By Nishat Chowdhury
Despite what’s happened these last nine months, I still vividly remember the last day of in-person classes before university campuses across the country began to shut down in response to the surging cases of COVID-19. It was a Wednesday, and I was sitting in my marketing class. I anxiously watched the clock, waiting for it to hit 8:30 pm so I could finally go home after an 11-hour school day. My professor, Osama Butt at Ryerson University, cracked jokes while explaining incremental revenues and contribution margins. I never would’ve thought that would be my last in-person class until who-knows-when.
On March thirteenth, the school president’s official announcement came, and classes and exams were forced to move online in a day. Professors, students, faculty, and just about everyone was unprepared as we were thrown into this virtual world of learning.
I went from waking up two hours before my class to get dressed and commute to campus to waking up five minutes before class started. I grabbed my laptop and lay in bed half-asleep, not bothering to change out of my pyjamas or brush my teeth, while I listened to my professor teach. To put the cherry on top of an awful sundae, my ‘zoom fatigue’ sets in after only 30 mins of instruction time, and I started feeling sluggish in a way that I haven’t before. By the end of the day, my eyes were sore and dry, and I felt empty and emotionally drained. Again, I had no idea that this would be the reality for many students for months to come, and we would have to deal with it.
Then spring came. I was done with school, the weather was getting better, and school became the least of my worries. I didn’t take any spring or summer courses because I felt like I needed time off to reflect and take some time off considering how catastrophically school ended and the extenuating circumstances around us.
September crept up on me, and I naively thought this was going to be an alright semester. Yes, I was stuck at home, but I had plenty of time to focus on my schoolwork now. As many post-secondary students around the world started their first semester of ‘zoom university’, I thought the workload was going to be lighter, professors were going to be a tad more lenient and understanding, and that I would be more productive because I wasn’t wasting time on commuting. Boy, was I wrong.
Instead, my procrastination reached new levels of bad. For example, I found myself starting assignments worth 15 per cent of my grade a couple of hours before the deadline. I was constantly overwhelmed, and I felt like I always had something to do. I used to thrive off checking stuff off my agenda after completing something, but I didn’t feel that satisfaction even once this past term. I felt pressured to move on to the next thing that needed to be done. I found myself calling in at work dozens of times so I could work on assignments, but then ended up procrastinating and got zero work done. I lost the opportunity to make some money as well.
Additionally, I was robbed of getting the full experience in my broadcast classes the past term by moving online. At the Ryerson School of Journalism, second-year students take mandatory broadcast classes to learn the essential skills needed to excel in a modern multi-platform newsroom. Students are introduced to the latest digital tools to enhance their storytelling skills and editorial judgment, from writing breaking news stories for the web, writing scripts for broadcast, and producing higher-level infographics and videos for social media. The final live broadcast is usually done in a classroom that looks like a real newsroom with a news desk and a green screen at the Rogers Communication Centre. This term, we used a program called Stage 10 to film the final broadcast from our bedrooms.
I couldn’t help but feel bursts of sadness. I couldn’t see my friends, I was stuck in my room for hours of the day, school was overwhelming, and everywhere I turned the COVID-19 news and updates made me lose more and more hope. However, one thing that helped me carry on is remembering that I have a roof over my head, a warm bed to sleep in, and food in the kitchen. It is humbling to think about the people who don’t have basic necessities during a pandemic.
While it wasn’t ideal to sit on my bed in my childhood bedroom while I watched my professors teach via Zoom, I am incredibly blessed to be able to attend university.
Going to school was one thing that I often complained about, but I realized how much I miss its warmth, diversity, and sense of common cause – especially since it is still unclear how long students have to wait before we get the nod to go back on campus. While I’m not a fan of ‘zoom university,’ I am grateful to be here and hope that things will go back to normal before I graduate.
~ Nishat Chowdhury is pursuing a Journalism Degree at Ryerson University