It's been a crazy year, hasn't it? I'm sure when we all rang in the new year and raised toasts to the "Roaring 20s" we didn't think we'd be thrown in for a loop like this one. When I went home for spring break in March, I would've never guessed that two weeks later, I'd be on an eight-hour drive to Athens to move out of my beloved apartment and start online classes. Now that my birthday is coming up and the worst of this first wave of COVID-19 is over (hopefully), I've had the time to gather my thoughts and put them into a coherent piece. To start off, I'm sure tons of college students have been asked how online classes treated them, and you're probably all wondering the same thing.
I did six weeks of remote learning and the only thing I can say is that I honestly did not like it. Professors were given two short weeks to slap together a transition to online classes for the second half of the semester, which was a mess. Many department events such as language immersion days, concerts, exhibitions, etc, were canceled, and majors that never offer remote courses above the intro level no longer had the option to conduct lectures and labs in person. An already fast-paced seven weeks left turned into six weeks since one week of the school year was lost to give them ample time to plan over an extended spring break.
As a result, a lot of my instructors just gave up.
We were given brief PowerPoint slides and a textbook to read, then a couple of study guides to help us study for upcoming exams. If we had any questions, we could email them, but otherwise, we were on our own. No real-time online lectures through Zoom or Microsoft Teams, no review sessions, no group work. So, I and many of my other classmates taught ourselves the material for already difficult courses. Study materials were uploaded an entire week late with no extension of deadlines, extra assignments were added to the syllabus to count for "attendance points" and we were forced to cram day until the night. My two language instructors in ASL and Russian were the only ones who were actively teaching online. It definitely wasn't how the courses were supposed to go, but I give them credit for being as involved with us as possible.
Otherwise, I had a mountain of never-ending assignments every day and the workload was insane I would be up as early as 8 am and wouldn't finish my school day until 10 pm sometimes. I didn't have the time to take frequent breaks or get enough sleep every night, I was sleep-deprived, stressed like never before, and felt stuck. I think I speak for most college students and even high schoolers when I say I felt robbed. I loved my apartment, my classes, professors, and having all my friends within walking distance. I missed being able to text our group chat and tell everyone to come over because I threw a party on a Friday night. I missed OU and Athens, spontaneous plans, library study sessions with my classmates and so much more. Seniors missed out on their graduation ceremony. Then, the entire country essentially went on lockdown. I couldn't see my friends, important trips and plans all the way into late summer were canceled months in advance, and everything except life-sustaining businesses was closed. No gym or pool was available to destress, the church was closed to the public for almost 3 months, and I didn't have plans until May when my insane semester was finally over. It was hard for all of us.
College is so much more than just going to class. Even in lectures, the stories our professors tell, the group discussions we have, and the connections we establish with instructors over the course of the semester all contribute to our knowledge and our future plans. Here. we're inspired to think out of the vox, pursue our dream jobs, or are driven to find a new path in life. The reality is that we don't get the same kind of experience or quality of education in online classes. You can't pause a video or ask a textbook a question when you come across a concept you don't understand, so you have to write it down and remember to send an email later to clear it up. Hopefully, the instructor can explain it concisely through text. We don't get to have insightful discussions, ask for advice, or enjoy the professor's anecdotes like we would in person. I definitely think that OU should have at least extended the school year by one week to let us catch up, but that's not up to me.
So, how did I manage it? Simple. I studied all day, every day, I wrote down several tasks a day and made sure to break up assignments and studying into parts to do over the span of a couple of days to prevent procrastination. Every time I finished a task, I crossed it off and breathed a small sigh of relief before pushing on. I put in a lot of time to teaching myself the material: detailed notes from the textbook readings, Powerpoint notes, working on homework together with classmates over facetime, and did not stop until I made sure I understood the material properly. At the end of the day, I love my majors and I refused to let this setback stop me from achieving the goals I set.a on long runs almost every day to let off steam when I had a break, I FaceTimed my big every week (still do), cried a couple of times, prayed a lot and journaled daily to cope, and got back up again.
When I got on the plane back to Ohio in January, I said I was going to make this my semester. So that's what I did. It was full of a whole lot of blood, sweat, and tears, but the in-person portion gave me the vest weeks of my life, so I had to finish strong. Ultimately, it paid off. I got a 3.718 GPA, made it on to the Dean's List for the first time ever, and scored a job on campus for next year. If there's one thing I learned from all of this, is that with God's help, I'm capable of anything I set my mind to. I know what it takes to pull off a high GPA, how hard I need to work for it, and the success that comes from finally studying the right major. My goal is to get a 3.5 GPA or higher for the rest of my undergrad, so stay tuned to see what I accomplish!