College in the time of COVID-19: Engineering student Dominic Durant


HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – Returning from an overseas military deployment means adjusting to a new routine. But one solider faced many challenges no one could ever expect as he began to realize his dreams when he came home.

Dominic Durant, an Army Reservist was deployed in 2018.

“I was told that my unit was going to be stationed at Kuwait and then move to Iraq for a year. What we did, our unit was basically just construction. So, we went over, and we were doing construction in Iraq and Kuwait throughout 2018, 2019 period,” Durant explained.

He had big aspirations for resuming his civilian life. Durant got home in September 2019 and began work as a process server. He soon began attending the University of Alabama in Huntsville with the hopes of becoming an engineer. He became a full-time student at UAH in the Spring 2020 semester, right as the world began to face a new frontier in the face of a global pandemic.

Classrooms shifted to cameras. School was not the same.

“That structure where I could go physically to a teacher, or a tutor, or even just peers in your own class to have peer study sessions was something I was really banking on, especially because a lot of you have similar classes, so they kind of know your situation than a tutor might,” Durant said.

But that wasn’t possible. The full-time engineering student did his best to adapt.

“A lot of people started Discord channels, group chats, all different types of things to try to stay connected, but in the end, it’s not the same. You can’t really work a math problem over Discord,” Durant explained,

That wasn’t the only challenge.

“I think that the most heavily hit aspect was the motivation. A lot of us who have never done any sort of online schooling found it hard to want to participate when there is just a camera that you don’t have to necessarily turn on,” he said. “It’s almost like you’re watching YouTube videos, you know. It’s something you disengage yourself from that you can’t really do if you’re in an in-person setting.”

After a few semesters, he decided it was time for a break.

“Both with coming off of that military deployment, being reintroduced into a new environment, and then having to adjust to isolation and everything else… They say that you’re supposed to have a couple months after coming back to reorient yourself to society which I didn’t really end up doing,” Durant said.

Durant says the pandemic has made him less social. He finds himself still staying at home more than he did before. But he also believes he has changed for the better. He developed more self-reliance.

“A lot of what I came into in the Spring was wanting to rely heavily on other people to help me get where I needed to be and with COVID I realized that you never really know what the future is, but you have to be willing to do what you need to do in order to succeed, and you have to be honest with yourself about your capabilities, what you can and can’t do,” he said.

He’s also had time to think and reevaluate the path he’s chosen. “There’s a lot of options that I’m looking at, but it did give me kind of a period of meditation during that isolation to think about where I want to be in 5 years and how do I want to get there,” he stated.

Durant plans to continue his studies in the Spring 2022 semester.

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