As a freshman in 2020, I knew walking into USM that I would be online. For that first semester, everything was fine; I found enjoyment in attending my classes from the comfort of my dorm room and was enjoying making friends with those who lived down the hall. Although I wasn’t able to learn in person, it felt better to think that no one else was either. I was in isolation, but I didn’t feel alone.
This feeling persisted until the Fall of 2021. Since my inaugural semester, vaccine mandates and extra precautions had occurred that had allowed a wider catalog of in-person classes to take place. Everyone was joyous of being able to return to the classroom and congregate together. Everyone except for me. For a still unknown reason, my class schedule was suspended primarily to Zoom and online asynchronous classes. My daily to-do list consisted of waking up in the morning and turning on my computer to start another day of endless discussion boards, peer replies, and video lectures to watch. Asking my friends what their day was like was the polar opposite to my daily experience. Where I had all of the time in the world to complete a week’s worth of homework, they had their schedule blocked out to the minute. Every day, they would wake up and rush from classroom to classroom. I envied my friends who had the opportunity to meet with their teachers in person, and engage with their peers. While I had to wait a few days to hear my classmates’ thoughts on the readings in the discussion boards. Midway through the semester, I burned out almost completely, and I dreaded the thought of having to do another semester purely online.
It is now the beginning of the Spring semester of 2022. My schedule consists entirely of in-person classes that I am excited to begin. Upon moving back into the room that was my whole world for four months, I heard the news that all classes are to be moved online for the first two weeks to accommodate COVID-19 protocols. The same peers who once spoke of their long days traveling across campus all day were now secluded to their computer. In the past week and a half of our remote learning scheme, I’ve seen a multitude of social media posts referring to Zoom fatigue and stress about discussion boards. Hearing their disdain about remote learning for two weeks where I learned remotely for an entire semester feels gratifying in a sense. I can only describe it further with the phrase, “welcome to my world.” This feeling of “I’ve been here, and now you’re following in my footsteps.” Now, I am very excited that for the first time since I started at USM, I’ll know what it’s like to actually have to go beyond my front door for class, or to have a thorough discussion on the readings I did ten minutes before class in real-time.
Reflecting on last semester, I was faced with an emotionally challenging few months, rather than being challenged in my academics. When I moved back into my room on campus, I could still feel the level of burnout I felt in the fall when I would spend my days eating, working, and trying to relax all in the same place. Sometimes I still find my room to be overwhelming. Since last semester, I’ve found ways to counter that since the start of the semester. Instead of “going to school” and going to my desk to work for hours on end, I “go to school,” and go to another part of campus to work for a better part of the day, before returning to my room to read a book or watch a movie. This way, my room is left to only be a place of relaxing and recharging my battery before starting all over again the next day. When I think of the fall semester, the forthcoming tone is the importance of “self-maintenance” (my name for self-care and wellness). I would go the entire day without giving myself a break. I have so much hope for this semester. I’m very excited to make more friends within my degree program, as well as to have discussions about different concepts and ideas with my professors. This will likely be the closest I’ll have to a pre-COVID-19 semester at USM, and I’m very thankful to have made it through the last three.