Leaning into the Virtual School Year

2020 has given the world nothing we could have ever predicted. Every day brings change and with that, usually some kind of bad news. Since the lockdown, we’ve watched the pandemic gradually get better. Now with the second wave, we're starting to watch the same thing happen again. We watched as Covid-19 rob us of the end of our Spring semester… and we feel the same thing happening all over again this year. 

Anna Schultz-Girl Using Laptop On Bed Anna Schultz / Her Campus

The losses that come with a virtual school year impact everyone in a different way. Students love Queen's because of the overall atmosphere. The professors are approachable, the campus buzz is both welcoming and upbeat, and the opportunities to get involved are endless. We all have that love-hate relationship with the many hours spent at coffee shops and libraries on-campus. Covid-19 depriving us of our usual campus experience, and instead introducing correspondence learning for everyone makes Queen’s feel less like Queens’s and more like… a website. 

 Regardless of whether or not you're spending the year on campus, you're feeling the effects of the virtual school year. We all go to our chosen university because we want to be on campus, not working from home. 

To work through this, it is important to know that it's okay to be upset, anxious, confused, and frustrated at how the school year is going. Before now, we've never had to experience the difficulties of connecting with our professors and colleagues over technology. They’ve never experienced it with us. All of the obstacles faced with remote learning are new ones, and we have no choice but to work past them. But in this time where everything is different from what we knew, I urge you to take time for yourself. Let yourself process the things that you feel robbed of this school year, and to make peace with these things over time. In my own process of dealing with this, I remind myself to focus on what I do have - like my family's support while I learn at home and a rewarding job - and not what I would have had if Covid-19 never happened. Let yourself feel these losses, and try to find new ways to make your unique situation this year work for you. 

Don’t be afraid to make mechanical changes to your life in response to everything going on. Nobody expects you to operate at full capacity right now. Regardless of the pandemic, you do not need (and shouldn't!) to operate at full capacity at all times.  If this means taking a lighter course load, then do it. If it means dropping an extracurricular, do it. Tailor the year to your needs. 

With that being said, if it's the sense of community you crave, get involved! There are lots of clubs running virtual events this year, and they are usually taking general members. If I learned anything from my first year, it was that the most rewarding and memorable experiences happen outside of the classroom. Especially now, getting involved in something will give you a sense of community in a time when we can’t participate in person. If you’re doing school from your hometown, try and find a part-time job, volunteer position, or a class you can take part in. This will not only give you a sense of community, but it will also ensure you get out of the house and away from your screens every once in a while. 

With that being said, make sure you’re happy in your home environment. Embrace whatever space you're in! When living at home, I find it’s a weird change of pace living with parents after having lived on my own. I have three siblings, and I guess these are my roommates now! Thankfully, we're growing closer than we have ever been before. Whenever you find yourself in these times of limited social interaction, lean into it. Make friends with your family. Go out of your way to change up the pace and do something different with your housemates. Host wine night, craft night, games night, or bachelor night. Whatever it takes to do something out of the ordinary, before all the days start to look the same!

Right now, I would argue that your university career is in your control more than ever before. While class is restricted, in many ways university has never been more customizable. The time not spent on campus is now all yours. Start taking this time to think about your dreams, figure out steps that should be in place for them, do something you've always been waiting to do, or start that project you've been putting off! Move across the country for a while if you need to. It’s time to pull the trigger on decisions you’ve been procrastinating. Start implementing the lifestyle changes you've been thinking about making. Put yourself at the centre of your attention. If you thrive on a flexible schedule, why not work within that and let this year be for you?

This year… It's just a different chapter of our university careers. Covid-19 flipped the world upside-down and put us face-to-face with a lot of emotional mountains we were not wanting to climb. But this is just a chapter in the long book that will tell the stories of our lives, and every chapter will have its highs and lows. This year is no more than that. A chapter. Just remember, Covid-19 won't go on forever. Take what you can from this time, leave what you need to, and know that this will all eventually come to an end. 

woman leaning on door looking out onto the city Photo by Kinga Cichewicz from Unsplash

Take it easy this year. Let yourself feel what you need to feel. Find peace in where you are, and create whatever kind of social atmosphere you need within your space. You don’t have to feel any pressure to be more productive right now. But if you have the energy, lean into the lenience of your schedule and find time for the things you love and the things you have been thinking about for so long. It's YOUR time. This won’t go on forever. Let it be what you want it to be.