"Just keep going": A junior reflects on her year of pandemic learning

Pre-med student Kennedy Elliot looks back at two years of college impacted by the pandemic and discusses her struggles and successes.

Kennedy Elliot and a companion at Slotzilla zip lines in Las Vegas

Kennedy Elliot at SlotZilla Zip Line at the Fremont Street Experience. Because of the pandemic, Elliot spent her sophomore year at the University of Nevada, Reno living, studying and working at her home in Las Vegas.

"Just keep going": A junior reflects on her year of pandemic learning

Pre-med student Kennedy Elliot looks back at two years of college impacted by the pandemic and discusses her struggles and successes.

Kennedy Elliot at SlotZilla Zip Line at the Fremont Street Experience. Because of the pandemic, Elliot spent her sophomore year at the University of Nevada, Reno living, studying and working at her home in Las Vegas.

Kennedy Elliot and a companion at Slotzilla zip lines in Las Vegas

Kennedy Elliot at SlotZilla Zip Line at the Fremont Street Experience. Because of the pandemic, Elliot spent her sophomore year at the University of Nevada, Reno living, studying and working at her home in Las Vegas.

Tell us about yourself and what brought you to the University of Nevada, Reno.

My name is Kennedy Elliott, and I will be entering my junior year as an undergraduate at the University of Nevada, Reno in the fall of 2021. I was born in Detroit, Michigan and raised in Las Vegas, Nevada. In my childhood, I do not recall ever going through the princess phase. Even at a young age, I recognized that I shared little to no resemblance with the fictional characters representing grace, beauty and prestige.

Very few of these characters were black girls, and as a result of that, my career goals were typically a bit more realistic. I am pretty sure that I wanted to be a veterinarian once my parents bought our first dog. In second grade, I definitely remember wanting to be a teacher so that my class could have pizza parties every Friday, but there was one dream job that seemed to stick with me. After watching some dramatically romanticized scene of childbirth on television, my little self decided that I wanted to be, what I used to call, a baby deliverer.

At some point in my academic career I learned that that position is formally known as an obstetrician/gynecologist, and that it would take me years to acquire that title. Honor rolls in elementary and junior high landed me a spot in Rancho High School’s medical program, and now I am halfway through my collegiate career studying biology at the University of Nevada, Reno.

Your first two years in college have been marked by the pandemic. What was that like?

My freshman year was fine, generally speaking. Though I did have a hard time finding where I fit in, I was doing exceptionally well with handling my class work and maintaining a high GPA. I was feeling homesick, confused, kind of lonely, but I was halfway through my spring semester, looking forward to my first spring break as a college student. That was when the pandemic took the whole world by storm.

Being sent home, initially, was a relief for me. I was looking forward to a potentially longer break and to being closer to my family in Vegas. Through the unsettling circumstances the pandemic presented me with, I successfully finished my spring semester remotely at home and enjoyed summer 2020.

Kennedy Elliot

Upon entering my sophomore year, I remember feeling very confused about how in-person learning was going to work, so I decided to complete another semester online in Vegas. I accepted a job offer as the student worker for the University of Nevada, Reno Las Vegas office during this time, and I remember making an effort to change my mindset, to think optimistically. Although the circumstances of my fall semester of sophomore year were different than those of my freshman year, I wanted to utilize this time to regain structure in my life and refocus on the reasons I decided to go to college in the first place.

My experience during my fall semester was very straight forward, and while the coursework did get challenging at times, all of my professors were very responsive and very forgiving when it came to retakes, extra-credit and deadline extensions. On days I had lighter coursework, I spent my time at the office, surrounded by people that understood that I am a student first and who were beyond willing to be accommodating.

I ended the fall semester of 2020 with a GPA of 3.8, and it was my first time having my name on the Dean’s List.

Still, being a pre-med student and learning remotely must have been challenging.

The elatedness I felt coming from that semester was interrupted abruptly upon the arrival of the spring semester of 2021. This semester was, by far, the most strenuous when I compare it to any of my previous academic experiences. I think this was because I began my upper division biology and chemistry courses. These classes are excruciatingly demanding. It was also because by this point, a year into the pandemic, I had grown tired of remote learning, and I was lacking peer interaction, in-person learning engagement.

I was accustomed to spending all of my time indoors, not having anywhere to go outside of the office and my bedroom. I felt like a zombie, sitting behind a computer screen everyday, no longer engaging with material, no longer excited to learn. Feelings of sadness, lack of motivation, burnout, restlessness - all symptoms I had not faced in such abundance at any point in my life.

Although professors offered help -through office hours, peer-assisted learning, test reviews, study guides, etc. - I found myself struggling to complete the assigned coursework in time to be prepared for these sessions. Everyday was a battle, and I lost sight of the reasons why I came to college.

Luckily, I ended my spring semester with a GPA of 3.56. I was thrilled.

How are you feeling now that you are heading back to campus in the fall?

As I head to my junior year at the University, I am slowly preparing my mind for all of the changes coming my way. I am moving back to campus. I am hoping to be a Pack Mentor for the incoming NevadaFit students. I am a captain for the University's Peer Recruitment Team from our Las Vegas office. I am continuing on into more upper division biology, chemistry and physics courses, and I will soon be studying to take my MCAT in spring of 2022.

From this past year, I have learned how to keep pushing myself through turmoil. I have learned the importance of giving as much as I can, even when I feel like I have nothing left to give. I now, more than ever, understand the significance of "just keep going." I look forward to studying alongside fellow classmates who remind me of my competition, to completing a Bachelor of Science degree, to earning my seat at the UNR School of Medicine, and to representing black faces in the medical field as a baby deliverer.


Kennedy Elliott is a junior at the University of Nevada, Reno majoring in biology. She is a student worker for the University’s Las Vegas Office for Prospective Students and she is a captain of the office’s Peer Recruitment Team.

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