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I’m Just Going To Say It… I Love Online School

Zoom fatigue, lack of social interactions and slow internet…online school can be a pain in the butt. But as the transition to in-person classes approached closer and closer, I realized that I was filled with mixed feelings about going back in-person—yes, I’m excited to walk to class again with my friends, but I felt a sudden feeling of unease at the thought of getting buried in the sea of masked faces again.

I was never the person to ask a bunch of questions during a lecture, nor the person to never ask questions. I was the student in-between, asking questions during lectures when necessary, but mostly saving the questions for office hours, as I felt safer and less judged in front of a smaller group of people. And as a person who came from a small high school with less than 50 students per grade, I often felt small and unimportant in the giant lecture halls with 400 people. Especially right before class, it felt like the lecture hall was a busy food court, filled with unfamiliar murmurs and faces.

But on Zoom, the story is different. To raise my hand and type questions on the chat, I didn’t have to try to read the room and wait for the “right timing.” I could do it whenever I wanted to and the professor would pick up the question anytime. And if my question turns out to be something that was already answered or a matter of common knowledge, who cares? I can just hide behind my camera and laugh about it with my roommates instead of getting weird looks from the whole lecture hall. It gives me a voice in a class with 400 people. 

Zoom’s video setting also lets me see my classmate’s “real” faces. By this, I mean our unmasked faces—something we rarely get to see today. Since I am in a Cluster program, where I have the same lecture and discussion groups as last quarter, I was able to see what my classmates looked like without their masks. Sure, it was fun comparing these faces to my imagination and having a laugh, but the most important thing was that I got to see their expressions more clearly and see their smiles. I got to see more life in my classmates than I ever did in Fall quarter. 

I was also able to expand my network of Japanese friends. Since Zoom displays people’s full names on screen, I was able to find people with Japanese names and sometimes reach out to them through DMs. Although some people were put off by my stalker-y tactic, I was able to become friends with most of them! I surprisingly found a lot of Japanese people, at least 2~3 in every class. This was relieving to me as an international student coming straight from Japan; I was able to find myself a small but strong community of Japanese people.

Not everyone’s experiences are the same. I know that I am one of the lucky ones, as my professors this quarter are making great efforts to make class interactive with Zoom polls, encouraging questions and asking students to turn their cameras on whenever possible. But the takeaway is that every situation has a good and bad side. If you focus on the bad side, you will eventually burn out with stress. But when you focus on the positive side, something amazing happens—the bad situation becomes your tool. You can use Zoom and quarantine to your advantage. As we approach the end of online school, let’s keep our spirits up and keep on looking at the bright side! 

Rio is a first-year UCLA economics student from Japan. She mainly writes about fashion, Asian culture, food, and her experience as an international student! In her free time, you can find her exploring new food spots or enjoying late night karaoke!
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