UT-Austin students take time off school, switch to part-time classes due to COVID-19

Samantha Greyson, News Reporter

Editor’s Note: This article first appeared as part of the September 19th flipbook. 

As COVID-19 cases spiked in January, Davey Hiester suspected classes would move online for the fall semester. Before registering for courses in February, he decided to take a gap-year to recover from the fatigue of virtual school.

“Even if the pandemic was really going to be a thing of the past and this school year was going to be normal in-person,” Hiester said. “I just felt so burnt out and exhausted academically.”

This fall, some students chose to take a gap semester or go part-time due to the threat of COVID-19 and the potential return of online classes. Many Longhorns decided to focus on other jobs or interests while waiting to go back to an in-person college experience. Students had to register in early spring before the status of fall semester classes were certain.

Hiester said he has not played in-person ensemble music with other UT students since the beginning of the pandemic nearly a year and a half ago. Playing for a camera alone lacked the collaboration in-person performance offers, Hiester said, and he didn’t want to risk wasting his senior year on any more online classes.

History junior Grace Calvert is taking two classes this fall because she didn’t want to risk paying full price for Zoom classes. 

“When I was doing the scheduled Zoom classes, that really was not a good learning style for me,” Calvert said. “I definitely am being very selective about what classes I take right now.”

UT will hold more than 90% of its classes face to face this fall, according to prior reporting by The Daily Texan. However, professors were able to change course modality to online for the first three weeks of school.

Hiester lives in Philadelphia and said a year of online classes made him feel especially disconnected from the UT community.

“It was just a strange feeling because I felt so removed from actually going to UT,” Hiester said. “I always said this to people as a joke, but it’s actually not that much of a joke. I would literally feel more at school and connected to the UT community when I’d just be scrolling through Twitter, than when I’d be at Zoom class.”

This year, Hiester plays freelance bassoon for various orchestras and performs in a chamber orchestra he created with some friends from high-school.

Hiester intends to focus on music performance and his growing barbeque business instead of staying on track to finish his degree in May. 

“I would have just felt weird,” Hiester said. “It’s like, yeah, now I have a piece of paper that says ‘Bachelor of Music, bassoon performance’, but I would have felt like I didn’t get enough of that educational experience.”

Editor’s Note: The version of this story that appeared in the September 14 flipbook stated that Grace Calvert went from being a full time student in the Spring to taking two classes in the fall. The story has since been changed to say that Calvert is taking two classes this fall because she didn’t want to risk paying full price for Zoom classes. The Texan regrets this error.