These are crazy times. Huge multinational businesses have ceased functioning. People have been ordered to stay in their homes. The Trump administration is seriously considering implementing Andrew Yang’s “Freedom Dividend.” Society has essentially crumbled in the face of the coronavirus. Penn State is no exception to this trend. We’ve all been sent home and told to work “remotely” so that we can get our credits and graduate on time.
Classes can’t meet, professors can’t reach their students to lecture, and students have no way of completing and submitting their work. Life has ground to a standstill for college students. Except that’s not what has happened at all.
In fact, academic life in college has continued relatively…normally. Through Zoom, most professors are able to host their classes at normal times. The software allows for easy lecturing and decent interaction between students and their classes. My internet usually struggles to buffer Skype or Facetime, but to my great surprise, I’m having few problems with connectivity and Zoom. I think most people are having a similar experience. Group projects have continued as normally, with the members using GroupMe to delegate roles and responsibilities, then working independently. Even the more interactive group projects are still able to continue — for example, I am planning to record a group presentation over Zoom later this week, and from watching classmates’ examples, I think the process will actually go pretty smoothly.
I am in charge of Penn State’s Creative Writing Club, and this too has continued to run without too much of a stutter. Zoom allows us to communicate with our members fairly easily, and by using breakout rooms and Google Drive, we’re even able to keep our collaborative writing activities going in real-time. It’s really remarkable that technology and the internet can keep us so connected.
But things aren’t perfect. One of my two majors is Film and Video studies, and our production courses (which require production teams and actors) have been ravaged by the social distance policy. We can still discuss theory and talk about how different functions should be done, but the practical side of the course, which in this case is the most relevant side of the course, has been completely shut down. I’m sure it’s similar for other majors, especially STEM fields that require labs or art fields that require person-to-person interaction.
Oh, and the social experience of Penn State is dead. I am able to keep in touch with my friends through texting and video chatting, but the experience is not even close to the same. And now that I’m crammed into a house with my family, completing the enormous amounts of work thrown onto me by professors has become basically impossible. That, coupled with an inability to go outside to destress, has made being a Penn State student pretty miserable indeed. I’m sure most other students would agree with me.
And I know that there are much more serious issues in the country right now than college students’ social lives temporarily being put on pause, but I still think it’s fair to point out that this situation is not ideal for us, either. And it’s fair to complain. Seniors are losing their graduation. Many students are losing key pieces of their education (that they paid many, many thousands of dollars for), and the university has already stated that it will not be considering tuition reimbursements. Workloads are as high as ever with little opportunity for relief.
It’s crazy how a virus can so quickly bring us to our knees. And yeah, this isn’t a great time to be alive. But it’s also crazy how resilient and adaptive we are as a society. Even in a time when we have to shutter ourselves in our homes, we can attend university lectures and host club meetings. We can transfer most parts of our professional lives into the digital sphere and have our academic careers continue relatively normally.
And hopefully this will all be over soon.