Every day at about 2 p.m., I get an email from the University asking me to complete my daily Dr. Chat Bot survey. At first it annoyed me, as I’m on the other side of the globe and definitely don’t need to complete this survey. The email doesn’t even come with an unsubscribe option. Lately, though, this daily occurrence has begun to fill me with immense nostalgia.
It’s officially the first full week of classes. I’ve always loved syllabus week. The wonderful weather, students rushing to classes, and random free food pop-ups across campus. Though I’m aware that almost none of these things are actually happening as normal this year, sometimes I just want to go back to Hubbell Auditorium and enjoy the pleasure of dozing off in the middle of an 8 a.m. class.
As a first-year, I took chemistry with Dr. Hafensteiner. I remember that he had a tacky rule of making people sing the national anthem if their phone rang in class, and he would talk about his cute little daughters as he switched chalkboards. Most of my TAs that year would come to class with candy every week, a tradition I later continued as a TA myself.
Now, none of these little things that brought a smile to my face can happen. I really do miss this personal connection we have with our instructors in the classroom, which is almost impossible to achieve online.
I attended all of my classes this week from my room, watching my instructors wrestle with technical difficulties and try to screen share a pdf of the syllabus.
I could join a class a minute before it started and still be on time! Under normal circumstances I would’ve just taken the absence and grabbed dinner instead.
But in this new normal it’s impossible to miss a class, since they’re all just snippets of video recorded straight from the professor’s basement. Adding to the misery, my only live class is at 2 a.m.
In a way I did experience the pleasure of dozing off in the middle of class, but the difference was that when I woke up, it was the next day.
Despite everything, I do believe that instructors are trying their absolute best to make this a little easier for us. Every time I’ve emailed an instructor regarding a scheduling conflict, I’ve received a very helpful and positive reply almost within minutes. As a result of their flexibility, I’ve managed to tweak my schedule so that I only have to stay up until 2 a.m. one day of the week. I’ll take that as an achievement, honestly.
I was never really used to studying in one place back at UR. Now that I’m home, I’ve improvised a few substitutions for my favorite campus places. When studying at my desk gets too boring, I switch it up. If I feel like I need a no-nonsense PRR kind of place, I sit alone at the dining room table. If I feel like I want to waste some time pretending to study in Starbucks, I sit at my kitchen counter with a cup of coffee and call a friend. In this “semester like never before,” the key is to get creative. Everyone is in the same boat, and complaining about things can only worsen them. So go ahead, log onto your next Zoom class, and doze off just for the sake of it.