Reflection: The uncertainty surrounding online courses has brought us together, helped us grow
My college experience has been something of a rollercoaster so far — I started my freshman year at Rutgers in 2020, right in the middle of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. With all of my online and distance learning courses, I knew I was going to miss out on some of the college experiences I was looking forward to.
Instead of moving into a dorm, meeting new people, and exploring campus, I spent that entire first year in the same room I graduated from high school. Sometimes it was hard for me to feel like I was actually a student.
One of the hardest things about that first year was not knowing when the online classes would end. I spent the entire fall semester hoping that spring would come in person and I would still have half of a normal freshman year.
When the spring semester moved back online, I began to wonder if my college experience would ever be what I expected. Would I be able to move into a dorm and live on my own? Will I have the chance to explore the campus and meet new people in person?
These questions led to even more uncertainty about what my future would look like both in college and after. Would online learning give me the same opportunities to explore different career options? Would I still be able to do internships and network with new people? Suddenly I was afraid that everything I expected during college and beyond would be completely different.
Finally, living on campus for the past semester and going to school mostly in person seemed to take a lot of weight off my shoulders. Some of these questions started to fade when I was able to attend in-person classes, club meetings, and events. I felt more confident that I would get as close to a normal college experience as possible, and some of that earlier uncertainty began to fade away.
But now, the rapid spread of the omicron variant is uncomfortably reminiscent of the start of the pandemic. The rapid spread of cases, temporary online classes, and uncertainty about whether we’ll end up doing a virtual school all over the line sometimes makes me feel like it’s 2020 all over again.
Of course, we should have classes in a format that keeps people as safe as possible – but that doesn’t make returning to a state of quarantine any less weird.
Finding out that we were going online again rekindled some of the feelings of isolation, confusion, and uncertainty that I remember facing when I started college. Despite my worries, having had an online experience before made me feel a little more prepared to face those feelings again.
I’ve been more proactive in using some of my 2020 coping mechanisms to help me through this time of online learning, which has helped me have a more positive experience of being virtual again.
Doing everything I can to stay in touch with others has made all the difference for me through these tough times. I found that during my freshman year, online classes made me feel very isolated and alone. Sometimes I felt like I was the only one dealing with these feelings, which could make them even harder to deal with.
Talking to my friends and finding out that some of them had similar feelings was incredibly helpful as we were able to support each other. It might take a little extra effort to set up a virtual call with friends, but talking and relaxing for a little while can really help bring some normalcy back, too.
Learning to adapt, while difficult, is another way to deal with the uncertainty we have faced over the past two years. I now know that we could resume online classes at any time, which makes me feel better prepared when things change.
It’s hard to know that we don’t have much control over when things have to be virtual, but to know that I can control my own actions and do what I can to stay in touch with others while staying in security makes me feel less caught up in all the uncertainty around me.
And sometimes, if I’m being honest, I just let myself feel sad. One thing I’ve learned throughout this experience is that there’s nothing wrong with missing out on the way the world was before the pandemic and the shift to online schooling.
Although I try not to dwell too much on the past, the world changed much faster than expected, and we had to adapt very quickly to these changes. Allowing myself to honor my feelings for a little while makes them less overwhelming and gives me a chance to check in with myself and process whatever happened.
I’m still not sure what the future holds for both my time at university and the world at large – but what I do know is that I can only control a certain number things, and that being ready for things to change and be online and offline will help me get through some of that uncertainty.
Remembering that I’m not the only one going through that helps too. Everyone has gone through drastic changes over the past few years, and supporting each other and sharing our experiences can help lift each other up and get through these always strange times.
No one should have to go through these experiences alone – and that’s something I’m sure of.