First-years face the challenge of university in a COVID-19 world
This year, a primarily remote-learning introduction to post-secondary will be a struggle for many first-years.
University is commonly characterized by exploring opportunities, building relationships, and connecting in a new environment. For many students, those prospects will look significantly different this year. Azmarak Khan, a kinesiology student, says that the start of his first year at the University of Saskatchewan has been uneventful in comparison to his expectations.
“Having that university experience of going and walking around, that was my expectation and something I really looked forward to,” Khan said.
The sudden change has not been easy for most high school graduates. When it was first announced that the majority of post-secondary institutions would conduct classes remotely, many students considered a gap year instead of their original plans.
For many, one of the more promising aspects of a university career is the campus experience, and although the U of S is slowly making specific areas on campus available for use, the absence of in-person instruction and having the majority of coursework online comes with a learning curve.
Meeting new people and learning more about the U of S are a few things Yahya Syed, a physiology and pharmacology student, was looking forward to prior to the pandemic. Although he doesn’t see online learning as a negative experience, it comes with its own set of challenges.
“Staying focused at home is kind of tough compared to being in the classroom,” Syed said.
Procrastination is typically a major challenge for students. Pre-pandemic, the university usually addressed it by having study rooms and libraries widely available for use. Now, libraries still remain closed, although certain STM spaces will reportedly soon be opening for students that want to find a place to study.
While online learning is more flexible, it will take some getting used to. For first-years like a Khan, it also means navigating university in a way most are not accustomed to.
“Something I really like is talking to my teachers and professors, introducing myself so they get a better sense of who I am,” Khan said.
“The most I get through an exposure of meeting new people in the university environment would be looking at the names of people on my Zoom calls.”
Despite these potential downsides to online learning, University President Peter Stoicheff is hopeful for U of S students.
“In these extraordinary times, we encourage all of our students located throughout the province, across the country, and around the world, to continue to be curious, creative, and compassionate,” Stoicheff writes in an email sent to students on Sept. 3.
He is not the only one keeping a positive outlook. Syed says that although he would have preferred on-campus instruction, online learning makes it easier to pace his learning. For Khan, returning to an academic routine after an unusual summer will help students use their time productively.
“They’ve made it so people that live much further than I do can even learn. I don’t think it’s negative,” Syed said. “I think it’s easier doing everything at your own pace.”
Although this Fall Term is not the introduction to post-secondary education they had expected, Khan says it holds potential for growth and improvement.
“If I can complete my work on time and push myself to the best from the comfort of my own home, when university actually starts, imagine how much more I could honestly push myself,” Khan said.
“Whatever happens, we have to adapt to that.”
Fiza Baloch | Staff Writer
Graphic: Anh Phan | Design Editor