Starting a new chapter virtually

My concerns as a first-year student

Graphic Carleen Loney

When I began imagining university, I saw myself walking through long corridors with friends and attending lectures in big conference rooms. I would’ve never imagined I’d be attending an 8 a.m. class in pyjamas with my dog on my lap.

My experience in CEGEP was wonderful: I found a program I was passionate about and friends who shared the same goals as me. Going to school felt less like a chore and more like an opportunity.

When I decided to apply to Concordia as my first choice, I did so because I felt it would be a way to keep this streak going. However, starting university online changes a lot of things.

There are memories in this first year that I intended to make—memories that will be replaced by me asking my brother to lower the TV volume because I’m in class. Instead of enjoying my university experience, I’ll be sitting alone in my room. It feels as though I’m losing four months of my life.

I wanted to join Queer Concordia to have a safe space to rely on during the semester, but that will not be the same. For people like me who need those safe spaces because we cannot be ourselves at home, it will be rough not to have a physical space to fall back on.

There is also a lot to be concerned about academically. Online lectures are hard to follow, with way too many distractions and nobody to keep me grounded. When last semester went online, I found myself watching YouTube videos while in class; it’s just that easy to lose track.

Besides, a big part of learning happens outside the classroom—be it in conversations about the lecture or even just studying with somebody, and these will most likely not happen.

I’ll no longer be surrounded by people who love the same things I do, helping each other to stay motivated during midterms and finals.
Worst of all, there is no sign that substantial personal counselling services will be available. While there will be some options, they aren’t the same as having a weekly or bi-weekly therapy session with a counsellor you learn to trust and forge a connection with. As someone who benefited from this service in CEGEP and can’t afford regular therapy, I can say it’s one of the most important student services.

I won’t be able to take advantage of many compulsory fees included in tuition that I’m still expected to pay for. The quality of my courses will most likely diminish.

It’s as if I’m not getting what I’m paying for.

Hopefully, Concordia’s administration will surprise me this fall with a procedure that will make this all easier to go through, like virtual counselling and advising, good training for teachers to adapt better to the online world, and opportunities for online internships or events that will keep school exciting.

This article originally appeared in The Disorientation Issue, published September 8, 2020.