It’s Back to School

By Michael Malone

It’s Back to School

By Michael Malone
UM undergraduate students resumed classes Monday, some ready, some not, but everyone glad to be back.

After an unexpected and nearly three-week break due to Hurricane Irma, University of Miami students were back on campus Monday and energized—well, most were energized and a few were bee-lining for coffee—to be resuming classes and settling back into an academic groove.

“It was a ‘stressful break’—‘stressful’ in terms of the storm, yet a much appreciated break,” said Josh Wisdom, a junior and theater major. “It was a long time to be out of school.”

Wisdom went to his family home in Broward County where he helped put up shutters and prepare for the storm. He spent some of the time “catching up on assignments,” yet said he’s a “10” in terms of motivation, super ready to be back at school and engaged in his theater studies.

Just after Labor Day as Irma, a massive Category 5 hurricane in the Caribbean at the time, began to aim her stormy wrath towards South Florida, the University proactively suspended classes beginning Wednesday, Sept. 6. While it was initially hoped that classes could resume September 18, the high number of felled trees, continued power outages and other safety issues prompted University leadership to extend the academic hiatus to September 25. Graduate student classes at Miller School of Medicine, the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and the School of Law resumed earlier.

UM President Julio Frank visited with students
UM President Julio Frank visited with students Sunday evening at the student dining halls to talk about surviving Hurricane Irma and getting back to classes.

Jiawei Gao, a freshman in communications, and Yinyue Chang, a freshman in advertising, friends since high school, evacuated as soon as the University issued the order to close. They said flights were “so expensive,” but they were glad to get out of harm’s way. Gao visited with friends in Washington and Philadelphia; Chang went to Minneapolis. To stay academic “sharp,” Chang spent some of her time attending classes at the University of Minnesota with friends.

Both have a full day of classes Monday and were excited to be back at the dorm at Stanford and in class. “I feel powerful to be back,” Yinhue said.

“I’m not feeling it,” said Cameron Marchel, a freshman in real estate, who returned to campus this weekend. He went home to New Jersey during the storm.  “I’m a ‘3’ in terms of ready, I didn’t do anything at home, pretty bored and now to be back with this gloomy weather,” he said. Marchel said he was glad to have just one class Monday and an easy transition back.

Maya Dunchus, a freshman in business, was “tired” but glad to be back and gearing up for a busy day, three classes in the morning, two this afternoon. Dunchus returned home to New Jersey during the forced break. She spent time working as a lifeguard – “my mom made me” – but enjoyed staying busy and earning some extra money. “I tried to get everything done for school that I could,” she said.

As part of preparation for the storm, the University of Miami Crisis Decision Team moved quickly and decisively to safeguard the 4,300 students on campus, helping as many as possible to evacuate and providing services and accommodations for those unable to leave. While the storm veered to the west and caused considerably less damage than what was expected, Irma left 13 million across Florida without power and untold property damage, and littered the University of Miami Coral Gables campus with enough debris to fill 1,500 full-size pickup trucks.  

Samantha Budd, a freshman in international finance, left the Wednesday that school closed and got the best flight home to New Jersey that she could. The flight, however, was far from smooth. Routed to a connection in Chicago, Budd had to sprint across the huge airport to get to her gate on time to catch her flight to Newark.

Budd, who was busy Monday morning preparing for a math test, has some experience with hurricanes. “With ‘Sandy’ lots of my friends lost their shore homes, but we were more affected during Hurricane Irene—out of power for several weeks,” Budd recalled. Hurricane Sandy was the deadliest and most destructive hurricane of the 2012 Atlantic hurricane season.

Budd spent her time at home visiting with friends and “mostly relaxing.” An email blast from the U notified her that assignment due dates were pushed back as there was no assured online access to the materials. She returned Sunday. “I’m glad to be back, now I really have to readjust to get back to classes.”