The world is doomed but we still got Zoom

The bitter and beautiful truth behind online school

  • Graphic Joey Bruce

We’re all familiar with the feelings of excitement and anxiety when a new chapter of our lives is just about to begin.

For us young adults, going to university ranks as one of the most exciting journeys in our lives, but how has that changed with COVID-19 looming over us?

First off, I’m happy to tell you it’s not all bad news. There’s nothing like attending a lecture from the comfort of your own bed. I’m most excited to not take the dreaded, perpetually crowded shuttle bus every morning commuting to campus. Even better, I don’t have to worry about fitting in my jeans.

Let’s also take a moment to appreciate the option of muting, shall we? As an avid snacker, I am finding great comfort in the fact that I don’t have to worry about a whole class of students listening to the cracking sound of chips in my mouth.

You can also say goodbye to the gut wrenching feeling we all get before checking your account balance. Now that you’re no longer spending money on overpriced coffees and unimaginative salads, having a semester online can help you save up a little.

Unfortunately, an online semester does have its cons.

The most significant one being the lack of interaction you would otherwise have with your professors. While you can still virtually connect with them, the nature of in class lectures encourages us to ask questions and engage with our professors more, especially after class.

I can’t count the number of times I uttered the words “no, you go ahead,” during a zoom lecture, just because my classmate thought I was done talking. Technical difficulties make it hard for me to ask questions, as my computer would often lag, or I would hear an Um here and Uh there from other students, so I tell myself I’ll email the professor later, which I never end up doing.

What’s also different is the nature of physical human conversations. I’m not going to sit here and say I looked forward to going to my professors’ office hours, but the knowledge—dare I say epiphanies—that came out of the conversations we’ve had simply could not have happened over email.

“Having a real, face to face conversation with my professors and being able to freely discuss the course content, or even getting general advice that the professor can provide is much better than online meetings,” says Khalid AbdulRaheem, a civil engineer major. “It’s different with emails or online,” He adds, “you always feel like you have to get to the point so that your questions are understood.”

Being physically in class offers you a different atmosphere, one that motivates you and gets your learning juices flowing. It’s about being in a room with students who share the same purpose, worries, and ambitions.

Not only this, but having a clear separation between your learning and living space enables you to pursue your studies with as little distraction as possible. I successfully write this after many painful hours of procrastination due to my inability to get out of bed and close my Netflix tab.

Then comes the friendships.

School was liberating—always being around other people pushed us to make friends and socialize. As fun as Zoom lectures can be with the snarky comments and secret conversations in the comment section, it’ll never give us the same opportunity.

Lastly, the little things. That quick lunch with friends between lectures. Running into a classmate on the bus ride to campus. That crammed study session in the library or the Starbucks near campus where you actually get nothing done.

These are some of the things that make university life special.

In spite of all that, we are collectively coming out of this with a new appreciation for the things and opportunities we took for granted. For the time being, let’s look forward to having a relaxed, and hopefully productive fall semester.

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