ELMIRA, N.Y. (WETM) — “I’m capable of doing hard things.” That’s the lesson learned by Becca Cook, an Elmira College graduate of 2020. She faced the full force of the COVID-19 pandemic two years ago but said she’s come out stronger because of it.

It’s been over two years since the pandemic began. And it’s been over two years that students have had to face the struggles of transitioning to online schooling.

Four Elmira College alumni told their stories in an 18 News Digital Exclusive. Justin Gillule graduated in 2019 and then again with his Master’s from the University of Pennsylvania in 2020. Becca Cook graduated in 2020, Janice Teeter in 2021, and Alex Adelman is on track to graduate next week.

The four told similar tales of their time before COVID shut down campuses in March 2020, going hiking or shopping with their friends, hanging out in their dorms, and participating in clubs, sports, and theatre. But each of them had a unique perspective on the way they processed and coped with the sudden lifestyle shift.

Gillule was the last to have a “normal” graduation; Cook was dealt the brunt of the confusion; Teeter was part of an experiment in COVID schooling as universities tried to do what was best for students and staff; and Adelman had more than half of his college years upended in some way by the virus. Having two-and-a-half years of COVID education gave him time to adapt, something he said is important for an education student like himself.

Students in primarily hands-on classes—like Teeter’s nursing clinical—suddenly found themselves trying to navigate online simulations. “A class like Biochem is really hard to learn online,” Cook explained.

Cook and Gillule said their schools did the best they could at handling the sudden shuttering, even if they “dropped the ball” in other ways. Teeter said Elmira College’s handling of clubs and athletics didn’t quite make sense to her, as sports teams were able to play and travel months before clubs could meet again.

But if given the chance to redo their time in school without COVID, would they? The answer seemed to shift across the four alum.

Gillule said he would have taken time off between graduating from Elmira College and starting at the University of Pennsylvania. Cook would have gone back. Teeter would have, as well, but just for her friends and events (“In terms of academics, no, because I wouldn’t want to go through it again”). But Adelman said no; “I definitely feel like I’ve had the college experience.

Watch Gillule, Cook, Teeter and Adelman tell their full stories in the video player above.