How Frederick Alumni Isabelle Esquivel handled the transition from college town to hometown due to COVID-19


Photo courtesy of Isabelle Esquivel

FHS alumni Isabelle Esquivel attended the University of Northern Colorado since 2018, but her schooling was suddenly interrupted by COVID-19.

Aria Bragalone, Staff Writer

When St. Vrain schools went online for the rest of the semester, it was a shocking change for Frederick students. Suddenly, sports were canceled and students had to adjust to digital learning. But for Frederick High’s alumni in college, their whole lives and routines had to change in an instant, moving home when dorms closed down, leaving friends, quitting jobs, and adjusting to digital school. We asked Isabelle Esquivel, a member of the Frederick Class of 2018, about her experience of being sent home from the campus she had grown to know and love.

When COVID-19 hit, Isabelle was attending University of Northern Colorado for her second year. While Isabelle originally went into pre-nursing, Isabelle was told that she was not accepted into the nursing program and planned to change programs over summer. Little did she know she would be leaving UNC earlier than planned–at the time, the students at UNC originally thought they were just leaving for spring break.

“People left the school expecting to come back within a week…I think we were all in denial,” Isabel told us. The students then learned the next week that they would not be returning to classes. “For me, I was most upset and angry that I had taken my last class at UNC without even knowing it.” With classes moving online, she had taken her last few steps on campus without being able to really soak it all in.

College is not cheap, and every college is handling the refunds (or lack thereof) differently. For students at UNC who still have at least another semester there, their dining credits and dorm payments that weren’t used in these past few months will be moved to the next semester. Students that graduated this semester were refunded their money. Isabelle, on the other hand, is in a sticky situation. She told us, “I didn’t get accepted to the nursing program at UNC, so I am not attending there in the fall. They refuse to give my family a refund despite multiple emails from us trying to resolve the situation.”

Despite the refund situation, Isabelle is grateful that she had somewhere to come home to in the midst of all of the confusion. “The best thing about coming home has been being able to spend more time with the people I love during this crazy, unpredictable time. I have a very supportive family, so they definitely helped ease some stress for me.” There are also some things that she misses about the college life, just as anyone else would. “The hardest thing about coming home was trying to stay focused and staying on top of school. I would always go to the library at school. It was the best environment for me to get my stuff done. At home, I don’t even have a desk, so it was a huge change in environment compared to what I had gotten used to in the past two years.”

Traditional public schooling has students used to seeing friends almost daily, forming bonds within classes (even if it is just to help get a grade up), and even little things as as simple as taking a test on paper or having study groups becomes a crucial part of your learning experience. When all of this is taken away, it is understandable that many students are struggling to be as successful as they were when things were normal. Isabelle has noticed that this has affected her immensely.

“It has been a lot harder for me to get my work done. It felt like in some of my classes there was a lot more at-home work then we would have been able to do in class on top of studying for tests and finals. It was also hard to get into a routine. My test grades were not as good as they were when I took them in class, either.”

She did make sure to commend her professors, as this time is just as challenging for them:  “Most of my teachers still did an amazing job teaching under these circumstances. It was just hard to study and do work on top of everything else going on.”

The pandemic has made life difficult for most everybody and has left all of us to figure out how to keep going. The idea of not being able to say goodbye to one’s home for the past few years, a place where a person has made lifelong friends and memories cannot  be easy. Yet Isabelle’s journey shows that there is a way forward: acceptance.

“This experience has taught me that I need to appreciate things in life that I normally would take for granted. While I was in school, I would complain about going to class. I would complain about studying. I would complain about a lot of things. I have recently come to realize how much I actually miss going to class and studying with friends. It’s an experience that I won’t get back with those people, and I should have cherished it more.”