American College Life During COVID Times

As the virus spread across the globe, I looked at it with apathy, and then shock. From nowhere, the virus spread into our world and infected millions of people. Hundreds of thousands died. One day, my friends and I were joking around, and the next day we were moving out of the dorms, international students struggling to get flight back home. A general sense of unease and fear permeated our society, the global economy crashed, millions lost their jobs and suddenly, the future didn’t look so bright anymore.

Coronavirus has taken a toll on all of us, regardless of our location, race, religion, or socioeconomic status. The lockdowns imposed all over the world in different countries have shuttered businesses and damaged economies and the livelihoods of billions.

As college students across the U.S. finish their year under the coronavirus quarantine, many of us have had struggles matching up with our new reality. Some of us may have settled into a routine of work-from-home, while others are trying to adjust to online classes, lacking motivation or experiencing other mental barriers. For almost all of us, COVID-19 has derailed life off the tracks.
Coronavirus has led to drastic changes in how we live, and how society functions. People have begun working more often through remote conferences and from home, rather than going back to the office, even though many countries have started to reopen. Many businesses have adapted to the current circumstances and are finding improved, versatile ways to continue their work.

The college experience has been shattered and what many students once took for granted no longer are. Clubs, parties, events and other integral parts of university have been cancelled due to the epidemic and many feel that they have lost out on important memories and opportunities.
As a freshman in college, I can’t help but feel that I’m losing precious prospects and time with every passing moment. I often think of the vast and sweeping changes that occur almost every month. First, we moved to online classes and were told we could remain on campus after Spring Break. However, we were then told to move out from the campus because it was too dangerous for student safety.
Seniors scrambled to secure graduation photos in their robes as students wheeled suitcases out of empty dorm rooms. Online collaboration companies like Zoom became extremely popular for students, and soon I was tuning into lectures from the comfort of a spare bedroom in the house I grew up in. Our entire structure of learning has changed, and students have had to adapt in a matter of days.

Many colleges and universities that have announced significant changes in response to the virus have acknowledged these concerns and are handling them according to their specific circumstances. Such changes include online or remote instruction and limited in-person meetings.

UC Berkeley, being one of the top league university in the world, the reality of taking classes online under a Pass/No Pass system creates a strange dynamic. Under Pass/No Pass, work still must be done, but learning becomes a casualty. It doesn’t necessarily have to be done well, but it must be done. Similarly, school might feel kind of optional right now, but it’s not. For me, this dynamic has invoked greater procrastination and less time devoted to studying outside of completing assignments. I feel like I’m learning less, simply because I’m not in an environment where I’m motivated to attend to my studies. It’s difficult for me to find motivation without an immediate assignment due, when there are so many distractions at home instead of a cool college dorm and so much uncertainty about the future.

However, with time, I’ve found it’s been especially helpful, right before lecture, to read the portion of my textbook that will be covered in lecture. That way, I’m in the mindset for lecture and have a slight familiarity with what my professor will be talking about. Also, taking notes on the anticipated material focuses my mind for lecture in the same way that walking into a lecture hall full of my peers would. Because lectures are now typically recorded, there’s less incentive to listen to them live. I find that doing some extra preparation before live lectures gives me that incentive to listen in and reinforce what I’ve just seen.
When I prepare myself with the material before lecture, I’m more engaged with the material, and thus more motivated to understand the material for the sake of knowledge and curiosity, instead of understanding it for the purpose of an assignment or an exam. This can help make up for a general lack of motivation felt in quarantine. If you have a friend in your class, it can also be helpful to talk to them over the phone about the class material, to hold both of you accountable.

In addition to schoolwork, COVID-19 has also affected social relationships. In this time of social distancing, you might be feeling lonely and isolated. I certainly did when I first returned home from campus, and I still do. But I’ve been combating these feelings by spending time outside when weather permits, and by keeping in touch with my friends over the phone and through online conferences. This includes going for runs and walks, both by myself and with friends from high school while six feet apart.

Hiking has become a common pastime for me, and I will often spend hours outside simply enjoying the weather, the sun and the blooming flowers, something I never did before the virus. Many people also take walks, play contactless sports and go biking to experience the fresh air.  If you know a musical instrument, then I’d recommend learning as many songs as possible during this period. Not only can you impress your friends and relatives after the  lockdown is ended, but music is good for the soul, and can improve your temper and attitude during these trying times.

Now that lockdowns have begun to ease up in many countries, I have been able to meet with friends, and find unity in how we have all gone through similar experiences. We have spent more time with our families, have done more exercise, and have found new fulfilling hobbies to pass our time.
However, it is extremely important when going outside to wear a mask or facial covering. By doing so, you not only protect yourself, but your friends, family and strangers from spreading the disease. Wearing masks saves lives and will reduce the spread of the disease in communities. In addition, it is important to keep yourself clean by washing your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and using hand sanitizer after touching outside surfaces.

Many people have taken the extra free time given by the COVID lockdowns to learn new skills. However, it can be tiring to practice without motivation. One of the most helpful methods to learning more is to create a strict schedule, setting up objectives for people to follow.
One of the best ways to stay focused is to create a study zone in your house. Here are a few guidelines to help you curate a workspace that’s both productive and personalized: First, try to keep your desk separate from other distractions in the house. An empty room is best, but if you’re limited on space, a nook or section of your bedroom will do just fine. Keep your desk area clean and minimalist to avoid distractions. Use school mementos to keep you focused on your objective and excited to return when it’s safe to do so. Create a daily to-do list and a monthly calendar to keep yourself accountable for meeting your academic goals.

One of the best parts of college life is the opportunity to make new friends, try new experiences, learn new things and have fun. Unfortunately, because of the virus, students have lost out on many of these chances. Even though we may be separated from our friends, it does not mean that we have lost out on our youth. During the year of coronavirus, it is important to look at the silver lining and see what opportunities you can create for yourself to make unforgettable memories. This is the time to go all out in appreciating the little things in life. In the end, it falls upon all of us to work together to end this crisis. This virus will be defeated, and life will return to normalcy.

The writer, Rishabh Lenka, is a student of University of California, Berkeley. He can be contacted at [email protected]

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