Bryce Kelly ‘23

“How far are you into your semester?”

My aunt is halfway through her margarita. I’m having dinner with her and my uncle at a Mexican restaurant, the only meal I’ve had outside my rented home in a month. I take a sip of my water so I can have time to think.

“Week ten, I think. I just finished my midterms.”

“Midterms! Wow! How is that going online?”

I grimace and take another sip of my water. “Oh, it’s all online.”

“Is it the same as before? Are they changing it at all?”

“Well … one midterm took five hours for me to finish.”

They lurch a little in their chairs. “Five hours?”

“That’s true.” My friend, who I brought along to the dinner, chimes in. “He was working all day. When it was time for dinner after he finished, I asked him if he wanted to watch a movie, but he told me that he had another midterm the next day.”

drawing of student at desk surrounded by stacks of papers
Illustration by Teodelina Martelli ’23

“And that one took me two hours.” I nod. “And that class assigned homework. There was another class that did that too. Midterm and homework. It’s all because of our condensed semester. We don’t get breaks, and we get to double tests and assignments.

Again, my aunt takes the lead with the questions. “How do the professors … you know … make sure you’re not just looking stuff up during the exam?”

“Oh, it depends on the professor.” I answer.

“If they’re smart,” my friend asserts. “They let the test be open book.”

I understand where he’s coming from. I’ve seen the whole spectrum of professors’ approaches to midterms. For some, the terms were clear: you have 24 hours after you download the exam to fill it out and submit it. You can write out a “cheat sheet” on a single piece of paper, no more. Write down the times you downloaded, started, and finished the exam on the paper. Do not consult the internet. Do not consult another human being. I will be holding office hours during this time, and you are allowed to ask three clarification questions about the exam.

If you’re wondering how the professor enforced all of this, the answer is: they didn’t. I never had to submit evidence that I’d created my cheat sheet, and the professor had no way of knowing when we actually downloaded the exam.

On the other end of the spectrum, one midterm was a lot less structured. I had the whole weekend to complete it, and it was open book. I still had to complete homework on top of the midterm for both classes, however.

Three midterms over four days. Every college student has done it. Hell, I’ve done it. It’s a crunch, but it’s meant to be. Oh well. At least when it’s over, you can look forward to vacation-

Oh wait.


Week 10.

drawing of a 47-lb weight atop a laptop and papers
Illustration by Teodelina Martelli ’23

Later that night, when I go back to their place to spend the night, my aunt and uncle turn on the news. It’s about the election, of course. I do my homework in the background. I’m reading about the failure of both the international community and America to tackle climate change. The internet connection is spotty. I run through my mental checklist to see if I’ve done everything for my classes and the jobs I have. Trump is on TV again.  I get a text from my mom, reminding me to think about my living situation for the next semester, since we’ll probably have to be remote again. My neck hurts from all the classes on my computer. I haven’t done my laundry. “In 2019, Siberian wildfires scorched an area the size of Greece,” I type. I set a calendar alert to remind myself to attend a work meeting tomorrow. I finish my homework and close my computer, hopefully for good today.

I get a text from my sister. She’s asking me how my vacation is with my aunt and uncle. Sometimes, it’s hard to remind myself that I’m having one.