It’s almost surreal to say that I haven’t been in a physical classroom in over a year. Like many others, the pandemic hit right at the end of my senior year of high school, and I spent my first year of college completely online as well. The pandemic has definitely made some aspects of college work very difficult, especially because I am an incredibly extroverted person. I love being around people and working in environments that allow me to collaborate or at least talk with others. While I’ve still been able to do that thanks to Discord and Zoom, nothing quite compares to the interaction you receive in a classroom. It has been difficult at times to feel motivated about attending an online lecture or having to watch hours upon hours of recorded lectures and taking notes, missing online office hours because of other classes or obligations and missing out on the chance to meet new people and friends in classes.
I am very excited to be returning to campus in the fall. I am fortunate to have received both doses of the COVID vaccine, and I will be able to return to campus safely for in-person classes. I think UCR was wise in giving professors a choice in what kind of instruction they want their classes to be given in. I’ll be taking half of my classes in-person and the other half online, giving a great transition period back into a classroom environment. Although I am a little wary about the risks in-person learning could pose, I plan on keeping up precautions for my own health, such as sanitizing regularly and wearing a mask in crowds. Regardless, I’m excited at the prospect of getting to interact with people face-to-face again.
In terms of what I’m looking forward to the most, it’s the chance to finally get to feel like I’m in a college environment. I have lived on campus for the last two quarters, and I’ve been able to walk around the buildings. But that’s not the same as getting to sit in a lecture hall and be able to actually engage. I’ve fallen into the pitfalls of not wanting to pay attention in class and sit with my camera off, dying for the class to end so I can get to some other work. Online classes have put me in a state of constantly needing to do something — catch up on a lecture, do a certain amount of homework and do this amount of studying. This constant feeling of being “on-call” has been overwhelming to me, and it has felt like my studies are stemming into every other part of my life, meaning I can’t relax. I feel like having the separation between the classroom and dorm room in the coming quarter will give me greater peace of mind.
This is not to say that I haven’t benefited in some ways from online learning. I’ve learned how to use Google Calendar, a vital and frankly gorgeous tool that I’ll be utilizing from now on, as it makes it so much easier to remember when my classes are rather than relying on my paper planner and fried memory. I was able to make some fantastic friends my first quarter thanks to our class Discord chat, and they have become some of my best friends since. Online learning opened up opportunities for creativity in communication that have been valuable, and I hope to hold onto these lessons even as we go back into in-person learning.
At least for me, I have nothing to fear when it comes to going back to in-person classes. I’m excited for the chances that being in person will offer, and I am more than excited to finally interact with my peers again. Though I will continue to be as safe as possible for myself and for others, the prospect of human connection again has me incredibly excited for what the fall quarter will bring.