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Rutgers students reflect on past year of remote learning

While some students said they have adjusted well to virtual learning throughout the past year, others said the experience has been a blur and has negatively impacted their mental health.  – Photo by Pixabay.com

This month marks one year since the start of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic in New Jersey as well as one year since Rutgers made the decision to transition to remote instruction. Students shared their thoughts and experiences after a year of virtual learning amid the pandemic.

“I’ve definitely gotten used to the online format of learning, but I still lose focus if I’m in a Zoom meeting for too long. After the first semester or so I figured out what time of the day I’m most productive and adjusted my schedule to fit that,” said Maria Zhang, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore. “This semester has felt a lot more manageable, so I think I have gotten better at handling it.”

Pooja Agrawal, an Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy junior, also said that she has learned how to better handle virtual learning and has fallen into a comfortable routine that allows her to balance school, relaxation and extracurriculars.

Some students said the time has passed far too fast, and it has been difficult to keep track of time throughout the pandemic.

“Honestly, I didn’t realize that a year has passed. But then again, I haven’t really comprehended anything after March 2020 — I have no idea what day it is right now,” said Asmita Ghosh, a School of Engineering first-year. “It’s weird because it’s been simultaneously the fastest and slowest year of my life.”

Zhang said she sometimes forgets that she is almost done with her sophomore year of college due to the disconnect between how much time has passed and how much time she has left.

Additionally, she and other students discussed their health during this time and how the pandemic and remote learning have impacted them in this regard.

“My mental and physical health have been fine overall. I’m very lucky to have a safe environment to live in and not be financially burdened … There were times when it seemed like there wasn’t going to be an end to online classes, and I’d experience periods where I had very little motivation to do work,” Zhang said. “But when that happened, I’d just take it easy for a few days and not force myself too hard, and that feeling would pass.”

Ghosh said she has had persistent feelings of dread throughout the seemingly never-ending pandemic. She said at times it was hard to stay motivated because it seemed as if there is no light at the end of the tunnel.

Agrawal said remote instruction has negatively impacted her physical health because she did not realize how much exercise she got by simply walking around campus every day. Since she no longer was getting that exercise in, she said she had to adjust by motivating herself in different ways. Additionally, Agrawal said she developed coping mechanisms to help both her mental and physical health.

“Over the past year, I have learned that taking time away from the screens is very helpful,” she said. “After spending so much time on a computer in the past year, I learned that stepping away and going on a walk or spending time with family has helped me the most.”

Zhang said that calling her friends, taking breaks from the computer and maintaining a schedule have all helped her a lot to better cope with remote learning and the pandemic. She said that she has also started sending letters to her friends and likes to take walks every day, as it helps her feel less trapped inside.

Overall, Agrawal said she believes that virtual learning has become slightly easier throughout the past year, and many of her professors have made courses more flexible by posting lectures ahead of time. She said that she can focus more on learning the material since her stress has been severely reduced.

“In terms of coursework, I don’t think college will ever get easier. But I think my time management skills have really been put to a test over the course of this year,” Ghosh said. “I don’t know if, overall, online college has become easier or harder, mostly because this whole experience has been one giant blur.”


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