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University Of Wyoming Exodus Shows How COVID-19 Is Crimping The College Experience

As the coronavirus forces classes online, University of Wyoming students pack up and head home.
Maggie Mullen
As the coronavirus forces classes online, University of Wyoming students pack up and head home.

It's the Monday after spring break, a day when students and professors would usually be returning to campus. But that traditional springtime bustle is nowhere to be seen here at the University of Wyoming in Laramie.

Instead, students and their parents are pushing moving carts, crammed with things like beanbags and microwaves, out of the dorm rooms and toward their cars. On the sidewalk, there's a message written in brightly colored chalk that says, "See you in the fall. Go Pokes!"

One of the students packing up her life is freshman Luna Adelt.

"We all heard a lot about bigger universities moving online and stuff like that, but I didn't really think that it would get to that point in Wyoming," Adelt says. "So I was pretty surprised that they took such drastic measures, but it does make sense now."

UW announced on March 16 that it was taking all courses online in response to COVID-19.

Adelt, who's studying psychology, considers herself lucky since she was easily able to move back in with her parents and siblings in Laramie. Still, she says it feels like moving backwards.

"This spring semester I started basically getting used to always being on campus and learning things and meeting people and stuff like that," she says. "So now it's just kind of like I've gone back to high school almost, because I'm, like, living with my parents again."

Adelt says she's doing her best to keep in touch with new friends, but laments that it's "hard to stay really connected."

Senior Alyssa Wesner, meanwhile, is lamenting the loss of graduation.

"That was the one thing that I was really looking forward to at the end of the four years of struggle that I've gone through here on campus," she says.Wesner worked to complete her degree while holding down a full-time job. She's a non-traditional student at 32-years-old, and she says it hasn't been easy.

"Spent many, many long hours, a lot of my own money, time, energy on finally completing something," she says. "Just not being able to have that transition from all of the work that I've done over the past four years. It's a weird loss that I didn't ever think I'd have to be mourning."

Wesner has been studying environment and natural resources as well as environmental system science. She describes not being able to mark the end of her degree with a traditional ceremony and celebration as a huge let down.

"I just feel like while I'm completing all of this training in this learning, and the whole process, it's just going to end up quietly disappearing into the universe, and I'm just going to have to move on without any closure," she says.

Wesner will be refunded for her cap and gown purchase. And freshman Luna Adelt suspects she won't be on the hook for room and board.

"They are going to try to give out refunds for the housing and the meal plans that basically just are not going to be used now," she says.

Have a question about this story? Contact the reporter, Maggie Mullen, at

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Do you have questions about COVID-19? How has this crisis affected you? Our reporters would love to hear from you. You can submit your question or share your story here.


Copyright 2020 Wyoming Public Radio. To see more, visit Wyoming Public Radio.

Maggie Mullen is a fifth generation Wyomingite, born and raised in Casper. She is currently a Masters candidate in American Studies and will defend her thesis on female body hair in contemporary American culture this May. Before graduate school, she earned her BA in English and French from the University of Wyoming. Maggie enjoys writing, cooking, her bicycle, swimming in rivers and lakes, and most any dog.
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