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Ending undergrad with a click

A fourth-year student reflects on distancing learning
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KELLSY ANN MENESES/THE VARSITY
KELLSY ANN MENESES/THE VARSITY

I didn’t think I’d be finishing my undergraduate career at home, but as it turns out, I’ll be spending my entire fourth year online.

Course selection happened during month four of lockdown. Amidst the scramble to find what courses were available and who was teaching them, a key question arose: in-person or online?

It wasn’t much of a choice for me. As a student who lives in Mississauga and studies downtown, the commute is the obvious factor. I had no days off in my first year, which meant that I spent 10–15 hours a week on public transit. In these new circumstances, I’ll be cutting that commute time for more important things — namely, sleep.

Ironically, I will be taking 9:00 am courses for the first time ever! Yes, I am a lazy bastard, but before you judge me too harshly, I would like to point out that this is also the first time that I can take an early course without needing to wake up at 7:00 am so I can actually eat my breakfast before running out the door. If not now, then when?

As beautiful as it is to sleep in, I’m more soothed by the fact that I don’t have to put myself at more risk for infection. Although the TTC has protocols in place to make public transit safer for everyone, I was already uncomfortable when people close to me coughed in pre-pandemic times. It would be less of a problem if my route were shorter or had fewer transfers, but I can’t help but think of all the people I’d run into during the course of only one day.

I’ll be more than happy to ride the subway when this is over — delays and all — but for now, I’ll take my chances talking to my professors on Zoom.

Another benefit: no need to switch classrooms when you only need to switch tabs.

Despite its convenience, distance learning is no replacement for on-campus learning. It’ll be harder to create and develop new relationships with both classmates and professors, especially as someone who’s better at communicating in person — sorry to anyone I’ve left on read!

I’ll miss squeezing through seats to sit next to a friend and having someone to talk to during breaks. The closest thing I’ll get to that is a different tab to chat with my friends outside of Zoom, Quercus, or wherever — a second monitor has never been so handy.

Don’t even get me started on turning the camera on for class. I never used it during the winter 2020 semester, but as a fourth-year looking to go to grad school, I feel more pressure to pop up onscreen, knowing that it’ll be easier to connect with professors if they know what I look like. No more pajamas and messy hair, but they might get an eyeful of the plushies on top of my drawer.

At the end of the day, I kind of don’t care that I’m seeing my professor from my computer. I’ll still be paying tuition and doing the work. All I want is to walk across the stage in my cap and gown, and if distance learning helps me get there, then I’ll do whatever it takes.