Adapting and succeeding: one student’s perspective

Gabby Sonderegger is a sophomore majoring in chemistry. She is studying remotely from her family’s home on Georgia. She also is working remotely for the department of University Strategic Communications.


This was not the school year that I expected or wanted. Online education was a challenge for me and will continue to create new difficulties. However, I have learned from online education in new ways and taken advantage of opportunities that I could not have with in-person classes.

Like many University of the Pacific students, I work “on-campus.” This school year, that means remotely from my family’s home in Georgia.

I was lucky to be able to continue at my job after the switch to online. With the transition, my team decided to start sending out the Positively Pacific newsletter, to show all the good news going on at the university.

I started writing for the newsletter and web site. In doing so, I have been able to talk to extraordinary students, faculty, staff, alumni and community members for virtual interviews. The freedom of scheduling virtual meetings allowed me to meet many more people than would have been possible in person.

This virtual ability to meet constantly forced me to learn to balance work and school. I initially struggled to switch between work and school. I like following-through on a task immediately.

I can get absorbed in what I’m doing and easily lose track of time. Switching suits isn’t as easy as Superman makes it look! I started keeping all my work tabs and school tabs in separate windows, so that I was less likely to be distracted when I was trying to focus on one and it was more of a decision to switch between the two, rather than a knee-jerk reaction to a notification.

I also had to re-establish perspective so that I could focus. I would re-center myself by setting time chunks and reminding myself that any work email could wait three hours while I studied. And I really needed to study this semester. 

As a sophomore, the difficulty of my classes increased exponentially from last year. This escalation, combined with the litany of adjustments that all of us have made in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, meant that I struggled academically. My usual methods of studying were ineffective and I didn’t know how to change them.

After failing my first test, I reached out to my faculty advisor. He suggested the General Academic Tutoring Center. The center has free, individual tutoring sessions for all Pacific students. It was invaluable to me this semester and slowly helped me improve my grade. Go to office hours and ask for help from advisors and professors! They know not only the content, but resources like the Tutoring Center, that I would not have thought to use myself.      

I don’t want to look back at this semester with rose-colored glasses. This semester was not an easy adjustment for many people, for many reasons. But as students, we navigated and succeeded through the challenges that online education presented and we have remained strong in our commitment to the Pacific community. This was not an accident, but the result of hard work on the part of students, faculty, staff, and the support of all of our families.

This semester was radically different from any other in Pacific’s history. Spring semester will be too, but we have the experience and support we need to take advantage of the unique opportunities that a virtual Pacific offers.