As part of our Coping in Quarantine series, University of Texas at Austin sophomore Yureimy Arias shares her experiences as a college student during quarantine. The goal of the 4-part series is to highlight the resilience our students have demonstrated in the transition to virtual learning and also create a connection across student experiences.
When the lockdown first began in March it was both a blessing and a curse. The huge workload that came with college and the commute to and from college made it almost impossible to spend any time with my family. So, when the lockdown began, it allowed me to finally spend more time with my family which was the best part of the lockdown. However, I faced many challenges while adjusting to virtual learning.
First, I was enrolled in a difficult economics class that required me to go to office hours often for extra help. Taking this class online made it more difficult because it was harder to concentrate and ask questions. Going to office hours was also challenging because it was harder to establish order between all the individuals that went and get a clear explanation from my instructor on how to solve a certain problem. When we had traditional in-person office hours, the first who came was the first served. Virtual office hours made it tricky to know who arrived first when most students log in at the same time. So I decided to take a different route and connect with other peers in my class and set up Zoom meetings where we would work on the homework together. If one of us had the chance to go to virtual office hours, then we would just explain to each other what was said.
The pandemic gave me my first experience taking online classes and it takes time to get the hang of it! Technical difficulties often come up both on my side and my professor’s side. I believe that being patient and positive is the key to managing these circumstances. Professors have been patient with me when I have lost my internet connection or am dealing with some other issue. So, likewise, it’s important for us to be patient with them. I can see how hard my professors try to make class interesting and try to make it run smoothly. I can also see the frustration on their face when something goes wrong. As a class, we always try to cheer our professors on and be a positive reinforcement.
Although I’m home most of the time, it feels like I’m always “on” and can’t really catch a break. I have to manage my time between classes, homework, house chores, and work. I balance my life schedule by waking up early every day and setting up a to-do list with due dates, organizing them by level of importance. I have a large calendar on my wall to help me keep track of all upcoming assignments in the month. I always try to do smaller assignments first to get them out the way and so that I can focus on the major ones.
Mitigating Professor Expectations
Sometimes, major assignments like research papers and tests have similar deadlines in the same week and it becomes hard to get everything done. This is when communication and relationship building with your professor is crucial. I decided to ask my professors for extensions on some assignments, and they have all been really understanding and have granted me these extensions. However, I believe that professors should better empathize with current conditions and not continue to give students the same amount of work we would have received in an in-person setting.
Many are trying to assimilate when in reality, the lives of many have been greatly affected by this pandemic and many cannot handle the same workload as before. This workload and a busy schedule can build up a lot of stress and anxiety. As a college student who will graduate in about a year, I feel especially pressured. I need to keep my grades up, get internship experiences, and try to build my resume; all are difficult during a pandemic. I often have to remind myself to focus on what I can control in my life so I will not worry about what I can’t. Positive thinking also helps me a lot with my anxiety. Telling myself that this pandemic will eventually end and that I’m so close to being done with college also helps.
Practicing Self Care and Self Motivation
Taking the time for self-care is very important. My favorite activities during the pandemic include relaxing and watching TV, going for a walk, movie/game nights with my family, and date nights with my girlfriend. I try to spend as much time with my family and girlfriend as I can for my mental wellness. I try to enjoy every minute with them and not take them for granted. They have been my support system throughout the pandemic and are the ones who motivate me to keep working hard. When I was on campus, I would like to sit outside on the grass in front of the UT tower and do my work. I had a beautiful view of the Capitol and the tower; it reminded me of all the work I put in to get to UT.
Now that I’m three semesters away from graduating, I try to set small milestones to motivate myself. One motivator has been that I’m currently in my last 15-hour semester of my college career. This November, I have my ring ceremony and get my school ring–another motivator. Finally, my last semester is next spring and my graduation is what motivates ultimately me. Everyone has their personal goals and motivations, and I believe during times like these especially it is important to know what they are and remind yourself when you feel unmotivated.