Over one year ago, the first American was diagnosed with a virus that has become more than just a disease; it has become a symbol of fear, isolation and death. Endless lockdowns and mask mandates are what particularly characterize our perception of 2020. But has COVID-19 really brought only negatives to society, or are there perhaps even aspects about our life that were enhanced due to the global outbreak of a novel disease?

We have peered at each other from behind cloth masks for more than a year now, and it looks like the end might be in sight, but have we gained any positive understandings throughout this horrific pandemic? Have we gained a new appreciation for social connections amid social distancing?       Photo by Dominic Johnson


2020 was a year of reflection. 

Activities that people took for granted were suddenly not possible any longer. 

The average person spent much more time at home with oneself rather than socializing with friends or family outside their own four walls. 

A whole society in a panic about a danger invisible to humans, yet visibly threatening. 

Most would agree the pandemic carried numerous challenges and negative repercussions regarding our intra- and inter-societal life. 

However, unconventional situations like this sometimes guide people to reinvent themselves and often carry hidden advantages most wouldn’t expect if they had not experienced it firsthand.

Students across the country were among the first to witness the damaging effects of the virus on their everyday lives. 

Universities across the country closed down in March 2020, initiating one of the biggest educational movements in history, as classes worldwide were moved online. 

After a summer break marked by lockdown and isolation, many students at public and private institutions across the United States received the chance to continue their education in the traditional setting.

As a private institution, Missouri Baptist University decided to again allow in-person classes in fall 2020 and spring 2021. 

With care and a COVID plan designed specifically for MBU’s campus, it followed most private schools and started slowly but safely transitioning toward a traditional college experience for its students.

Back on campus, MBU’s students reflected on the past several months with many agreeing the pandemic and time in isolation overall brought numerous negatives into their social and private life. 

“I don’t know if there is anything positive about this pandemic. I’m just sick of it,” said Alexander Engelhardt, a sophomore business major, perfectly summing up what many students mutually agreed on.

Engelhardt, an international student from Germany, had it particularly tough, as the sudden development in March 2020 forced him to quickly abandon his life in the United States and leave the country as soon as possible. 

To protect citizens around the globe, countries quickly began closing down borders, suspending most international travel from high-risk areas. 

As a result, foreign students were compelled to leave the country promptly, to avoid being stuck in the United States with little to no hope of returning home for the extended summer break caused by the early termination of in-person classes.

But amid all this could there be opportunities for students to take away a few positives from the worst pandemic in a century? Perhaps aspects they haven’t thought of before?

Several students revealed interesting facts that shed a different light on their time in isolation.

Self-reflection seemed to play a big role for individuals at MBU. 

Being stripped from social interaction caused many students to think about their future and their goals.

“Probably all the downtime in the pandemic has given me a lot of time to reflect and prioritize things that are actually important to me,” said Hannah Leahy, a senior at Missouri Baptist University, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in communications studies in May 2021. “It opened my eyes about where I want to be in a few years and what it takes to get there.”

Leahy wasn’t alone with this idea as many students admitted they feel more comfortable about their position in life and see the future much clearer than before the pandemic.

It was the little things that people enjoyed about being stuck in their homes. 

Running around in sweatpants all day, enjoying time with the family and binge-watching Netflix series were just some of the benefits many students mentioned. 

Particularly the expansion of interests helped students to acquire new skills they believe can be useful in the future.

“I definitely learned things I probably would have not learned without the pandemic, such as cooking, for example. I was a terrible cook, now I am somewhat decent, I think,” said Engelhardt.

Others found interest in new hobbies like Leahy, who said she “picked up new hobbies like scrapbooking and yoga.” 

Prior to COVID-19 the fast-paced and stressful life of most students, between full-time jobs, sports and the university, would not have allowed time for creating those new and different experiences.

Isolation also limits occasions for going out to restaurants or shopping centers, which brings up the obvious question of whether students saved money by not participating in any costly activities. 

Job Faber, a sophomore history major from the Netherlands, had a simple answer to that. 


“Since I couldn’t go places to shop, I’ve spent a lot of money online shopping,” Faber said. “People don’t have to abandon what they enjoy doing. I’ve learned that the pandemic made us all a bit more flexible. We had to adjust to the situation, but if you want to shop for clothing, you could still do that, only the way to do it changed.”

Faber adequately summed up what this pandemic has been all about. 

Unexpected and even uncomfortable situations occur all the time in everyone’s lives. 

Rather than focusing on the bad, many students demonstrated one thing above all: Focusing on the good often reveals many positive aspects in the current situation, no matter how awful it may seem. 

While it is clear the pandemic has presented plenty of challenges for families and people across the world, it has also given them a chance to recognize that nothing can be taken for granted in life, and situations can change all the time — for the better or for the worse.

By Patrick Szymczak

Patrick Szymczak is a sports anchor for the MBU Timeline Broadcast. Szymczak is an international student from Germany majoring in communications studies. He is also part of the MBU’s men’s tennis team. After graduation, he plans on pursuing a career in television as an anchor or TV personality.