This quarter, UC Santa Barbara students have once again hunkered down and plugged in. Indeed, initial announcements of a temporary two-week return to virtual learning sent students off campus and online. While UCSB was the only UC school to not fully extend remote learning through Jan. 28, many instructors have opted to remain online until Jan. 31, at which time the university plans to return to full in-person instruction.
Sure enough, students reacquainted themselves with the all-too-familiar feelings of exhaustingly navigating awkward breakout room conversations, wincing through desk chair back pain and waging a constant war with their oh-so-shitty Wi-Fi connections.
The following vignettes were written by members of our Opinion Staff and reflect their individual experiences with virtual learning this past quarter as well as their hopes for the future.
It is 6:55 a.m. My arms rest gently by my side, cheeks flushed with the bright, tangerine rays of the sun. I appreciate the regular visits that the sun makes across the southward window of my apartment at San Joaquin Villages — almost clockwork. My body knows. The birds know. Life continues to go on each day.
My hands reach for my phone, fumbling the on-and-off button of the alarm. My first class is in an hour. I haven’t been relying on my alarm lately, constantly turning it off before it chirps. Out of bed, my feet follow the coordinates I have coursed through the past three weeks of our bathroom and kitchen floors— grabbing an overripe banana — before I make my way to the closet. My hands find my workout tees, and by the next second, I’m slipping on my running shoes and out the door.
A waft of briny air courses through my veins as I make my usual trek: towards the sun. Mile upon mile, the air becomes more and more saturated with fish and salt. My nose wrinkles ever so slightly as my feet pound the ground. My heart keeps the rhythm, stronger and stronger. Just me and the world, I think. Except the world has reverted back to what it was a year ago — a time capsule that we never knew we would revisit — distance. Distance learning. Social distance. All of a sudden, my mind reels in as I heel-brake myself, catching sand in my socks. What am I running from?
By Melody Chen
Having spent last year online, I was initially a little bummed to return to remote learning. Over break, I was really looking forward to coming back to campus and engaging with campus life. So, when I found out that most of my friends would be staying home until the end of the month, it let me down a ton.
My experience this quarter, however, wasn’t as bad as I had expected. There’s no doubt that online learning poses many challenges, like not being able to socialize with friends and professors being unresponsive, but there have been many pros as well. It has provided the opportunity to use the extra time spent running across campus to attend classes to instead engage in activities that I genuinely enjoy.
With college academics, it was initially pretty tough. I found myself overwhelmed with my courses and would either overwork myself or procrastinate. Luckily, I’ve made a couple of good friends in each of my courses despite being online, and most of my professors have been surprisingly accommodating.
However, the silent Zoom breakout rooms along with all the tension surrounding if and when we would be returning to campus were two things I really didn’t miss.
I feel like, overall, it was a smoother transition than last year. I’ve been able to build my independence and improve my time management skills significantly. And though it’s been tough not having as much structure to my day or being able to socialize as much as I hoped, I’ve learned to appreciate a more flexible schedule and to reach out to others. I’m really excited to return to in-person learning in February!
By Alice Zhang
I am remote and safe but the internet at home is shitty and the meeting is not recorded and I am left sewing the lesson out of static and sentences.
I am remote and safe but my mind would rather inhale fresh laundry and watch the next episode and taste brown butter miso chocolate chip cookies than actively listen to 9 a.m. synchronous lectures.
I am remote and safe but it hurts to pay thousands of dollars for exercise classes that are shut down, club events that connect black screens and silence and professors who do not understand remote learning and the pandemic.
I am remote and safe but the textbook numbers swirl in the air and the professor races through their screenshots and I do not know humanity more than the names and identities in the bottom right corner of the thousands of Zoom boxes.
I am remote and safe but my friends fled across the sea of social distancing and there are no words to throw spider threads at strangers and I cannot stop imagining company in the hollowness.
I am remote and safe but I do not know if being released into a classroom of masks would make learning in person safe either.
By Celine Pun
What has made this episode of remote learning more bearable than the last, for me, is hope. We are not out of the woods just yet, and it seems like we will not be for some time, but at least the trees are thinning and the road is clearing.
We have vaccines now and the vast majority of UCSB is vaccinated. I am studying something I actually like. And it lifts my spirits to know that in-person classes will mostly resume next week, even if such a move turns out to be ill-advised. None of this was the case two years ago.
I have also been in my dorm for the past month. While living in Santa Catalina means I am not completely on campus, just being close to UCSB is much better than staying home six hours away. The infrastructure here lends itself utterly to the pursuit of study: The dining halls encourage me to get in and get out, the fitness centers keep my mind and body sharp and — while technically a knock against overpriced living arrangements — there is not much to do in the small dorm that I share with my one or two roommates besides work.
Work is another important thing — that is, don’t do too much of it if you value your happiness. I try to take better care of myself now. Usually, this means checking notifications at half-hour intervals and gaming for a few hours at least every few days.
By Yiu-On Li
Ah, virtual learning, a not-so-unique experience for us all, after attending online school since March of 2020. I’m currently a first-year student at UCSB, so moving away from home and taking in-person classes was a huge leap for me, considering that I’d been at home, attending online classes for around half of my high school experience. In-person school in a whole new location gave me things I had not had for a very long time: a routine, motivation, structure. Essentially, it gave me every possible improvement in my academic life.
Now, I’ve been engaging in virtual learning at UCSB for almost half of the winter quarter, and I’m not going to lie — it’s been comfortable. Not great, but comfortable. No more walking from San Rafael to Phelps Hall at 7:30 in the morning. Instead, I rushedly click on a Zoom link at 7:59 a.m. I treasure the luxury of an extra hour of sleep.
On the flip side, I do end up needing to rewatch lectures. Regardless of if I attend them or not, I require the extra watch to absorb the material. In person, I wouldn’t dare check my phone during class, but online I find that I give in. To be honest, that’s more of a “me problem,” but it’s the truth. There is a noticeable decline in my productivity when my schooling is virtual.
Overall, I’m anticipating my return to campus and in-person classes, so I can get focused just in time for the midterm season.
By Amitha Bhat