I know that when I get older, everyone is going to ask me "what was it like starting college during a pandemic?" So, I am starting early and writing up all the pros, cons, and challenges that come along with being a visually impaired college freshmen, during a global pandemic. Now when people ask, I can just direct them here!
First, I am sure that you might wonder why I am at college a season early. The reason is that I am in a program called the RISE/ASCEND program. It is a program for first generation college students to get acclimated to the college experience before everyone else gets on campus. In previous years, ASCEND students would go on campus and take a few courses for credits. They would explore their new home and move into the dorms first. And, if you pass the courses that are selected for you, you will receive a scholarship for the year. If you do not pass, you do not get the scholarship (for some, admission is conditional and if they do not pass, they are not accepted to the school at all). Even though the program is virtual this year, it is still a chance for students to learn time management skills as well as experience what a class at the college level is really like.
The courses I am taking are Essentials of Psychology and Native Peoples of North America. Each student has a different set of classes depending on interest and intended major; mine being Psychology. Because we are not on campus, classes are done virtually. Both of my teachers will send links to attend the Zoom lectures for each morning.
I wake up at 7:15 A.M. because my day starts up at 8:00 A.M. Let me tell you how much of a transition that was. Coming from 3 months of quarantine where high school teachers sent work and you had a week to complete it, waking up early again was a shock. Especially seeing as I do not go to bed early. Since I have 2 classes, my day is supposed to end at 12:15, but every college student knows that you are never done.
The schedule for each class is mostly dependent on the professor. For example, my psychology teacher does not do a lecture every day, she does it every other day. My Native Peoples of North America teacher gives her lecture every morning. I know that in most colleges, classes are not daily and they are longer than most high school classes.
Because they are virtual courses seem to take much longer. I'll bundle up (my house is really cold) in my fluffy socks and PJs at 8:00am and it feels like I have sat in the same spot for hours. In reality, it's only been about 30 minutes. I think this is because there is less interaction between the class than there would be if we were in the classroom together. Knowing myself, looking at computer screens does not interest me. Especially as I am visually impaired and my eyes are easily tired. But each day, my professors try to make us talk and none of us are very willing to speak. It is interesting because we are such a technology centered generation. Yet, we are so awkward when it comes to putting our faces on camera and our voices on microphone.
At the end of my second week, I am glad I have taken these classes. They are helping me gain more patience with myself and with the technology that I am using. And as we know, this pandemic is not over yet. A lot of colleges are going to try and hold classes in the semester, but they might not be able to if cases get too high again. If that happens, I'll be right back in the basement, working on my fall coursework.
Some of the benefits of doing all of these college things virtually is that it does cut costs. For most incoming college students and their families--first gen or not--college is not an easy expense. From tuition and books to meals and housing, there are alway things that need to be bought. Since this semester may be virtual for some people, the cost could go down and that would be one less stress to worry about during this already crazy time. Also, as long as I wear a presentable shirt, I can wear whatever pants i want! May it be Harry Potter or the cute Snoopy ones I save for when it snows.
My favorite thing though is that we don't have to be seen all the time. Yes there are times during a lecture that a teacher might want to see your face, but for the most part, you can keep your camera off feel less pressured to give an answer you may not know or to look a certain way when you are not feeling your best. You also do not have to wear a mask during this virtual college time.
There are so many things, good and bad, that go into making a good college experience. Lately I have had so many people come up to me and tell me how sorry they were for the fact that I would not get to have college like everyone else. I understand this and I appreciate the sympathy; however, what they don't realize about me is that I love a challenge. I love stepping out of my comfort zone and trying new things. And that is what this whole thing is; it's a new adventure for me to have. It is not easy and it is definitely frustrating. But I am learning so much more than I would have had I just gone on campus.
Remember guys, your experiences are as good or bad as you make them. Whether it be college or quarantine; I always try to find the little joys in life. Sometimes that's being lazy and wearing PJ pants and sometimes it is sneaking a snack to a lecture.