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School of Molecular Sciences students reflect on their first semester in the middle of the pandemic

SMS Freshmen Sydney Pickett, Eric Do, Jessica Wang and Gabriella Cerna

School of Molecular sciences freshmen (from left): Sydney Pickett, Eric Do, Jessica Wang and Gabriella Cerna

January 19, 2021

The 2020 pandemic changed many things including the college experience for first-year students.

The excitement to attend the first football game as a new addition to the Sun Devil family and step foot into their first-ever college lecture, for the most part, did not happen traditionally. Though it was challenging and uncertain how the future would look, many of the freshmen from Arizona State University's School of Molecular Sciences did not let the pandemic get in the way of achieving their academic goals. 

Here, several first-year students from the school talk about their first semester at ASU in the middle of the pandemic. 

Sydney Pickett is in the BS biochemistry program; she is one of the many students who excelled in her first semester at the School of Molecular Sciences. Her drive to attain her goals comes from her dream of attending medical school.

“Overwhelming” was the word she used to describe her first semester of college. Her biggest challenge was being an out-of-state student: Not knowing anyone from Arizona and also trying to adjust to a new city and a completely new environment made her nervous.

She felt homesick often but was able to overcome it with the help of her support system back at home. With her family and friends' encouragement she achieved her goals of meeting new people by stepping outside of her comfort zone, on top of attaining straight As for the semester.

Her new goals for the year are to get a shadowing position and maintain her 4.0 GPA. 

“One thing I learned is that it is OK to make mistakes and to mess up sometimes. Just be resilient and do not give up,” she said.

Eric Do, a BS medicinal biochemistry major, on the other hand, was frustrated when he realized that his first semester of college would be during the pandemic. He didn’t get to meet new people or explore the ASU campus as much as he wanted to.

For him the online learning environment was challenging due to it being difficult to focus in a setting outside of a physical classroom. One of his most difficult courses of the semester was CHM 117: General Chemistry for Majors I. Though it was challenging, a perk he received was attending the in-person lab with fewer students, which allowed him to ask the lab instructor more questions if he had any.

His motivation to succeed this semester came from his goals, friends who were in the same situation and his aspirations to become a future pharmacist, which helped him attain straight As. His goals for the upcoming semester are to improve his work-life balance.

“I would like to thank my instructor Tim Lamb for being my guide through my first semester,” he said.

Jessica Wang is a medicinal biochemistry BS major who has looked forward to her first year in college since she was a child. She wanted to explore her independence, and she knew traveling across the country was the best way to achieve it.

But due to the pandemic, she was initially disappointed with the way her experience turned out.

“I felt as though I was taking a step backwards towards my self growth rather than it being an opportunity for new experiences,” she said.

What kept her motivated through the semester was her goal of self growth and sense of independence. She found herself doing something different every week, and while it felt overwhelming at times, she never wanted it to stop. She has made the most of her time at ASU by taking advantage of great opportunities that came her way. 

She also made good friends during the first semester.

“I got very lucky this semester. Having made such a strong friendship with my roommate, we spend most of our time together,” she said. 

Although it was not ideal, Gabriella Cerna, who is majoring in biochemistry and microbiology, was very grateful that she had the opportunity to attend college in a safe environment.

Transformative is the word she used to describe her semester, because she was able to discover herself and her beliefs through being exposed to many different ideas and viewpoints. Her biggest motivation was her drive to continue learning.

“Instead of focusing on external factors like grades, I concerned myself with truly enjoying and understanding the content in my classes,” she said.

During her first year she gained a valuable growth mindset that has allowed her to become a more resilient individual and create attainable goals. 

Even though this year was not picture perfect for these students, they found ways to make it work for them. They were able to overcome many hurdles that were passed their way through the pandemic, and instead of giving up, they excelled and pushed forward toward their goals of success.

Written by Mariela Lozano, School of Molecular Sciences communications assistant,

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