by Alex Mika ’21 (CLAS)
Long before she began working on her Honors thesis—a middle grade fiction novel—and even before she began reading middle grade fiction, Kate Luongo ’21 (CLAS) knew she wanted to be a writer. Now, as she prepares to don her cap and gown, Luongo looks back on completing her degree in a pandemic and shares what she has in store. We wish her the best of luck with all her endeavors!
AM: What was the switch to online classes like in spring 2020?
KL: I’d say the biggest change was moving back home and suddenly living with my sister and my mom again. My mom would be working, my sister would be in her graduate classes, and sometimes there would be internet connection issues. It was kind of a crazy situation. We’d have three different classes and calls going on at the same time. Managing school work in all the uncertainty was tough, too. It took some adjustment.
AM: Did you discover any strategies that helped to make that adjustment?
KL: I think it definitely helped once I got into a routine. I made set times for different classes, including the classes that were more asynchronous. Finding my own study spaces in the house worked for me, as well, and having my dog there was nice.
AM: How did this switch affect your English classes? How did they adapt to this online format?
KL: I definitely missed the in-person English classes; they were typically smaller and discussion-based. It’s a lot about getting to know your class and just hearing everybody’s ideas. That was one of the most interesting parts, so I definitely missed that a lot. Some of my classes have been really great with doing online and recreating that intimate atmosphere. I’ve had classes where I really feel like I still got to know all the other students and we had great conversations over Zoom.
I think the synchronous meetings definitely helped the most. In the advanced study class, my professor broke us up into two smaller groups. In larger Zoom calls, it can be harder to get into a conversation when you have twenty other faces on the screen. In some of my classes, we formed group chats and things like that, which helps kind of create that sense of community.
AM: Have you picked up any hobbies or passion projects? How have you separated school and not-school time?
KL: I think it’s an interesting semester, because my passion project is related to my thesis. So, in that sense, I’m getting to do what I love for school. I also enjoy songwriting, writing poems, creative fiction, anything that comes to mind. Writing really is my creative outlet to sort of escape pandemic life.
AM: What is the topic of your thesis?
KL: My thesis is a middle grade fiction novel which follows the main character, Sophie, who is at a point in life where everything seems to be changing. She is trying so hard to be able to control things and stop things from changing, but through starting a new sport, figure skating, and meeting some new friends, she begins to adjust her mindset about change and comes to learn that it’s not necessarily a bad thing.
I took a creative writing class for children and young adults last semester, and one of our assignments was to write a novel. This was something that I’ve been playing around with for a while, but it gave me that opportunity to pursue it more. Some parts of the novel are taken from my own experiences; they gave me a place to start and explore.
AM: How far along are you?
KL: It’s coming together. I have a rough draft of the whole novel, and my project for the summer is going to be working on revisions. I’ll also start writing to publishers and starting that process.
AM: Over the last few months, you’ve been living in Washington, D.C. How did that opportunity come about?
KL: One of my closest friends since kindergarten and I were both doing classes from home remotely, and we realized that this could be a great opportunity to get to live together. It was something we talked about in a fantasy kind of way like, Oh, wouldn’t that be fun? But suddenly, we found ourselves in a position where we both could do classes from anywhere. My friend goes to Georgetown, and she really wanted to come back to the city. I also had a big interest in living in D.C. and seeing a new area.
It’s definitely not where I thought I would be ending my time at UConn. At the same time, with all the challenges that COVID-19 brought, it also brought some unexpected adventures and this is definitely one of them. I feel really fortunate that I got to live with a friend during this time and see some different things. I love going out for walks, exploring the city, and making the most of the situation.
AM: Do you see yourself possibly coming back and living in D.C. some day?
KL: Potentially. I think it’s a great city. I’m also in the mindset of exploring new places for now, and then we’ll see where I end up.
AM: Speaking of new places, you’re going to be going off to study in London soon!
KL: Yeah! I’m very excited to be pursuing my master’s in library and information studies at the University College of London. I think a big part of why I chose that program is not only because of the school, and it is an excellent program, but also because of the location. I’m really excited to get to travel. I was supposed to study abroad during college but unfortunately, COVID-19 put a hold to that. So, this is my opportunity to really get to travel and explore some new places.
Kate Luongo is a senior English major at UConn. She has a concentration in creative writing and
a minor in WGSS. She is also a student worker for the English Department and a writer for The
Daily Campus. Next year Kate will be receiving her MA in Library and Information Studies at
The University College London. She hopes to be a children’s librarian as well as a writer for
children and YA fiction.