What Half a Semester of Distance Learning was Like

Recently, I just finished my first year of college. Just like so many other students around the world, my second semester was cut in half, as my school never came back from spring break. It was heartbreaking, since I loved my class, my clubs, and my friends, but we made due. Since this was such an unprecedented event, I wanted to share what my personal experience was like during such a unique situation.

I took 5 classes this semester: a gen-ed physics class for non-science majors, a writing class, a music-based honors seminar class, a chemistry-based honors class, and a photography class. My physics professor attempted to continue the class as normal, but instead of in-person lectures, everything was online. My writing class cut down our meeting times to one a week, typically for a little less than an hour, and the only assignment was the first-year research paper, which we had started before the break, followed by a brief discussion of each of our topics. My music class met only once during the second half of the semester, but my professor would send us weekly emails with articles and videos to read and ask us to write a brief paper on each of the topics, with an extended paper as the final. My chemistry class had a few discussions, as it was a seminar class, but the focus was on a short research paper and presentation based on the course’s main topics. My photography class met almost every week, and my professor modified assignments so they could be completed at home in quarantine.

I found my physics class to be the hardest of them all. I personally feel that online learning requires a different approach, since you lose a lot of interaction and engagement when you switch to a virtual setting, especially when the class wasn’t designed to be online. My professor was still very kind and accommodating, but the class did give me quite a bit of anxiety. My photography class, on the other hand, was quite difficult to switch to online, but my professor handled it as best as he possibly could. I did learn a lot in the class, and even learned some new tips and tricks once we made the transition to distance learning, but I still felt like I didn’t get the full experience that I had signed up originally. 

While the classes may have been tougher online, the hardest part of distance learning was the experience outside of the classroom. My friends and clubs gave me a full college experience, not just a classroom learning experience. When I was stressed out or having a bad day, I knew the people and events on campus would be able to cheer me up. With the distance learning situation, there was no balance- everything felt like all work all the time. I did FaceTime and text and Snapchat my friends quite a bit, but there’s nothing quite like being together. Some of my fondest memories on campus revolve around the high-top table in the dining hall we would always sit at, or sitting on the floors of my friends rooms and having a good time. There were days that were certainly not going in my favor, but group hugs at dinner time always made it better. Going to film club and laughing about poorly-drawn dinosaurs and silly moments was always one of the highlights of my week. The only offering my school had for the second half of the semester was a leadership training series. While it was fun, it still couldn’t replace the feeling I had of going to campus everyday.

Online learning could have gone much worse for me, but I still can’t wait to be back on campus for the fall semester and start my junior year (we love being a year ahead). I have a schedule full of classes I’m excited to take, but the thing I can’t wait for most is being able to be a part of my college community again. Going to online classes, even my favorites, often felt like a chore. For the semester and a half I was on campus, there was never a day I didn’t look forward to going to school. Even when I had Friday’s off before spring break, I still came over for lunch, hanging out with friends, and my weekly community service meeting (I miss working with the kids too). Having a short college experience get cut even shorter definitely hurts, but I know I’m going to value the moments I do have even more once I return. 

See ya real soon,

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