This past year, we’ve all experienced the shift. When I say ‘the shift’ I mean the shift in our daily routine. I’m talking about the ‘wake up at 7 AM to go to the office at 9 AM, and come back at around 6 PM only to have time to eat and sleep, and repeat’ routine. With this shift, our days look so much different. The commute time isn’t there. We don’t wait to do the laundry until the weekend, because we’re home anyway. The shift is the new normal, where we’re always home, and always online.
I started my Master’s program in September 2020. So, we were already 6 months in. For many people, the shift had happened. However, as I was working prior to starting the program, I hadn’t experienced it yet. In August, it was communicated that my first semester classes were going to be online, although the option to sign up to classes offline was still available for several students. I went into it knowing that my classes would all take place via Zoom.
First day of (virtual) school, in Zoom we were around 26 students. 26 students, who were not even in the same continent, joined the same class, following the same program. It broke my heart thinking that normally we would have shared the same classrooms. I thought of all the opportunities we would miss getting to know each other, even just grabbing a coffee before class together. The first day jitters were there, regardless of the fact that I wasn’t physically at the Roeterseiland campus.
At first, it was a bit difficult to speak up in class, because you don’t really get the non-verbal cues that hint at when you can talk. You just awkwardly unmute and hope you don’t interrupt anyone. I was a bit reluctant to unmute in my first few classes, I was quite nervous actually. Not for any particular reason, but just because I wasn’t used to this way of schooling. It felt like I was raising my hand in a lecture hall filled with hundreds of students- which has always been a big no no for me. It is no surprise that there are many others that feel the same way. There’s even a name for this: Zoom anxiety.
Fortunately, as I got accustomed to seeing the same group of people every day, which were my classmates, I got more and more comfortable unmuting. Getting to know everyone through computer screens was a challenging experience, even though you didn’t really have to remember their names. It was challenging because one second they appeared on your screen, next they disappeared. With some of them, I never got to interact, because we were never placed in a breakout room together even though we were ‘classmates’.
7 Months Later
It’s getting more and more difficult with everything being online, all the time. Even though I have grown up with the internet, the shift wasn’t easy for me either.
I just completed my final electives and am now focusing entirely on my thesis (fingers crossed for good grades), which I will also write virtually. At the same time, I’m still trying to balance out how to separate my university life, my social life, and my personal life. It’s hard to separate these different aspects, when they all take place through the same 2-3 screens. It’s getting more and more difficult with everything being online, all the time. Even though I have grown up with the internet, the shift wasn’t easy for me either.
As I was always home, I found it difficult to do anything other than what I had to do, whether it was presentations, assignments, group projects. I often forgot to eat food at the necessary times, I was not getting my daily steps in, let alone finding the time to exercise. My eyes never rested because I constantly switched from screen to screen. I became sort of obsessed with sitting in front of my laptop, that too in a god-awful dining chair. It may sound stupid, but to readapt, I had to put in Google Calendar alerts to eat and to take breaks. It is very easy to overdo it otherwise.
Blessings in Disguise
In the two electives that I took, I didn’t know anyone apart from a few friends I had already made in the first two courses I was taking. Unmuting was definitely easier, as was giving presentations. After all, it was easier to pretend it was just me talking in front of my computer than to stand in front of a crowd -even if it was 20 something people.
I even made several friends from my masters, all through Zoom! How weird is that? I haven’t met any of them in real life (yet), even though I know a few of them are based in Amsterdam too. Regardless of the fact that the entirety of our communication takes place through screens, I don’t feel like we’re any less friends. All catfishing jokes aside, I’m looking forward to the time when we’ll be able to see each other face to face. In graduation hopefully.
Technically, I’ve been isolated for months, yet I feel so connected to everyone that I have studied alongside. It didn’t feel as ‘alone’ as I thought it would be. I talk to my friends and family that are living in other countries, also via my screens. I don’t know how I would have endured this pandemic without this connection I have with them. It’s the thought of ‘We’re all in this together!’ that gets me going.
When I think of everyone around the world who has difficult circumstances that make it hard for them to receive education in an online setting, whether it is because they don’t have access to the internet, or to a proper studying area, or to a working computer… it makes me feel angry, but it also makes me feel extremely grateful.
Don’t get me wrong, I am so very grateful to be able to even get an education in a proper manner. When I think of everyone around the world who has difficult circumstances that make it hard for them to receive education in an online setting, whether it is because they don’t have access to the internet, or to a proper studying area, or to a working computer… it makes me feel angry, but it also makes me feel extremely grateful. It is a privilege to even have access to the internet and the vast amount of information and opportunities it brings.
My father lives in Tashkent, Uzbekistan and my mother lives in Istanbul, Turkey. I haven’t seen either of them in the past two years. The only way I can keep in touch with them, and make sure they’re okay, is through the internet. And for that, I am forever grateful.
Cover by: Avel Chuklanov
Edited by: Pritha Ray