to make the most of it and take classes and balance it all,” Jordan said.