It’s important to know that virtual classes are not the same as physical ones as the interaction cannot be effectively passed on to students. Similarly, one cannot say they have fully experienced university life without getting lost on their first day. I say it’s a nightmare because a university freshman cannot relive the first year again. Having imagined for some umpteen years how their first year of university would be, every thought now goes down the drain. Gone forever. However, we can be one of the firsts to say that we started university during a pandemic.
A University Freshman’s Experience In 2020
At the start of 2020, I was feeling rejuvenated. Like pouring ice-cold milk into a tall glass, signifying a new beginning. However, our dreams were quickly dashed as our hopes and aspirations began to unwind. Excitement turns to fear with the news of the novel COVID-19 pandemic being announced in early March. The year had brought one bad news after another. Devastating everyone who had lived through most of 2020.
Quarantine on a worldwide scale has caused many businesses to either reduce operations or shutdown. The increase in layoffs, salary reductions, and new work restrictions became a common issue. These ‘new norms’ made going through the year the way we imagined difficult. This unprecedented event caught practically everyone by surprise, and derailed many of their plans for 2020. Not many can say that they went through this year the way they had imagined.
1) How My University Freshman Year Disappeared With An Email
For me, my university, Monash University Malaysia, had become one of the biggest trials I have had to face. As viruses do not discriminate, the education sector too took a hit from the pandemic. The year began with me preparing to start my new university freshman life. Eager to join every club available and buying brand new stationery. Imagining the first impression I would make on the first day of school. Making friends that would go crazy once we got to know each other. Imagining the unfamiliar building walls of the school. And how it would eventually be a place where I can give future underclassman directions to their classroom. The thought had only remained a thought.
In reality, I was facing the rejection of room and physical classes cancellation. As well as campuses closing down and the non-existent involvement in school curricula. I had booked my room, moved in the day before orientation. Prepared for what I would wear for the next day, and was moderately nervous. Suddenly, I received an email notification from the Student Affairs Manager: my orientation’s postponed and my first semester’s transitioned to online classes.
On the other hand, I felt relieved as I was anxious about meeting new people. I was also happy to return home. No way could I have predicted that it would end up being my only real university experience. It was the closest I could get to becoming a real university freshman. It’s like the feeling of buying an ice-cream in a cone, only to have the ice-cream falling off to the ground before I can even lick it to taste it.
2) Struggles Of A Dorm Residence’s Newcomer
I returned home the day after in hopes that I would come back to the university a week later. So I left all my clothes and belongings in my dorm room. But as classes progressed online, studying from home was all I needed. There were still many remaining students staying in their dorm rooms. Eventually, they also returned home to their families. Continuing their studies from home.
I found that all I needed was a computer to successfully complete my school work. I didn’t see the need to go back to my dorm where I would be alone and eating fast food every day. Three months went by. The time to renew my contract was approaching. As I thought the situation would taper down over time, I predicted that the schools would reopen. If I cancelled my room, I would have to go through the booking process all over again. I held up for six months in total. Realising that the situation was not getting any better.
The dorm fees made me feel guilty toward my parents who were paying for me. I didn’t get a proper chance to enjoy it. Constantly thinking that their money had gone to waste. Many students have complained about the rent fees being too high. Many families affected by the pandemic are struggling financially. Fortunately, many universities found a solution to lessen their burden by providing discounts on their rental fees. For my dorm, Sunway Monash Residence, provided residences with up to 70% rebate. And students who meet the criteria were allowed to claim it, myself included.
Transition To Online Learning For A University Freshman
Fear of cross-infection resulted in mandatory quarantine and physical distancing as prevention. Therefore, classes turned to online solutions and school residents would even return home. Different students have their own take on how they truly feel about online education.
Beginner’s Difficulty Adapting To Learning In a Virtual Space
At first, I was not disappointed after hearing the news. Online classes allow me to avoid morning classes and study in the comfort of my bed. To me, this meant that I had more time to figure out the material being taught. However, sitting long hours every day in front of a computer screen only made me feel very sleepy and lazy to study. I started dreading the hour before my Zoom video lecture goes live. In other words, I was demotivated and uninterested to study.
I came across one main conflict during my online classes. I questioned whether online learning had lowered my grade, or if it was my own disinterest. My grades were undesirable to me. And my GPA was lower than I remembered. I fought an internal battle for my own self-worth. I blamed and hated online learning for a while after that.
When learning is carried out in a physical classroom, processing the material would be more effective. Knowing when to schedule my time to study will be much easier. By giving me too much idle time, I tend to do less work and play too often. And it has just become worse throughout the year.
What Can A University Freshman Take From This Experience?
The difference between the imagined life versus the reality for students in 2020 is too big. The uncertainty of how the situation will turn out scares me. I might have to spend my whole university life completely online and isolated. This virus has completely robbed me of a once-in-lifetime experience in becoming a real university freshman.
The school does not only teach knowledge, it also teaches life lessons. Which gives meaning to our lives and a road to a future career. During my online classes, what has really helped me connect with my online peers and teachers was the Discord app. It is popular amongst gamers. But it disguises itself as a virtual classroom. Students can discuss their opinions and meet new people. Find groupmates, and hang out by listening to their favourite music. We found a way to interact with our classmates online when the situation didn’t allow it. Discord helped me experience as close as possible what a 2020 university freshman can get out of a real university classroom.
I’ve finished now 2020 is coming to an end. I’m glad to say I finished my first year through the COVID-19 global pandemic. I found new meaningful moments that only 2020 could have given. The Discord app has helped with some of these moments. It has become my main source of communication between my fellow classmates and professors. Go check out the Discord app, the virtual classroom. To uncover the features that helped me get through my freshman year. It’s been fun meeting you 2020, goodbye.