Remote and abroad

I went into 2020 thinking it would likely be one of the most exciting years of my life. I was studying abroad in Greece for spring semester and then starting my senior year in the fall. This all swiftly fell apart in March when I got sent home to Australia. I spent the summer agonizing over whether returning to campus would be a good option. With a great deal of factors included I decided it wasn’t in my best interest. 

Thankfully, VWU gave me the option to take all of my classes online so that I didn’t have to defer for the semester. I thought it would be reasonably straightforward, my classes would be recorded and I would have to complete the assignments like the rest of my class. 

That isn’t exactly how it went down. I think that the greatest challenge was that there was no policy for how professors should facilitate online classes and I was put in a position where I had to work with each of them directly to figure it out. While I appreciate having the chance to figure out what would be best for my scenario, it was extremely stressful having to email back and forth with five different people while I was also 14 hours ahead and classes started in less than two weeks. 

I hit a lot of road bumps with having to do a lab, having a class which couldn’t be recorded and not being able to contribute to class in the typical way. I definitely appreciate the professors working with me and adapting to these unique circumstances. 

I think that in the future, if online learning remains an option, the university needs to have some sort of guidelines for professors and students to follow. Being asked to attend Zoom class from midnight to 1am three times a week cannot be conducive to learning and so after one class I had to ask again for it to be recorded because I could not stay awake.

The time difference between the United States and Australia does make it much harder to organize distance learning but I think that the university needed to recognize this well before the semester started. Australian universities have been recording all lectures for the past 15-plus years and so I know the technology is available. 

I think that in hindsight, I may have been better off taking this semester off and graduating later, even though this would have pushed back grad school. I’m sure most students know that online learning is difficult. It’s hard to keep track of assignments, you feel extremely disconnected and if you don’t understand something, it can be harder to get the answers you need. 

Adding the time difference to this made it feel impossible at times. I am finally at the point where things are starting to flow together and I have somewhat of a schedule, but I still feel like I’m playing catch up in most of my classes. 

The best part about this all is that I have no idea what next semester will look like. I don’t know if I will get to play college field hockey again or graduate in person or ever get my belongings back out of storage… so please wear a mask!

Mallory Langford