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College amid a pandemic: Latino students grapple with challenges, stress

Balancing family and studies, dealing with financial pressures and even figuring out the necessary equipment to study from home were some of the issues students faced.
A Long Shadow of a Person Walking
Some students faced serious financial hardships when jobs and internships were canceled due to the pandemic. Felix Cesare / Getty Images file

The coronavirus pandemic forced many college students to adapt to a new normal — leaving campus and taking classes remotely. And, while these changes played an important role in limiting the transmission of the virus, many Latino students struggled to keep up during the lockdowns.

“We’re talking about 12 months of doing something we usually never did. It’s — 'I’m going to college, I have a camera and a microphone on. And my parents are trying to go about their lives. And we’re trying to solve our family issues,'” said Luis Gonzalez Perez, a professor at Florida International University and Miami Dade College about the students' issues. “The challenges and the stress were real.”

Valeria Venturini, a senior at Florida International University, said at first, she was kind of happy to not have to commute to school each day – it saved a lot of time. But moving back home with family and trying to find a quiet space for online classes was challenging.

Valeria Venturini, a senior at Florida International University.Courtesy Valeria Venturini

“I would be locked in my room” doing classes online, Venturini said. “My dad would do his meetings in the kitchen … it was so, so loud! I think my classmates could hear him.”

Some students faced serious financial hardships when jobs and internships were canceled due to the pandemic.

“The biggest problem that I was facing — at least at the beginning of the pandemic — was financially,” said Jorge Lopez, a senior at Florida International University. "I was paying my car, my insurance, my school, anything that I would need, I was paying for that from work. Once my job laid me off, I was receiving no income. I was starting to get delayed on payments. I didn’t have savings at that time.”

Jorge Lopez, a senior at Florida International University.Courtesy Jorge Lopez

Even figuring out how to get the equipment necessary for remote learning — things like a desk, computer and high-speed internet — posed serious challenges for many students.

Some students had to take out additional loans, while others made hard choices to take time off from school — whether it was because of a sick family member, losing a job or having to help out with family finances. For many who stayed in school, it affected their grades.

There were some unexpected benefits: Students reported having more time to do school work since they weren’t commuting and others were able to do remote internships, which opened up a lot more options.

Valentina Duarte, a senior at the University of Central Florida, interned with NBCUniversal, which is based in New York, while going to school in Florida, something she normally wouldn’t be able to do. (NBCUniversal is also the parent company of CNBC.)

Valentina Duarte, a senior at the University of Central Florida.Courtesy Valentina Duarte

Watch this video to hear these Latino students talk about the challenges they faced during the pandemic, how they handled them – and the unexpected benefits they found along the way.

CNBC’s ”College Voices″ is a series written by CNBC interns from universities across the country about getting their college education, managing their own money and launching their careers during these extraordinary times. Raquel Quiroz is a senior at Florida International University where she is studying broadcast media. She is currently an intern for CNBC’s assignment desk and CNBC en Español, where she helps to translate scripts and videos for Telemundo. The series is edited by Cindy Perman.

Disclosure: NBCUniversal and Comcast Ventures are investors in Acorns.

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