It has been a year. Who would have thought that we would stay in a pandemic for longer than a few months? And how do you plan your future in such unprecedented times? I had the pleasure of talking about this year of change with current first year, second year, and third-year Communication Science students who are still in lockdown and reflecting on what has changed within a year.
The Third-year Student
Let’s start with a current third-year student who will graduate this year and who did not imagine her final year under these circumstances. At the moment, she is taking part in an online exchange at a university she would have wished to attend in person. However, she is now taking part from the comfort of her childhood home.
When the pandemic hit the Netherlands, she decided to move back home and live with her family. She would have liked it to be different, especially since she had been living alone for almost two years in Amsterdam. Giving up her independence and moving back in with her family took her a while to get used to.
What she misses the most is the social contact with friends. While studying at the University of Amsterdam, she had her routine and met friends daily due to her schedule. Now due to the restricted social interaction, it is hard to stay in touch with her friends. And within this year, she says, she lost contact with some of them.
“I don’t know if I would like [in-person lectures] anymore. If I can be honest.”
As much as she misses her friends and campus life, she can’t imagine herself to be attending lectures these days. “Once you get to know the benefits of recordings, there is just no reason to be present in person.” Even though she misses the social benefit of going to university, she quite enjoys online lectures as she doesn’t have to get ready for them. She can just wake up and attend the 9 am lecture in her PJs.
While she enjoys online lectures a lot, seminars are a different challenge for her. She pleads to fellow students to switch on their cameras more often. It is hard to make friends already, but interacting with a wall of black screens feels “awkward and makes her uncomfortable.”
Let’s take this as a reminder to switch on our cameras more often to interact with our fellow students, even though we might not feel like it. Every small gesture may lift up someone else’s mood!
Online classes: 1.5 years
On-campus teaching: 1.5 years
Left: 0 years
The Second-year Student
Next is a second-year student from Taiwan. She moved back to Taiwan last year and has to confess that the coronavirus is under control there. She is doing her internship to get more human interaction (she laughed at this point) than following classes and meeting new friends online.
Living back home saved her a lot of time commuting to and from campus. She became more flexible with managing her extra-curricular activities. She picked up baking, which she thought was useless since she could have just gone to a bakery before the pandemic hit. But now, with all this extra time, she finds the process of making her own bread from scratch quite soothing. “When there is a will, there is a way.”
She did not only find time for baking, but she became closer to nature and used this time to slow down and appreciate the small things. However, she says, she is still learning to treasure every moment but is already valuing the limited time she spends with her friends “chit-chatting” online. “It is different to set-up a video call just to stay in contact with friends, but it also makes it more special.”
What is also important to her is spending time with her two cats which she really connected with during this time. Under different circumstances, many of these things would not have been possible, and so she concludes:
“I felt bummed at the beginning, bummed about how the coronavirus disturbed my plan and my study-abroad life in Amsterdam. But now, I honestly feel grateful for all the experiences I got during this time. I learned to slow down and to feel everything in my life.”
Online classes: 1.5 years
On-campus teaching: 0.5 years
Left: 1.0 year
The First-year Student
Last but not least, the person who probably had to make many more decisions and experienced firsts differently than any other students had before. However, when she applied to the University of Amsterdam, COVID-19 did not play a factor yet.
Only when she got accepted and had to decide whether it was wise to move to the Netherlands or not, the virus and its consequences played a weighing factor. “Should I apply for housing? Will I be able to travel?” were concerns she had to find an answer to. The desire to come to the Netherlands on the one hand and the concern for the virus, on the other hand, were confusing to her. In the end, she decided to take her first semester online.
“I think 2020 was one of the craziest years any of us has lived through. Studying abroad as a freshman in university is already pretty difficult. Combined with COVID restrictions, it obviously got way worse than any of us could’ve expected.”
She did not decide to start her university experience online light-heartedly and is glad she managed to connect to a few people. However, it is still difficult for her “to meet more people and cultivate real, genuine relationships with them through social media.”
It is similar for her with teachers. Although she can reach out to them via email or ask questions during online-tutorials, “it’s not the same comfort as if [they] were all sitting in one classroom.”
Apart from having trouble connecting with people online, it is also hard for her to stay motivated to study from home. “Just by having everything online, I had to push myself way harder and found a lot more excuses to procrastinate.” She is very much looking forward to attending on-campus events once it will be safe.
Online classes: 1.0 year
On-campus teaching: 0 years
Left: 2.0 years
Although this year has been tough and we all had our own struggles, there are also some things to be proud of: discovering new passions, appreciating online lectures, and the success of managing the first year of university online. They are all things we can look back at and say that we made it through.
No matter what situation we are in, we are doing and trying our best, adapting to the changes we cannot influence.
And to everyone who is struggling at the moment, please remember: You are not alone, and we are here for you!
Edited by: Younes Skalli