A Look Back On The Spring 2020 College Online Experience
Let's face it- online just isn't the same.
Nothing can replace the feeling of heavy sleep in my eyes as I throw on a Syracuse sweatshirt, run to catch the bus that will shuttle me to main campus, and quickly chug my mediocre coffee that always inevitably splashes on my jeans. I would sit down in my seat for my 9:30 a.m. lecture, and I would think “this day has started off as absolute chaos.”
Yet I would do anything to go back to the beautiful chaos of my Syracuse University life, one that has made me fall in love with higher education. The feeling of walking through the quad in the springtime is irreplaceable, with students milling about and hugs and laughter exchanged (have you thought about how much you’ve missed hugs?). The all-nighters in the library, feeding off of the adrenaline of other panicked college students, the commotion in the dining halls and the music pulsating through the dorm rooms. College life is a melting pot of challenging academic endeavors, unprecedented collaboration, lifelong friends and the daunting tasks that unfold with becoming an adult. Most importantly, it is truly the time where it is okay and encouraged to make mistakes, followed by the guidance and support of trusted professors and friends.
The moral conflict of selfishness versus the world’s general well-being plagues me, but I can say with absolute certainty that online education does not fulfill the richness and personal growth of in-person instruction. The online transition has been anything but perfect, but one aspect that has really shone bright to me is the dedication and compassion from my professors. That is not to say that I have not been frustrated with the glitches of Blackboard Collaborate Ultra, the redundancy and exhaustion of Zoom meetings, and the replacement of discussion-based classes with muted microphones and cameras. But at least everyone is on the same page emotionally.
The emotional experience of being cooped up at home has translated to a lack of productivity and lower self-confidence in our abilities as future professionals. I think now more than ever, professors are able to empathize with our needs to be in the classroom, as humans are inherently social beings that thrive off of shared experiences. The caring nature of checking in on their students and trying to give the most personal and rewarding online experience has not gone unnoticed. Professors- it’s not that we don’t care about our education anymore. We just are struggling trying to adapt to this new lifestyle- we did not plan on paying an absurd amount of money to sit in our childhood rooms every day, our eyes straining to focus on a computer screen, and neither did you.
One thing I think that should be transparently clear to college students is that it is okay to feel sad, frustrated and in a state of grieving. We are grieving the loss of our young adulthood experiences, which have been stripped away from us within the blink of an eye.
The lack of motivation from students this semester should not be a representation of who we are as a student body. The challenges that students are facing should not be a barrier to comprehensive learning: international students who must cope with a time difference, students who rely on on-campus employment to pay rent and tuition, lack of WiFi access and computers for learning, the deterioration of mental health as a result of forced isolation. A campus nurtures a community where all can be accepted, regardless of background- you are all part of one family. Now, it is like each family member is banished to their room and punished, kicked off of campus without a moment to truly say goodbye.
We’re allowed to miss and mourn our coffee dates with friends, our nights of ordering in and watching movies, our time locked inside the library the night before a final, our class debates that we get too heated in, our club and Greek life meetings, our nights out and our daily routine that challenged us yet gave us comfort. For fellow Syracuse students, we’re even allowed to miss the rainy and snowy days where you just want to hide in bed. Don’t let anyone undermine your sadness and grieving from the loss of your college experience. Yet, it has bonded us as an academic community to a mutual understanding: Zoom is overrated.
We can use the memories, the repressed sadness, the appreciation of in-person instruction to build a better educational system when the new norms are set into place, in our post COVID-19 world. We can incorporate compassion into our academic experiences, a better appreciation of how collaborative actions really stir success, and holding our professors, administration, and college friends closer in our hearts.
To be continued on my semi-online Fall 2020 experience.