Zoom University: What It's Like Being a College Student During the Pandemic
For many college students, and professors, online learning this past semester was a first. With the rapidly evolving conditions of Covid-19, universities were forced to pull their students studying abroad, shut down campuses, and send students home. But home doesn't mean the same thing for every college student. For many students, school housing is very important. It provides stability and serves as a conducive learning environment. For some, it's become their primary residence because they don't have a home. With the many differing circumstances students have become more creative than ever to continue pursuing their degree.
Online learning has forced everyone to become more adaptable. Teachers and students have found a way to keep communication and lectures through online platforms be it Teams or Zoom. Although some professors have proved to be more technologically adept than others, we've all somehow found a way to manage, but not everything has been a smooth transition. Several schools have commenced academic investigations in light of Chegg, a new online textbook version of Google. The site allows students to type in questions and receive answers in seconds, which has been difficult for professors to monitor when tests are held "live" over Zoom, with no way to check students' screens.
Although online learning has brought up some rather serious scandals, it's also allowed for some funny anecdotes as well. I've had my own share of embarrassing Zoom moments- a bee flying through my apartment window during a presentation, or even being called on for an answer mid-pee. Plenty of viral videos have surfaced of students pretending to be frozen on camera, changing their name to Reconnecting, and even an occasional toilet flush during class.
On a more serious note, many college seniors were forced to graduate sans ceremony. This came as a shock for many seniors, considering graduation is a milestone every college student looks forward to. "I was heartbroken for weeks," said Natalie Hernandez, who graduated this May from Pace University, "You look forward to your senior year and graduation...it's the excitement of walking across the stage and getting the diploma that makes it all worth it."
Many students' families had already spent countless dollars on flights, hotels, and festivities, all to be canceled over email.
"I was pleasantly surprised by my virtual graduation!" Hernandez added, "I got to watch my graduation from home on a big TV in my cap and gown. My dad ordered food and cake from my favorite restaurant, my grandparents dressed up, and so did my mom even though she's on the West Coast. I felt really special and loved."
Ryan Peete, who graduated from NYU this May shared her experience, "It was like NYU didn't even try." This comes as a shock considering NYU is known for its grandiose ceremonies in previous years, like last year's commencement at Yankee Stadium.
"It was a pretty disappointing graduation. It was 30 minutes of old stock footage. I expected a lot more from a school with that many resources. However, my program, Clive Davis Institute, had separate graduation on Zoom and that was pretty special. All the professors in my program came together and said kind words to each student."
Right now, NYU is postponing its in-person graduation to when it's safe to congregate in groups again. Peete added, "I still had a nice day. My mom went all out and ordered balloons, champagne, and food which was the sweetest thing in the world."
Things aren't getting any easier for the class of 2020 anytime soon. Graduating into a recession is no easy feat, and with most companies facing major cutbacks, there aren't very many industries in the market for hiring. There's no doubt the US is entering a recession, and for many current college students, it's discouraging not knowing what the state of the global economy will be post-Covid-19.
The college landscape for current students next semester is still unknown. Some freshman students plan on taking a gap year instead of attending a post-Covid-19 orientation. Most universities in the UK have opted to switch to online learning for the entirety of the Fall Semester. Some American universities are even offering "online study abroad" which was a head-scratching moment for many students. My university, which operates in France, has pushed the Fall Semester to September 23 and plans to make online learning and in-person learning available for the first month for international students returning that will need to undergo mandatory quarantine for two weeks. But a later start means longer classes and later finals, our last final date being December 22, which is very tight for international students like myself, hoping to get home in time for Christmas break.
For many enrolled college students, online classes are a make or break situation. Some students I've spoken to have decided to take next semester off because they find classes over Zoom too inaccessible. It's been a mixed bag in response to online learning. Most students find that the lack of in-person communication makes concentrating more challenging. The overwhelming consensus has been that regular assignments feel much more difficult with the lack of structure and face-to-face clarification.
In the coming months, we may be rethinking how we attend college as a whole, but the only thing we can do right now is to take it day by day and have a good sense of humor.