I never thought my last semester of college would look so similar to my first.
A newly diagnosed autoimmune disease combined with a stressful life transition doesn’t mix well back then. After an incredibly brief stint in the dorm, I moved back home and completed my first 15 hours of college credit three hours away from campus from the safety of my living room.
So, it’s not my first rodeo with online classes. I took them then, I’ve taken them since, and I’m finishing them now.
Although no one could’ve predicted the drastic impacts COVID-19 would have on day-to-day life — let alone the post-secondary education system — I felt oddly prepared when Middle Tennessee State University announced the spring semester would resume remotely. Since then, it’s been nothing but a flooded inbox of email and updates from Walnut Grove, preaching safety precautions “in these uncertain times.”
Looking back on my freshman year, I would literally jump at any opportunity to leave the house, whether it was an impromptu Starbucks run to catch up with friends or a midday study session spent hunkered down at a desk in the back corner of the public library.
Now, home is home, but it also has to be your classroom, your library, your coffee shop, etc. That’s probably the worst part. As a self-proclaimed introvert, I’ve never been one to complain about staying inside, but that was when it was my choice. An option to go out was still on the table.
Taking school out of the classroom has been a challenge for everyone involved. When spring break was extended from one week to two, it was easy to press pause on academics, while professors scrambled to adapt their syllabi to accommodate the new normal.
I put a wrap on the classes for my major last fall, so this semester has solely focused on my French minor. In a lot of ways, things have changed, but in others, not so much. Instead of turning in homework, it gets emailed or submitted to a digital dropbox. I no longer have to stand behind a podium to deliver presentations to an audience of nine over the obnoxious hum of an air conditioner. It’s given via Zoom. My classes seemed to be almost seamlessly adapted for an online curriculum. The same cannot be said for others.
In quarantine, I think one of the biggest struggles has been maintaining some sense of routine and finding activities to fill the day. Time seems to move slower when you’re idle, and the stir-crazy starts to creep in.
I’ve started doing my homework in the garage, sometimes in the driver’s seat of my car parked in the driveway. With the washing machine that never seems to stop running or the mindless chatter from the kitchen that seeps through every wall of the house, I’m painfully aware of how loud everyone sharing the same roof can be.
A few of my friends have decided to get reacquainted with old pastimes: journaling, drawing, crocheting. We’ve all kept each other up to speed with daily updates in the form of audio messages. I’ve managed to surprise myself by keeping a pretty solid sleep and wake cycle, interrupted by an embarrassing number of hours spent scrolling through TikTok’s “For You Page.”
My screen time, along with everyone else’s, has skyrocketed. It does, however, make for interesting conversation and never-ending threads with links to what needs to be seen online.
I would say the consensus for getting through this period of time is to find something to look forward to each day — whether it’s something small like getting caught up on a favorite TV series or looking further ahead to events that may or may not be canceled come summertime.
It’s important not to dwell on the constant reminders of this “uncertain time.” We’re living through it.
Tayla Courage is a Lebanon native and a graduating senior from Middle Tennessee State University.