Scholarship Submissions 2021

Karen Butterfield
Karen Butterfield

Essay topic: Describe your experience navigating in an online world during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Pandemic Online Learning

by Ashley Rodriguez

For me personally my experience navigating in the online world during the pandemic was very easy. Yes, the courses were more challenging to understand through online teaching, but it gave me so much more time with my family. With my normal busy schedule, I was never able to spend this much time with them. Since I also had very little time left before leaving for college, it was somewhat good timing. But with that being said, it was a double edge sword. I wasn’t used to the annoying aspects of my family. I love them with all my heart, but too much of a good thing is bad. I really needed in-person school to see other people that were more my age.

Before the pandemic, you could usually ask your classmate questions during class to understand the curriculum better. Yet, with online learning that wasn’t really an option, unless you already knew their personal contact information. You couldn’t even make new friends in class because no one dared to put on their cameras. There was an extreme lack of communication which resulted in diminishing social skills of all students.

Another thing that I think stops a lot of students from learning is that they are scared to ask questions, especially since there is now text receipts or video recordings of what they said. In person you could go up to the teacher and talk to them in private without it being such a big deal. Now it involves a documented email. Even though I grew up in the digital age, I still don’t like communicating entirely through digital means. It’s much easier to see them in person and explain exactly what you are trying to convey. Your voice inflection and non-verbal body language are crucial to having interactions that are well received.

Now with hearing all the bad parts of online learning, you could probably suspect that all of the grades were bad. From what I’ve heard, some people actually started to do better because it was all personal learning and that’s how they thrived. For me, on the other hand, my grades were great, but I hated about every aspect of online earning. I had an extreme lack of motivation to finish work and because of the pandemic I’ve used that as an excuse to turn in work late. The only thing I got from online school was how to sleep during class and fake my way into good grades. I didn’t actually learn as much as I thought I could have in my senior year.

In conclusion, it seems like each person reacted differently to this new learning environment. I think teachers could use this knowledge of how students learn in different formats as a way to improve their ability to impact more students. All in all, we persevered through the challenges of a worldwide pandemic and we can be proud of how far we have come.

Vote for Ashley

Navigating an Online World

by Michael Reyes

Before COVID-19 struck, I was already fairly adapted to an online social lifestyle. I talked to most of my friends through social media apps, like Twitter and Instagram. I joined many calls and voice chats through sites like Discord, and played games with many of my friends there. I also posted media of nearly all of my own hobbies and projects online, which gained a bit of traction with other users. As a then-Junior in high school, I was also used to doing and submitting most of my work online. So, by the time the virus finally entered Colorado, and every school in my county transitioned to an online lifestyle, I thought it would be an easy transition. Little did I know of the challenges and obstacles that laid ahead for me.

In order to compensate for all of the online work we had to do, students were told to use a third party app instead of an established platform, like Google Classroom. It was a difficult adjustment to make at first, since almost no one knew how to use it. By the time I, and other students and teachers had managed to sort out all of the app’s issues, two others issues emerged: teacher-peer communication and work overload. It was not uncommon for a teacher to mistakenly assign an assignment, earlier than what was originally told to the students. I would frequently email teachers back, or raise my virtual hand in my online classes, in order to clarify what the correct due date was for that assignment. Projects that also required me to work with a partner were also hard in terms of communication. I never knew most of my classmates phone numbers, which forced me to contact them through their school emails. Some were quicker to respond than others, but it was still a pain just waiting a response from them. Whether I was emailing a teacher or classmate, those emails took time away from the limited work period I had throughout the day. I always tried to maintain a consistent work schedule in order to complete as many assignments as I could, before I had to do my house chores. That lost time also contributed to the amount of homework I had to do each night. I would frequently stay up until one in the morning, just to make sure all of my assignments were completed and submitted. That included missing and late assignments, which took an emotional toll on me. I broke down most nights, and contemplated on whether or not I was going to pass high school and attend college.

Fortunately, working online wasn’t a total nightmare. Thanks to the social network I had created online, I went to my close circle of friends to ask for advice and tips about how to endure online schooling. They were very receptive and provided help for the classes I was struggling in. They even helped provide so much needed relaxation, by inviting me to certain games they were playing and discussing other topics that were happening in the world. I feel like the experience of working online has strengthened me, and now that the country seems to be getting back to normal, I hope to apply that knowledge into my future career.

Vote for Michael

Virtual Throwback

by Emory Taylor

It was a very strange and unusual experience for us this time last year. Many of us had already switched to virtual learning due to Covid becoming worse and worse over the past few months, and for the most part, everyone was now in virtual learning. Around this time, we started finishing up the last part of the school year. This was an unusual and confusing thing to get used to. I don’t only mean the coronavirus situation and lockdown itself, but also navigating things like virtual learning and other online tools for school. I remember the day I first saw zoom and tried it out. I was in my Spanish three honors class and the teacher was talking to us about it, if it should arise that we have to switch to virtual learning. At first, it seemed kind of weird and unusual. My initial thought was, “ why don’t we just use FaceTime or Skype?“. However, I didn’t feel like I was really in a position to try and think about a decision that the school had made for us. We sat there for about 40 minutes or so walking through the different features on the app. There were multiple things such as how you could turn off the screen, mute yourself, and even change the screen saver face. Of course, it didn’t take long for many kids to start putting photos that they thought were funny as their screen savers. Over the next few months, it didn’t die down much as far as that was concerned. I would log into a class call or onto Google classroom to check my assignments and I would see everyone’s new profile pictures they use to annoy teachers. My favorite was the one of a child holding across and freaking out. Over the next few months, I got more and more familiar with those applications such as zoom and Google classroom. While I did get more familiar with them, it was by no means seamless and perfect for how I used them. There were multiple times when I either forgot to submit my assignment because I didn’t click a specific button, or that my work or file did not go through and then I would have to resubmit it. Along with this, there were other things such as due dates and guidelines the teachers used that made it kind of hard. I remember a specific time that I keep submitting an assignment and my teacher said that the file was corrupted and I would have to resend it. That lasted for three days, and thankfully I got it in. However, overall I was able to make it work and get through my junior year. Outside of that, I don’t feel like much else had changed with the online world and how I experienced it during Covid. For the most part, I just went on to apps like YouTube and Netflix, watched videos, watched the news when it was on, I did everything else that I usually do if I was not in a pandemic. It’s not that I’m antisocial or anything, but I do a lot of stuff online anyway so it’s not like it changed up much. Overall, it’s been an odd, but fun experience for this past year.

Vote for Emory

Staying Afloat

by Ezra Morarescu

When the coronavirus pandemic started, I didn’t expect it to last for this long. I saw the break from school as a treat and not having a high school graduation as a mild inconvenience. Of course I was disappointed, but I could look past it. University was approaching and I was excited to enter the new world of post-secondary education – until I realized it would all be online. I’ve grown up with the Internet, so I can say that I know my way around websites and a variety of platforms. However, my moderate knowledge of the World Wide Web did not prepare me for the struggle of learning new, difficult material all on my own. Suddenly, learning every new term, concept, and discussion was just that much harder. Being tech savvy and being thrown into the depths of a digital world are two very different concepts, and I found myself working quickly to figure out how to stay afloat. With regards to school, I managed to stay afloat, although sometimes life got overwhelming and I would start to feel under supported. I will be forever grateful for my friends and family for being a part of this journey, and helping me remember that my success and self-worth are not based in grades, but in the connections I make and the efforts I put into my work.

Aside from my academics being online, I quickly had to come to terms with the fact that the rest of my life is also trapped online. Future goals have become postponed, and things such as my health were a struggle to deal with. Without being able to interact in person with my friends, and later my family, my motivation quickly went down the drain. The looming pandemic seemed to have turned a helpful resource into a crutch, as I turned to social media to aid my worries and loneliness. As one can expect, this was not a useful coping mechanism, but the never-ending posts and trends drew me in, making me numb to the rest of the world. As the summer ended, I was forced to pull myself out of the siren’s call of social media, and promptly realized that my problems did not go away through ignorance. I had dentist appointments to navigate, therapy online as I kept my mental health in check, and phone calls with my doctor as I tried to discover how I as a transgender individual could feel more at peace with my body. I fought with government websites regarding my identity, and many places refused to change their information to align with my new name. An already complicated system had become that much more impenetrable with the coronavirus, and I had to come to the realization that very few changes can be made for my well-being until the pandemic comes to a stop. While in the beginning this felt like a daunting concept, I have come to terms with my new reality. Through the help of my partner and my ever-growing support group, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, and it is much brighter than it was a year ago.

Vote for Ezra

Covid Experience

by Gabriella Corona

The pandemic hit many people hard and nobody was excluded from it. Students had to go online for their education and it was not easy. It became hard on them and it seemed more demanding. As someone who strives to do their best I was filled with confusion and doubt. This was quite possibly the hardest year of my academic life.

A lot of the times I felt very stressed and confused on how work would get done. Overall, I was on top of my studies but many times I felt like I could procrastinare and miss assignments because I began to not care. Everytime I did that I got more stressed and was just digging myself a bigger hole everytime. As someone who always tries to get straight Asm, I felt as if I was not doing as well as I had been. I would lose track of time for assignments and that would make me stress out even more.

I lost a lot of motivation to try and turn in work and study for tests. My friends felt the same way and I felt like I would fall behind and never catch up. I felt like this would get me nowhere and retaining information was by far the hardest thing for me. My note taking would lack and when it came down to use it, it would make no sense or that information felt useless. I knew I was not retaining information and I knew that if I didn’t do anything to change my actions I would fail. I knew that I would let myself down if I did not change my outlook on life.

I realized that not doing work or waiting on it will disappoint my family, teachers, and myself. I had to step it up or fall. So I tried really hard on making sure I knew what the lesson was about and how to retain that information. I work on motivating myself and my friends. I encouraged myself and others that we will make it to graduation and that will be our goal. To make it through these tough times so we can achieve our goals. That was our final push to get us through the tough year and half. That will still be my goal and push, to always strive forward.

Overall, this pandemic has tested my family, friends and me. I do think it has made me stronger and has allowed me to motivate myself in different ways. It has allowed me to communicate with my friends more often and to appreciate their company and companionship. I will thank my family and friends for pushing me to do my best. I will also thank myself for allowing me to grow and to not stay stuck to what I thought was a nightmare.

Vote for Gabriella

An Absolute Online World

by Persis Pochara

When the lockdowns were first issued in Pennsylvania, I was in the middle of my second spring semester in college. Most of my classes were physical and I had never used programs like Zoom for my classes before. I wondered what our schedule would look like and how we were going to continue our learning. It was not easy at first. All of our work was independent and confined to only ourselves. Some professors didn’t know how to use certain features in Canvas, or how to resolve issues in communication. If we needed extra help, it was limited since it could not be face-to-face. In my public speaking class, I had to record my speeches and fabricate an audience—my siblings—and concentrating on my assignment was extremely difficult with them there. Nonetheless, I was able to survive that semester. But I was troubled by the future of my education. I had a limited option of classes to choose from, all online, and I had not chosen my courses without help in-person before. I felt that I had no one to turn to for answers; in reality, I did, but I was too inhibited to ask for it nor did I even know how to ask what I needed to do. In time, I gradually adjusted, and I figured out what I was confused about.

My online experience wasn’t all that bad in retrospect. I no longer had to wake up early or at a set time. My classes were asynchronous, so I could work on my assignments at any time so long as it wasn’t past the deadline. No longer needing to be driven to and from my campus by either one of my parents—and thus getting in the way of their schedules—was a blessing for all of us. Being able to stay home with my computer is what most students around my age dream of. When I finished my assignments early, I had time to relax, watch a show or a movie; play some games; play an instrument; and work. It was interesting to see how our society was able to adapt in the absence of physical meetings and activities. I was always more inclined to interacting with people and doing most things online instead of in-person. Around the time of the pandemic, I was just beginning to go outside with my friends to hang out, even go to a sleepover for the first time! Unfortunately, since things have been closed down and heavily regulated, I don’t know if I will be able to experience going out on my own and interacting with others personally ever again. IE don’t even know if I am going to the campus of my intended university or choosing in-person classes. After being cooped up in my house and relying on my computer for school, I may not want to go back to a building so far away from my house; that my parents have to drive me to on their own work schedules; needing to get up and get ready at a set time; and bringing a backpack with supplies, as well as my phone, and also something to eat. A normal, synchronous, and physical classroom is something that cannot surpass the online experience for me.

Vote for Persis


by Mukund Vishwanath

The pandemic was initially thought to be a temporary escape from the outside world. While the traffic on the roads started to disappear, the usage of social media reached its peak. I could finally speak to my friend who lived in a completely different timezone because neither of us had proper circadian rhythms, I could read a book online, or watch the same series for the 5th time as I fell asleep on the couch. All of this had lead to a monotonous lifestyle where I was just switching between tasks all day. The task switcher- Alt+Tab- was perhaps the most used shortcut throughout my time navigating in an online world during the coronavirus pandemic. This shortcut would help me switch between a hilarious video I was watching on YouTube to the video call where my teacher was calling my name for attendance. I emphasize this shortcut because it reminds me of the time I was stuck in one place- stationary but still constantly switching between tasks. I stayed inside my house, took all the precautions, got lazy, yet hoped that I can soon meet the friends I kept video calling every day because we had nothing else to do, hoped that we could play Pictionary or party at our favorite club instead of vibing to the online concerts, hoped that we could move past the screens and finally hug each other. Perhaps, that is all I did the entire pandemic. I hoped.

This pandemic may have not taught me how I can laze around and still get my work done, but it surely taught me to respect the world outside the digital network that is slowly consuming us. Following this realization, I started to spend my time researching the mental toll this pandemic could cause on numerous individuals. I would then have more video calls with my friends and alt+tab between different windows regarding the statistics of it and what we can do to not fall prey. We would then alt+switch to watching our favorite stand-up comedy, then alt+tab to the main screen and talk about how one saw a parrot from their window or how one found a toy from 10 years back. The pandemic has taught me to appreciate the nuances of life. Yes, the entire world is accessible to me at my fingertips, but none of it would truly make me happy if I didn’t know how to alt+tab away to the next window at the right time.

I could not promise myself that everything could go back to being exactly the way it was before the pandemic, but I could definitely hope that when things do get better and I can finally go out, I never forget the importance of alt+tab- to switch through my tasks and make sure I maintain balance in my life.

Vote for Mukund

An Online Nightmare

by David Carey

Unfortunately, COVID-19 ruined the class of 2021’s junior and senior year of high school by forcing students to use virtual learning. Many schools use one or two websites for distributing assignments, notifying students, and giving lessons. Using one or two websites would not have been an issue for me, as I love building computers and competing in cybersecurity competitions. The issue for me is having to use two different Canvas accounts, Google Classroom, Blackboard, Webassign, Acrobatiq, Zoom, Pearson, and four different emails for school. Juggling four emails and six different platforms for my education is a nightmare because all the assignments seem to endlessly pile up and merge into one giant monster. Crawling between the spider web of educational media, assignments are bound to be missed. Not only is virtual school a navigational nuisance, but it also poses potential problems like not being able to connect to the internet, cameras or microphones not working, hyperlinks not working, or forgetting passwords. Trying to spend a massive amount of time staring at a screen attempting to escape the labyrinth of problems and assignments creates a herculean headache.

Not only are the assignments physically and emotionally draining, sitting through long zoom classes without any entertainment is a bore. There were no hands-on activities, no crazy experiments, no messing with friends, or snarky comments. There was no class drama or days chock full of excitement, only depressingly gray squares with white initials. The only chance to talk with friends is through discord calls while playing video games or late-night facetime making stupid jokes. At some point, purely virtual connections will not fill the void of seeing friends in person. COVID-19 closing schools for the first two weeks was nice, but one and a half years of online classes made me numb to the flow of time and excitement of graduation. The only thing I had left to look forward to was seeing my friends again.

On top of all the assignments, I still had to apply for college and scholarships. The colleges I applied to had poorly designed websites that made it confusing to navigate. As if the websites were not confusing enough, I had to go down rabbit trails of links just to find out I went to the wrong place. When I got to the end, I would have around twenty tabs open and I had was lost in the catacombs of college credentials. Feeling overwhelmed with unrelated information, it was difficult to find related information for academic requirements, payment plans, honors programs, and housing plans. Now that I have been accepted to college, everything is virtual, including the orientation and tours. The only thing they show on the tours is pictures of building insides or pretty campus views. When I go on campus for the first time, it will be a maze trying to figure out where classes are and where different buildings are.

Vote for David

The New World

by Le’Dajha Tuff

The first change of Coronavirus was intimacy. Suddenly, there was a vast distance between my friends and I that wasn’t there before, a distance of more than just six feet apart. As I was starting my senior year, I was thrust into a new world. Previously, the most important thing in my life was what to eat for dinner or do on the weekend. However, during Covid-19, my home simultaneously became an escape and a prison. After curfews were implemented, borders and restaurants were closed, and masks were required, I became more technologically-reliant.

Curfews are of the most impractical of methods to combat Covid-19, and naturally, led to more online activity for me. My family and I were forced to get the same amount of daily chores and activities before Covid-19 done in less time. Even something as simple as going to the grocery store with my family involves more people, meaning there’s more contact and chances to catch Covid-19. To prevent us from falling victim, we’ve had to use more online resources. Instacart, one of the more popular delivery services, is just one of the many we use, and it is by no means cheap.

Another way I’ve become reliant on the Internet is through food and travel. Seeing my loved ones has been nearly impossible given they live in different states, and many states closed their borders to stop the spread of Coronavirus. Now, we use websites, such as DoorDash, to deliver food from restaurants that do not allow customers to sit down to eat. Even worse than that, I can remember my mom receiving a call from my grandmother saying that my aunt Cathleen had died after contracting Coronavirus. No one could go to her funeral because she lived in a different state. My entire family was crushed, and even though we saw each other over video, it wasn’t the same as comforting and seeing each other in person.

Many people, including myself, favor staying in and using technology over going out because masks, a type of personal protective equipment, have been such a nuisance to wear. I’d rather stay inside my house, playing online games and breathing easy as opposed to venturing outside my house to go to a bowling alley where I cannot. It’s the little things that make an already monumental issue worse. Masks may keep me safe while in public, but I don’t have to use them if I stay inside so that is what I usually do. However, this has been to my detriment because, while I may be able to see others’ social lives on social media, it’s not the same as experiencing life for myself.

Overall, navigating this new, online world during Covid-19 has been trying. Of course, the Internet is a substitute to experiencing real life in person , but it is an inadequate substitute. The intimacy of a computer screen is hollow in the place of a hug’s intimacy. For now, this online world will have to suffice, but that does not mean it is truly worthy; it simply means that it is all that is currently available. Until the curfews vanish, borders and restaurants reopen, and masks become optional, this online world is my world, and I will navigate it to the best of my ability.

Vote for Le’Dajha

A Unique Purpose for Social Media

by Savannah Bidlingmaier

When the first COVID-19 lockdown occurred I had been living in a foreign province for six months as a volunteer Missionary and all that I had to perform proselyting and community service with was my phone. If someone had told me that I would be spending the first year of the COVID-19 working on a team of Social Media Leaders during my volunteer service for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, I would not have believed it. I had spent the first quarter of my eighteen month, fulltime Missionary service doing the vast majority of proselyting and community service in person. Now that had drastically altered with the lockdown of Ontario. Missionaries had used social media before the lockdown, though in limited ways, such as posting listings for free Bibles on Facebook Marketplace. However, a month into the isolation restrictions a new, Missionary-led social media initiative was put into action worldwide by the leaders of the Church.

This project has the purpose of giving individuals the opportunity to learn more about the beliefs of members of the Church and provide free service in the community, such as English language tutoring. The first step was to create Facebook Pages for every major city in Ontario. It was a whirlwind of online training meetings and reading of resources for the first few weeks. I distinctly recall receiving a Chromebook for the first time which was to enable me to set up the Facebook Pages my Missionary partner and I were in charge of. Each Social Media Leader was to supervise the management of one to three Facebook Pages. A few of these would be in a language other than English for the purpose of reaching certain members of the Ontario community. We trained the other Missionaries in our respective areas on how to effectively manage them. The superintending of the pages done by Social Media Leaders entails several aspects of responsibility, including: facilitating the creation of Christian-themed posts; running and analyzing the results of ads offering free services; monitoring the quality of the communication between page-followers and Missionary page-moderators; as well as gathering and reporting the statistics to Mission and local, Congregational Leaders.

It is the most fulfilling way of using social media that I have ever experienced because it connected me with friends; fellow Missionaries; and members of the Ontario community in one of the most meaningful ways. This is because it is for the sole purpose of uplifting and enriching their lives through friendly association; virtual and in person service; as well as sharing a message of hope and peace centered on Christian principles. Since completing the volunteer Missionary service, I continue to be involved in this effort through sharing page content with friends and family as well as offering assistance to the Missionaries in my locality. The combination of a pandemic and a fulltime religious as well as philanthropic purpose, has uniquely taught me how social media can better the lives of individuals by providing connection in isolation and meaning in chaotic confusion.

Vote for Savannah

Obstacles In a Pandemic

by Amy Nguyen

I remember March 13th, 2020 was the last day of in-person school. This day was the Friday before Spring Break and I remember being so excited and stoked to get a break from school, but little did I know that the world would end up in a world-wide pandemic. I remember reading emails about spring break being extended for another week and being filled with excitement that I would have another week to stay home. But as soon as that week went by everyone started to get flooded by emails about the school year having to end on Zoom and Canvas. As soon as I would turn on the news or go on social media all everyone talked about was how schools were going to continue online. When I started online classes for the remainder of the school year, there was a lot of confusion and questions. I remember kids would use the function on Zoon to raise their hand and ask “Will we ever go back to school?” teachers would answer with uncertainty. March 2020 was when reality hit students all over the world that there was going to be a new normal to adapt to.

Navigating in an online world everyday whether that was for school or even to socialize with friends was for sure a tough thing to get used to. I remember coming back to the first day from our extended spring break and having to remember that I can’t leave the house for school because of the fear of catching the virus. I would wake up, sit down at my desk and wonder if there was an assignment posted on Canvas or if my teachers have sent a message. It was hard because some days I wouldn’t hear from some of my teachers and would start to wonder if we even have school that day. And even if they posted an assignment online it was hard to find the assignment through our devices because no one was used to it yet. Every night my friends and I would make the effort to catch up and FaceTime each other, but even that didn’t feel like enough. Being away from the ones you loved was the toughest obstacle for me during the start of the pandemic.

As the new school year came around the corner the first day of school was rough. The realization that we would all be online for the next couple of months was a dread to think about. When I started to receive emails from my new teachers about the different Zoom codes for each class it was overwhelming. The difference between the last school year to the start of a new school year was that now Zoom was mandatory. Every morning I dread getting up from bed and walking 3 steps to start the Zoom meetings. Although I was still a diligent student and still did all of my assignments on time, it was still hard to navigate where the work was and having to constantly stare at a screen for multiple hours a day. Online school for sure had its obstacles. And although we all had to adapt as a nation, starting my Senior year, which was supposed to be filled with fun memories, didn’t start off as I would’ve wished.

Vote for Amy

Struggles Navigating Online Education and Life During COVID-19

by Evelyn Domsalla

A new normal has approached us, and it has many of us confused and scared for the future. Nobody likes change, especially changes they did not ask for. Navigating the online world post-COVID-19 has been a challenge. My university had moved to remote learning when news of COVID-19 had reached the public eye. This type of online learning was significantly harder for me to focus on than in person classes. I am also a rural student, meaning my internet connection, and availability to efficient service decreased heavily. All of this, plus the inconsistent usage of online portal tools, has caused great distress in terms of online learning. The online world had become the home to all my social interaction and academic learning.

I am a rural student, and it had been difficult for me to engage fully with my education because of internet connectivity issues causing Zoom® to not fully functional. Many professors also lived in rural areas, causing poor connection on both ends of the streams. I once tried to host a Zoom® call for a group project in my Writing Composition Class and it crashed twice. I had to ask another group member to host the call instead. During Zoom® lectures, it would lag because of inefficient ping. Sometimes I could not complete a lecture for the day. This had caused me to lose information important to understanding the class material.

The academic portal we had used to host the classes also came with additional problems. Many assignments and grade updates had different places for different teachers. Many teachers would use the calendar app to post assignments, while others used the feed and post function to allow everyone to know when they will be available. Some even ignored both and relied on the Syllabus for the traditional calendar. To communicate to teachers, email had become the standard. This form of communication happened more often than any other semesters prior, it was a replacement for me traditionally going up to them at the end of class. Professors did not have the time to send personalized emails to each of their students, so many chose impersonal brief overviews of a subject either in the beginning or end of the Zoom® lecture.

Over time, I had become depressed and lost a lot of the motivation I once felt for school and socializing because of the isolating nature of government mandated quarantines. To cope with the stress and strain of these problems, I would play Dungeon and Dragons with my friends through online programs like DnDBeyond® and Roll20™. The tabletop game worked as a way for me to distract from the stress and was one of the few fulfilling sources of remote socialization.

These were my experiences navigating through the online world during COVID-19. I have learned my own ways to cope and adapt to these additional issues; they are still burdening. Remote learning effects some students differently than others, and while it should be available for students who benefit from this model, we should also pay attention to the many people who have opposite effect.

Vote for Evelyn

Texting is Not Talking

by Ashlee Henrie

The very thing that supposedly connects us all, has never been more isolating. It is often mentioned how our world is more connected than ever. With the click of a button, a text can be sent, a picture posted, an article released, a news broadcast viewed. By simply tapping on a screen an update is received whether it be about people, current events, or newfound knowledge. Yet, with the introduction of the pandemic, I have come to realize that what we know as amazing technological advances have actually become our greatest mental and emotional downfalls as humans.

Communication online is not the same, however we treat it as such. Making phone calls, sending instant messages, emailing, and posting and commenting on social media is not human interaction. These methods of communication are merely inadequate substitutes for what we need as humans to remain socially aware and mentally and emotionally fit. As someone who has always relied on the importance of face-to-face conversation, the pandemic has proven to be quite the challenge. No matter how advanced the technology you use is, nothing can replace speaking to someone in person. There is something to be said for the raw, unaltered sound of a person’s voice, the emphasis placed on certain words, their tone, pacing, the inflection of their voice and how it changes when they are talking about something they love. There is beauty in facial expressions and body language. Learning to read someone and the way they carry themselves during conversation establishes a connection that cannot be created through an electronic device. As we were driven into quarantine, more phone and video calls were made because even a slightly altered video and voice is better than nothing. We crave human interaction but social media and texting was not cutting it anymore.

Even though online communication has provided a substitute for conversation by allowing immediate responses, it will never be the same. Among the many shortcomings of online communication, there is no physical aspect. As a very affectionate person, this has caused a great deal of difficulty for me to communicate. Physical touch is a means of connection that speaks for itself and enhances verbal conversation. With the intense emotions that everyone has experienced during the pandemic, the lack of physical contact has not helped. Online communication eliminates the opportunity for the growth of mental and emotional awareness that comes through human touch. Humans need physical reassurance, and words on a screen can only do so much. Although, of course physical contact is unadvised for health safety, online communication platforms have done significant damage to these types of conversations even before the pandemic hit. Then, once we were stuck alone, our cravings for human interaction intensified. It was no longer a matter of not wanting to talk in person, hug someone, high five them, or shake their hand. It was a matter of not being able to. Not having the option creates a desperation that can only be subsided through in person, physical conversation.

We no longer know how to express ourselves in person. We read emojis better than facial expressions. We understand abbreviations better than the meaning behind the words. We converse in LOLs and OMGs rather than genuine meaningful conversation because we all know, it just is not the same.

Vote for Ashlee

Time, My Most Cherished Gift

by Annika Pierre Michel

My experience navigating in an online world was unwavering. There were unusual times of event conflict, where I would have to attend one or the other; however, that was to be expected. Navigating in an online world positively affected me. The most important one is time. As I see it, there is so much time saved throughout the day. For instance, I no longer drive to school. In my previous life, most things were generally routine. A night of sleep, a drive after school, a load of laundry, a hot bath, a cup of tea, and it goes on. After certain years, these things fall into my category of averageness. Although it becomes a sense of boredom and repetition, this weariness and repetition are the inspirations for my creations. This time and flexibility allowed by the online world during the coronavirus urged me to plan, organize, analyze, and particularly create. I strive to appreciate my daily activities as often as I can.

This has opened me to an appreciation for ideas, people, and things. Perhaps I also get inspired by not what I know, but by what I do not know. As I glance at the starry night sky, staring at the incomprehensible–the infinite space above me, I experience an overwhelming awareness of how little I know. It reminds me of the unclarity of life. It proves to me that what I think I know is probably wrong. -Richard Feynman said that “Nobody ever figures out what life is about, and it does not matter. Explore the world. Nearly everything is really interesting if you go into it deeply enough”. At the base of almost everything, the conclusion is we do not know. The reason I sleep and dream remains a mystery. People are fascinating; I can’t help but appreciate their creativity. The little moments make me excited and the mistakes become less significant.

To answer the question, navigating online has been hectic, busy, and confusing. It has been an experience of waiting an hour on a phone call, getting an email response after 5 days, not understanding my statistics class, watching excessive Tiktok videos, and much more. However, I have been able to generate ideas like never before. Often my inspirations are random thoughts, memories, illusions, or simply something that I do not know. I wonder if my inspirations are nothing, somehow through me, they become everything. I wonder if I create art by living through it.

I believe that this creativity impacts a great part of my future. This ability allows me to take risks, to be open-minded. It permits me to reveal my inhibitions. This side of me helps me approach situations from many perspectives. I see things differently and better deal with uncertainty. I have become vulnerable to share my art and accept that some of my creations may never see light again. Most importantly it improved my health and life, provided relaxation and serenity; it filled my life with positive emotions such as love, forgiveness, joy, and hope. This is my experience living and navigating in an online world.

Vote for Annika

Transformation of My Experience in the Online World

by Sara Mohamed

It was my first year after achieving my goal of studying abroad as a girl from a developing country. I was very excited and full of energy to get more involved in community engagement, meeting new people, knowing about other cultures, and adventurous new things. I remember that day when I read an email from my university about switching to online learning, closing most of the on-campus facilities, and canceling all the events and gatherings. For a few minutes, my brain seemed like stopped working. I tried to think of how this could affect my life and dreams; however, I failed. As an international student who was chosen for a scholarship award from one of the best universities after working so hard and facing many challenges, it was tough to digest that. All my energy and excitement changed to disappointment. Everyone was recommended to return home if possible. I couldn’t return to my country and be with my family during that hard time as the borders were closed. The campus that was full of students, all of a sudden, becomes nearly empty. I found myself isolated and alone. There were plans that I had made for my time in my university; suddenly, that dream was gone. There were still many things -like joining a software development club, volunteering off-campus, trying hiking, and skating with friends- I didn’t have the chance to cross off my list.

After experiencing these feelings of isolation, disappointment, and powerlessness, I decided to make the best I can from my time during the pandemic. I focused more on my academics. The transition to online classes was not too bad; however, it was challenging to stay motivated. I was in contact with my family and friends, which gave me the support I needed to overcome these feelings. I tried to provide as much support as I can to all the people I know. I found that others are in a much worse situation than me, people dying every day, people who have health concerns, and those who lost their jobs. Knowing that made me feel guilty for feeling bad and helped me from feeling that my experience abroad was stolen. I started to think from a different perspective about the changes. For example, I told myself that despite missing the in-person lectures and seeing that online learning is less effective, some universities in developing countries couldn’t offer a good online learning system. Many students struggle a lot with that and could be one of them. I told myself that I should be thankful and trying to help others whenever I can. I have made new plans with the available options. I found many online opportunities like hackathons, events, and conferences that would require traveling if they were in-person and now available online for all people. I have decided to take advantage of these opportunities and make my experience in the online world during the pandemic good as possible.

My experience in the online world becomes better as now I’m more comfortable with my classes in the online form, even with missing having them in-person with friends. Also, the accessibility of many opportunities helped me in my professional and personal development and made me closer to my dreams in spite of the pandemic.

Vote for Sara

Online Education During The Coronavirus Pandemic

by Benjamin Williams

During the Coronavirus pandemic, I feel that the most important thing that students were able to take away was adaptation. In 2020, it seemed like world changing news was coming up every other week. Students needed to do their best to be prepared for the unexpected at all times, and to be flexible. During the spring 2020 semester, the amount of times my college had changed their coronavirus plan had everyone’s heads spinning. In the span of three weeks, I went from having in person classes as normal, to being on spring break, to being on spring break for another week, to being online for the foreseeable future. The amount of changes myself and my peers had to endure were astounding.

At the height of the quarantine during the pandemic, students needed to learn to adapt to only mainly having themselves to rely on when it comes to school. No longer was there a teacher or professor in front of you to teach you something in a hands on learning environment, they were on your screen. It became much easier to convince oneself to skip a class that met online, rather than one that met in person. It was also easier to get distracted. A lot of these things shook up the entire learning environment.

Not even limiting the discussion to the school environment, students’ social interactions were limited as well. At first, it seemed scary that I would not be able to see many of my friends for an indefinite amount of time. Then, online developments such as group voice chat, various trendy video games, and watching films online made us all closer than ever. I can speak the same for many other peers that I have had conversations with.

Additionally, students were given much more time during quarantine due to the outside world being temporarily closed. I, for one, got very used to the excess time. Everyone that I had spoken with had their sleeping schedules completely in shambles, and even one of my friends is still trying to recover his sleep schedule from the impact of quarantine. When quarantine began to loosen up as summer came, and eventually the fall, it was time to start having to schedule on terms that were not necessarily one’s own. Many students learned the skill of time management around this time, myself included.
Some people look at the coronavirus quarantine as a period of wasted time, but I know that myself and many other students looked at it as a period of self growth, as well as learning to adapt to what the world has to bring. This has made students more resilient than ever, and I am excited for the future that these people bring.

Vote for Benjamin

Unpredicted Isolation

by Maggie McInnis

I remember my last day of high school as a senior, thinking we’d be able to come back. We crossed our fingers for that announcement that school would be closed to get those few extra days of sleep, not realizing that this would be a pandemic that would cause intense isolation for the next year. We went from talking with our peers, meeting up after classes to catch up about our days to hearing the urgency of our school to stay home away from each other. The online environment was designed to just finish the class to earn the credit. Motivation decreased immensely. I waved from my car to my fellow classmates of 13 years because we were told we couldn’t be together. Our diplomas were handed to us through our car window with our cords in a plastic bag. This was beyond everyone’s control and no one knew how to wrap their minds around the matter. Life was changing and I didn’t know how to have closure with any part of it. My best friends were moving a thousand miles away and we couldn’t see each other. Instead, we compromised and skateboarded outside, making sure to keep arms length. We’d have sword fights with brooms, but be careful to not touch each other’s brooms. When it came to school starting back up, my first year of college was in the comfort of my room. What once was excitement for meeting new people in the college environment turned into anxiety from loneliness. There wasn’t much to look forward to besides zooming strangers for a few hours a day. Eventually, my days seemed the same and I found myself slipping into this unmotivated mindset. Forcing myself to get dressed for the day allowed me to feel more accomplished for the day, propelling me to perform better. Eventually, I established a rhythm that allowed me to perform well in the online environment. My grades turned out to be the highest ever as I stayed focused and motivated throughout my first year of college. The learning curve came with its anxious moments and its’ unmotivation, however, it showed me that I had potential to be a stronger student to work towards my degree.

Vote for Maggie

An Unknown Feeling

by Ethan Price

Navigating in an online world during the coronavirus pandemic was a unique experience and one where I saw myself falling out of my comfort zone. It didn’t happen right away as I had attended my first college semester online with no problems. I was able to maneuver and understand how to use the required campus software and I was proud of myself for being able to navigate and be successful in my classes. However, that was not the case for the start of my second semester. I guess it started because I wasn’t able to communicate or be socially active with my friends. All of a sudden, I had become depressed to the point where I neglected my school work for two months. This was very uncharacteristic of me to do, and this ended up being very high risk with the possibility of it becoming a slippery slope of me losing my scholarships, damaging my GPA and overall affecting my education. Usually, I’m a very outgoing person and I have never experienced any mental strains or depressions my whole life, so depression was an unusual feeling. I was depressed to the point where I couldn’t get out of bed for most mornings and the thought of even going to the bathroom seemed to be a journey in itself. Over time my homework dramatically increased to the point where when I did recover, I had only a week to do two months of work for three classes.

Fortunately, the help I received was a hard journey and the road to it was even tougher, with the stigma of asking for help from a professional and sharing your burdens with someone you barely know. However, it did eventually help me get back to my former self and I was ready to accept the consequences of my actions. There is no answer on why I took this risk or why depression manifested inside of me, but I did my best to complete the work for all three classes and emailed the professors and the Dean of Students Office to inform them about my predicament. They were all very helpful towards me and they granted me the permission to turn in all missing assignments without a late penalty and I ended up receiving two A’s and one B in those three courses. What I was able to learn from that experience is that although I managed to save my grades, it’s important not to give up and ask for help from people who have the tools necessary to support you and guide you. I am very grateful that I was able to overcome my depression and that I was also able to learn that I have the strength to accomplish anything that’s in my path. I now understand that sometimes you do just need to take it one step at a time.

Vote for Ethan

The Unanticipated Year

by Rosalyn Ficklin

My experience navigating in an online world during the coronavirus pandemic was frustrating while also terrifying. In truth, 2020 was not “the year” that everyone predicted. It started a crazy turn of events. The world was not prepared for this, especially me.

Namely, the year of 2020 was my high school senior year. And I was so excited that I would be graduating and moving on to something greater. I had been looking forward to walking down the aisle and shaking the hands of the teachers and professors that have taught me so much over the years. In fact, I was ready to receive my diploma and celebrate with my friends. The virus outbreak originated right around my spring break, also the senior prom was scheduled close after. Unfortunately, once the coronavirus spread, my spring break was elongated indefinitely. My school would not allow students to return afterwards. So, my senior prom and graduation were both cancelled. All the events that occurred were unexpected. I was not prepared for any of it. Many people were dying, chaos spread, and people were scared. And, I had no idea what to do.

Due to the virus, California schools had strict health rules, and enforced schools to have classes online. Well, since no one really knew what was going on, there were no online classes yet, so students would just email the homework to their teachers, and they would grade it through Turnitin. Since I had always attended public school, I finally experienced what homeschool was like when the pandemic hit. In truth, it seemed like fun at the beginning, but I started to miss my friends and think about the future.

When I found out that I would not be able to walk down and have my relatives and friends see me graduate, it was hard to swallow. Luckily, my school cleverly came up with a solution. The class of Vanden High School 2020 would drive up and get their diploma on video, and then all the videos would be collected into one big graduation video. Though I was upset that I would not be getting what I always dreamed of, it was great seeing my friends drive up, receive their diploma, and wave to the camera. Whenever I think back to the graduation I never got, I remember what my dad once said to me, “Look at it this way, you are the only one who can say that I graduated during a pandemic, not everyone from the previous years can say that. You graduated in a unique year.”

Overall, the coronavirus has affected my life in a presumably negative way until I changed my perspective and started overcoming the hurdles that the virus had brought me.

Vote for Rosalyn

Pandemic Learning: When Home Becomes School

by Chase Jones

This pandemic altered my life in myriad ways. It impacted school and family especially, in terms of the blurring of lines between school and home life. Sometimes I can’t get schoolwork done because of “home” work. Sometimes I can’t get “home” work done because of schoolwork.

Being at home because school shifted to virtual-only classes increased my family responsibilities exponentially. My grandma, who lives with me, is an invalid due to a rare, chronic pain condition. Since I’m home all day now while my mom works, I help my grandma with tasks like cleaning her room, emptying her portable toilet, and massaging on a special ointment for her when it’s too painful for even the sheets to cover her feet. I also help watch my 5-year-old brother. These things were often difficult because I was also experiencing an extended medical issue resulting in daily challenges ranging from physical pain to adverse reactions to my medications.

Virtual classes were convenient because they eliminated my normal, hour-long walk, bus, and train commute to school – that’s one-way! I was grateful for asynchronous learning on days I wasn’t feeling well or was enduring countless interruptions from my family responsibilities. I didn’t have to struggle through a lecture just to keep from missing class. Most of the online testing was user-friendly, except the class where the professor wanted the camera aimed at my hands the whole time, making it hard to see the problems on the screen.

However, navigating the pandemic online became harder as I began to miss being “connected.” There were no more lunches with my friends, catching up with former teachers in the hallways between classes, or unwinding in the library. I missed having study groups with actual people instead of the avatars of those who couldn’t or wouldn’t turn on their cameras.

I had taken for granted all the routine parts of my day. As it turns out, the important part of “the high school experience” was being able to connect with different types of people all the time. The main reason I’m looking forward to a hopefully, Covid-free college experience in the fall is the opportunity to collaborate, innovate and connect with people from all walks of life – different races, ethnicities, cultural backgrounds, incomes, household composition, geography, talents and interests – MASKLESS AND IN PERSON! I can’t wait to share a pizza with my classmates while having a late-night study session for my mid-term exam!

Although this past year of being cooped up in the house with no senior memories to be made has truly been, to date, both the worst and most memorable of my life, I was still able to grow as an individual and a future leader. The sheer mind over matter perseverance I used to cope with home, school, and COVID-stress has created the type of fortitude and resiliency I can draw upon to face life’s future challenges. I can perform under pressure. I can pivot and shift to respond to changing dynamics. However, I also learned about the importance of self-care. While it’s great to be able to experience personal growth during tumultuous times, some days the best use of your energy is for getting out of bed and binge watching Hoarder’s on Netflix while eating a bowl of cereal.

Vote for Chase

My Love-Hate Relationship with COVID-19

by Justin Agudah

If someone were to ask me right now how the COVID-19 pandemic affected my life as a young adult, I would not know what to say. There are so many thoughts, emotions, and feelings I have, filled with negativity, positivity, and neutrality born from the coronavirus pandemic. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, my life was as average as you could get. I was experiencing my first year as a college freshman at the University of Missouri in Columbia, going to all my classes (for the most part) to take notes and apply what I have learned, socializing with other people on campus, going to campus events, such as career fairs, movie nights, concerts, and completing all of my assignments on time, usually the day before it was due. It was a simple life, but it was nothing that I couldn’t handle. Then, someday between late February and early March in 2020, the students of the University of Missouri receive an announcement that the school will be transitioning all of its courses from a physical setting to a virtual setting and that the school will be closing earlier than it was supposed to. The announcement shocked a lot of students, including me. Many students, including my friends, were sad that the last semester of their freshman year was ending in a way they did not expect. On the other hand, I was mostly indifferent to the announcement and what it meant for me. Ever since I entered college as a freshman, the only things I had on my mind were getting my bachelor’s degree and securing a full-time job by the time I graduated. Although making friends and hanging out with them are important aspects of college life, I did not allocate a lot of time or energy towards these things. Also, as someone who tends to have a positive outlook on life, I began realizing that this announcement had a lot of positive outcomes for me: First, with all of the university’s courses shifting to a virtual setting, I was able to fly back to my home in Texas, which meant I would no longer have to share a room with anyone, have my own bathroom, have access to my own kitchen, and see my family again. Second, I was able to see my friends again and drive wherever I wanted to go because my car was in Texas. Third, with all the courses being virtual, I was able to get more sleep than usual since I no longer needed to walk to the physical setting of my lecture, discussion, or lab. At first, it seemed like everything was going to be alright, despite the severity of the situation, but eventually, the sad and troublesome reality of the COVID-19 pandemic would change my life. The amount of loneliness and stress that I was coping with made the initial motivation I had to get all A’s decline significantly. Instead of aiming for excellence, I aimed for mediocrity, which felt unfair to my parents, the people who are taking out loans for my educational expenses so that I can graduate. Overall, navigating the world virtually during the pandemic has made it difficult to stay focused, but at the end of this bleak tunnel is a hopeful light.

Vote for Justin

Zoom University

by Angelica Osorio

“Hello? Can you hear me?”

“You’re on mute! We can’t hear you!”

These were the two most used phrases while attending Zoom University. While I was fortunate enough to be able to afford to buy myself a laptop at the start of online distance learning, I acknowledge that not everyone was as fortunate.

My life pre-covid consisted of working three jobs, going to school full time, and being involved in many different clubs and organizations on campus while also holding officer or leadership positions within them. I was never home, I pretty much lived on campus, at work or in my car. Transitioning from that losing 2 out of my 3 jobs, working online, going to school online, and being involved as a student online was a major transition for me. I am the opposite of a homebody, I was never home and I used social interaction and people’s energy to keep me energized and going. Having to go from never being home to only being home and staring at a screen from dawn until past dusk was so difficult. You can no longer ask questions and raise your hand, because at least for me, all of my professors only held zoom classes to explain where to find the course materials and what the homework was but all learning was expected to happen on your own time through reading material provided and going over the powerpoint slides. Group work became even more difficult and learning paused and transitioned to meeting deadlines.

Half way through my third year, the remainder of my college education and experiences including graduation was taken from right under me as I stayed trapped inside my house staring through a computer screen. The moment you fantasize about, commencement, throwing your cap in the air and receiving your diploma, gone. That moment that you work your whole academic career to be able to graduate from college turns into a 30 second drive through ceremony. My graduation cap was supposed to say “My parents crossed the border so I could cross this stage” but I couldn’t even write that because it didn’t happen and so it didn’t feel right. I’m glad we adjusted the best we could to a worldwide pandemic, but online learning was no easy feat and it robbed so much from so many.

Also, at home it gets complicated. Being a Latina, at home you are not a student first even through online learning, you are first and foremost a daughter and a member of the family so if your family needs something you do it even if it messes with your academics but at the same time. God forbid your grades drop or you will face the consequences of not living up to the perfect Latina daughter standards.

Overall I can say it wasn’t easy, but it got done.

Want to hear a joke?
Q: What do you call a doctor who finished their degree online due to the pandemic?
A: A Google Doc

Vote for Angelica

COVID-19 throughout 2020

by Ashleigh VanDahm

Towards the end of my junior year spring break, Arizona went into lockdown. Now, at first this was a relief because this meant I had time for some mental stress release. At the time of the spike of COVID-19 I was also dealing with an eating disorder. Unfortunately, when I was seeking treatment options, it was also during the time everything started online. This meant my new intensive out-patient group was only online, and never in person. I believe while trying to navigate; school, 9-hours a week of therapy and an eating disorder is what led to a complete downfall. I started going to these meetings, three-times a week, and was introduced to so many other people that are now my closest friends. Facing your own mental health alone is hard. Especially when there is a pandemic going on. Over the next month I started believing the only way to come out of this pandemic happy is if I look like a model at the end of this. I started over-exercising, calorie counting and restricting my food intake. My treatment team was not aware, as I was lying to them. All because I was surrounded by the online world. It was so ironic when everyone also became “fitness focused” on social media. People were celebrating losses of 15+ pounds a month. That is not healthy. Except it didn’t matter, because it “looked good”. I wanted to now be like them. 5 months later and everything was still online, I found ways around therapy over zoom. I then fell to my lowest point. In August of 2020, I was admitted into Rosewood Ranch Center for Eating Disorders. This in-patient treatment center was my “home” for 94 days. I believe people, including me, were not prioritizing both mental and physical health during the pandemic. Everyone wants to be healthy and fit, to look good, but skip over the mental aspect. I think we have hit so many brick walls while trying to express this. If anything, the online world introduced us to something new almost every day and my navigation has been extremely bumpy. Positive, and negative, the internet opened up many new opportunities for everyone. The internet is not to blame, but only a fraction of the problem.

Vote for Ashleigh

Bitten by a shark

by Maina Atluri

Navigating the online world amidst the progression of the COVID-19 pandemic was like having a nice boat day at the beach, putting on a life jacket, then being thrown into the ocean with the life jacket, getting bitten by a shark, then told to swim back to shore.

At first, it was easy. Most college students had an extended spring break, during which they were able to catch up with friends, visit family, relax a little. Then classes started and the transition was slow, both teachers and students were figuring out how to navigate zoom university together. During this time we were all enjoying the boat ride, eating snacks, enjoying the ocean views. This period of time changed the way students and teachers interact. These conversations, discussions, meetings were much more intimate and impactful and for a brief period of time, it brought everyone closer together.

Then quarantine happens. Everyone is given a life jacket to prepare for whatever is to come. In the face of the ocean the life jacket will help, but only so much. We were given a life jacket to prepare us for the millions of people who were about to die, we were given a life jacket to face isolation, we were given a life jacket to face the new era of the civil rights movement, we were given a life jacket to not only enter in the arena of politics but face the political chaos during the presidential debate, and then we were given a life jacket to comfort unimaginable loss that the human population felt as one.

With this life jacket, we were expected to swim back to shore. We had to continue to excel in our classes while simultaneously keeping up a world that was rapidly deteriorating. We had to suffer the losses of our friends and family from all around the world while still waking up in our bedroom and logging on to our 8 am zoom class. The current of the ocean kept beating and carrying us away from shore, but don’t worry our assignments and projects were still waiting back for us at the shore. The life jacket kept us afloat but failed to give us the strength and motivation to swim back.

Then, the shark comes, and since it is facing its own battle of its home being relentlessly destroyed it bites of our legs. It takes our support system. Our friends, family, hobbies, dreams taken away by a virus. A virus that people believe is a hoax even after watching millions of people die. Now our legs are cut off and we are still expected to swim back to shore. Oh but don’t worry we have wellness days and links to telehealth professionals ready to assist with any medical emergencies.

Though we were given the resources we needed to succeed such as time off, and expansion of various mental health and medical resources we lacked human encouragement and comfort. We didn’t get to celebrate birthdays or graduations, or new life. Instead, we celebrated vaccine rollouts and flattening the curve. In the fight against the ocean current, we lost the ability to connect to what it means to be human. To be compassionate, understanding, and help one another swim back to shore.

Vote for Maina

Working From Home and Online Classes In the Pandemic

by Megan Howell

When my university announced that we would be finishing he semester online in March 2020 My whole world was flipped upside down. I work on campus for my university and attend on campus classes so switching to both online classes and learning how to do my job remote were big challenges.

I work in a customer service capacity and it was frustrating for both the students we serve and the office in which I work to have limited contact when we usually meet in person to help them. One thing that was challenging for me was that I was spending full days online staring at a computer screen and I started to get really painful headaches. Finding remedies for that was something I had never thought to look for before the pandemic. Blue light blocking glasses were a big help for that.

I ended up having to pay a large fee to leave my off campus housing since I live away from home but could no longer attend school or participate in the various activities I am apart of. To say I was caught off guard would be an understatement.

Living at home was a challenge. Finding a quiet place to attend my online classes while 2 of my siblings did the same and my mom worked from home was difficult each day. Things for working remote were also changing frequently so some days I would need to meet with students on zoom and other days I would spend hours reading and responding to emails.

The days became pretty monotonous. I would sit in my bedroom at my desk from 8AM to 6PM doing my online classes and working only taking breaks to stretch my legs and eat.

Once I was finally able to return to campus for work, even though my classes are still online my days became much easier. The hardest part of quarantining for me was being lonely and cooped up. I felt incredibly isolated, so getting to go to work and socialize with my co-workers was a much needed change of scenery.

Overall it was a big learning curve switching my whole life to be online. I learned a lot about how to combat eye strain and fatigue from sitting for long periods of time. I also learned a lot about how to maximize efficiency in my job and taking time for myself.

Vote for Megan

My Online World

by Keely Alexa Bullock

The rising online world has been a huge topic of recent years but not as much as 2020. This is year we will always remember as the Coronavirus or online school year. This pandemic struck smack down in the middle of my senior year of High School. At first it was great to be able to stay home, sleep in, and have little school work, but after a few weeks things began to change. When news first came that there would be no traditional high school graduation, senior prom, etc, the intensity of last years impacts began to set in. “Online School” then turned into “Zooming” everything. The online world became our only world while millions of households became quarantined to their own four walls. Everything was done online. Work, school, and even grocery shopping became online tasks. I remember when two of my high school teachers informed all of their students that everyone would receive a “W” in place of their letter grades that we had been working so hard for. I believe that moment was when the laziness started. This laziness continued through the following year when attendance was taken online, but no real grades were being taken. Children are still struggling with this now, more than six months later. In my case, I can learn through online platforms just fine. I have actually taken online college classes for more than three years now since I was enrolled in a dual-enrollment college program with a local community college. That said, I had already previously learned that I am good at online schooling. Since I knew this about myself, I knew I would be able t successfully navigate my way through a completely online freshman year of college for the 2020-2021 school year. I have seen some of my peers experiences with online school who have not been as lucky as I have. That is why I have shared with some of my friends and peers ways that I am able to successfully navigate myself through this new “online world.” Some of my suggestions are never be scared to email a professor and ask questions as long as you have read any directions thoroughly, and to always complete online assignments at least one-day early so that in a case of technology malfunctions, you are already set. Procrastination can truly be a college student’s downfall.

Vote for Keely


by Emre Tichelaar

In today’s new normal, the benefits of technology are very evident. The Coronavirus pandemic has led us all to social distance, however technology over the past two decades has brought us closer than ever. Families across the world, across the state or even in another room inside their house use modern technologies to communicate regularly and efficiently. I believe with employers being forced to adopt the working from home model, a lot of businesses will be more lenient to allowing their employees to work from home in the future. The technology that makes this possible will allow things such as parents spending more time with their children and disabled workers to still contribute to their team. This is a benefit to society because more present parenting leads to children going up to achieve more. Less disabled individuals will be relying on government support as well. These two things are only scratching the surface of the benefit that working from home technologies will provide society.

Going further, technology makes society more efficient. Video conferencing technologies, for example, has lessened the need for business travelers to fly across the world for meetings (not to mention better for the environment). However, we must be careful that we understand that video calls are not the same as in person interactions. This sort of thinking could become more and more prevalent as new generations grow up with the technology. For example, in the future a busy mother might misunderstand that spending time with her kids over a video call is vastly different from being there in person. This technology is not a replacement for in person interactions, it’s rather a tool to advance and supplement. If we keep this in mind, we can ensure that technology brings us closer, and not slowly further apart. Increasing the education we give in schools about things like this will go far.

Furthermore, we must understand that technology creates anonymity. Individuals whose identities are hidden are more prone to harassing others. According to Pew Research Center, roughly 41% of Americans have been harassed online. This number will only go up as society moves more and more into the cybersphere. The beauty of online anonymity is that authoritarian governments will be less able to track down individuals who speak out against them. However, online bullying and harassment must still be tackled in some way so we can ensure that the benefits to society are maximized. Advocating for individuals effected by online harassment and those who partake in the harassment to seek mental health counciling will go a long way in todays society.

On the other hand, proponents of technologies coming into the workplace say that they may replace jobs. According to the British Office for National Statistics, 70% of individuals in the UK are at risk of losing their jobs to automation over the next decade. To make sure automation benefits society in the most positive way without creating huge unemployment, we need to actively educate and inform those who may lose their jobs. If there is foresight into where else they can fit and provide in society, then they will have time to retrain in a new field. Overtime, society will benefit because there are more people providing more advanced labor versus easier tasks that can be automated.

All in all, the benefits of current technologies such as video conferencing and future ones such as robotic automation, far outweigh the benefit. This is especially true when education at all levels of life accompanies when new technologies are introduced.

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My Experience in the Covid-19-Related Online World

by Lluvia Hernandez Aguirre

Oh, geez.

I’m sure a lot of people right now can understand how much I have shared using only those two words.

Navigating the online world has been interesting. One of the main changes is that now, with almost everything, I look for sections with information about covid-19 restrictions. This includes operating hours, operating methods (in-person or virtual/appointment or walk-in), and much more.

Because of this virtual format, I have also gotten accustomed to not having to get up early and make myself presentable before my Zoom meetings that do not require me to have my camera on, which is most meetings. This is something that I think many people, particularly students, can relate to.

I have also noticed that the days are starting to blur together and I am not as aware of intervals of time, as I was pre-covid-19. This had also led me to feel tired all the time, as if I don’t get enough sleep or mental rest, which in turn diminishes my motivation to do very much.

Because of all that I have mentioned above, I don’t think that I’m necessarily “navigating” the new online world that has been created; instead, I feel like I am simply “getting by” in the online world.

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Social Media in the Era of the Coronavirus

by Khayan Jefferson

When the coronavirus pandemic effectively stopped the world in its collective tracks, the internet was my saving grace. It allowed me to stay in contact with friends even if I couldn’t physically see them and it kept me occupied when I ran out of books to read. I was constantly in contact with my friends and my older sister who still lived in Arizona through social media. I kept them updated on the random things that were taking place during the mandatory quarantine. It allowed me to get groceries without having to leave my house.

However, my constant consumption of the internet dulled my spirits as well. Every time I would open my phone, someone was honoring a family member or friend who had died of COVID. The class of 2020 would be lamenting the loss of all the celebrations that they had earned through high school. People were discussing how hard the separation from their families had been on them and how their mental health had wasted away. It was a dark space and it put me in a dark place. When added to the around-the-clock coverage of the death toll, it became harder and harder to be on the internet. I would spend time on Tik Tok for the majority of my social media intake because that was a space of laughs and positivity. No one wanted to rehash what was going on on the news and other social media sites.

Then, during the summer a string of attacks on unarmed black people happened. It was all over the news, Instagram feeds, and Twitter as well. As a young black woman, I felt scared. I was already paranoid about contracting a deadly disease and transmitting it to my family. By being reminded of the additional possibility that I could be attacked in the street simply for my skin color, I was downright terrified. I avoided being on the internet for longer than fifteen minutes at a time. When I was on the internet, I was signing petitions and boosting information in lieu of protesting. It was depressing and it drained me completely of my energy whenever I went over my self-imposed limit.

More recently, the internet has become a source of knowledge as opposed to entertainment. I use it for my online schooling and when I need relevant information. Since the summer, I am rarely on Instagram or Twitter for longer than twenty minutes. That time is enough to keep up with what’s going on in the lives of the people around me without being sucked into a negative spiral. However, I am grateful for the internet during the coronavirus pandemic. It allowed me to stay informed and stay in contact with people who I couldn’t see anymore.

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Truth in the Midst of the Pandemic

by Cameron Delgado

My online experience during the COVID-19 pandemic has caused an increasing distaste for how the internet has begun to affect our society’s sense of truth and objectivity. The emotionally charged lockdowns of the pandemic have progressively caused people to become increasingly susceptible to cash and attention grabs, along with subscribing to political polarity.

The beginning of the lockdown was mainly marked by panic, anger, and confusion, which increased the susceptibility of our nation to ever-present temptations and sly tricks. I recall viewing headlines with increasingly flashy language pop up, and I remember watching comments sections and forums become increasingly panicked. Our society, from the perspective of someone on the internet, was split into a “two-party system” of sorts, consisting of those who decided to become extremely fearful and rash and those who adamantly denied even the presence of the virus, downplaying the entirety of news as a “hoax.” Consequently, much conflict ensued. A battle between people who valued different aspects of their livelihood was brought forth. Nearly everything I saw was fueled by confirmation and belief biases, and I was recommended news that was so polar in nature that I began to question the validity of both sides. Why was it that both sides of news sources assured that they were preaching the truth, but they put forth such different agendas? Why was it that everyone separated so clearly in the midst of a pandemic? Human nature is my suspected reason. Is the pride of man is too great for us to set aside the difference in our views to find the whole truth, or is it something else? The previous questions were raised at the beginning of the pandemic.

By the supposed end of the pandemic, the visual of two long, winding roads passing through a sunbaked desert has become the image in my head. By now, the spark and fear of a new threat had seeped back into the metaphorical ground of the internet, and we are all left with a set of confusingly placed ideas to follow. Should one choose their beliefs based on what they would like to believe or what they believe to be true? Are a person’s true beliefs based on what they say, or what they act out? Both of the previous rhetorical questions have been raised as I look through the same forums and comments as before. I watched as some news stations slyly assured that they cared for us, but then intentionally instigated great anxiety and worry, and I watched as some, appealing to the opposite side, downplayed any inklings of severity. If a person was without an agenda, would they try to mold a scenario to tell that was anything other than the absolute truth? If they were only interested in facts, would they omit the buzzwords and fancy language to get to the real, actionable information? Sadly, I realized that nobody was going to do that for me. In fact, I should not have expected it of them. In the midst of the pandemic, I realized that my own preconceived biases also clouded the eyes that I thought were objective and that I should attempt to come to a conclusion only after I had compiled adequate evidence.

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Describe your experience navigating in an online world during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

by Bharat Raj Taneja

When COVID-19 or popularly known as Coronavirus dawned upon and infected civilization it affected everyone at an individual as well as the world at a global level. We had to stay home for preventive measures. This hit like an asteroid. Students were affected because they lost their one on one learning way. Teachers shifted online and students struggled to get along. Internet access was tough as I was kind of in a remote area. Due to COVID-19 things changed. Everybody knows expenses rise and earnings stay stagnant. Going out to buy food like vegetables and household products toughened as I had to go on a bicycle. I also decided to look for a part time job after the lockdown. Shop owners were not hiring due to social distancing measures. I was not aware of my privilege during these times until I started reading more articles about how millions of people cannot afford to pay their rent, and landlords are starting to send notices of violations. Rather than feel guilty and be passive about it, I chose to put my privilege into a sense of purpose: Donating to nonprofits helping those affected by COVID-19, continuing to support local businesses, and supporting businesses who are donating profits to those affected by COVID-19. According to the Washington Post, unemployment rose to 14.7% in April which is considered to be the worst since the Great Depression. Post-lockdown, It already felt like the world was being asked of us when the pandemic started and classes continued. High academic expectations were maintained even when students now faced the challenges of being locked down, often trapped in small spaces with family or roommates. Now, because of COVID-19, we have to accept life as the “New Normal.” Wearing a mask and following social distancing measures is a part of life that we have to accept.

A Little About Me:
My name is Bharat Raj Taneja. My Primary Goal for going to school is to make a positive impact in society for students just like me. I have two more goals, one is that I want to improve the quality of life of my family as I am a son of a single parent. And two is that one day I want to start a scholarship program to help students who are in dire need for it. So, I respectfully request you to please help me. Thanks! Whoever is reading this Have a Nice Day! Live life the fullest as you may never know what is around the corner for you!

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The Takeaway from Online Learning

by Laura Yim

The coronavirus pandemic brought a lot of changes to the entire world, but one change that every child and teenager has felt is definitely the effects of the pandemic on their education: in came online schooling, not entirely a foreign concept but definitely new to many, like me, who were used to traditional schooling.

The most significant takeaway that I believe students learned about online schooling from the pandemic is that education doesn’t have to be in one rigid format. More specifically, one can learn new concepts while being isolated from others. There doesn’t need to be a physical teacher, peers, or even books (thought having these factors would be beneficial in the experience garnered through learning). I feel that many students that have persevered through this time of hardship have realized that they are stronger than they thought, both mentally and physically. It’s not easy learning through screens and not having the ease of asking someone if there are uncertainties about the topic they’re learning, but looking back from where we are now in the timeline of the pandemic, we got through it (and we still are).

I believe that this experience can only help us for our future, setting us up for individual research and problem-solving on our own. Not to mention, technology is the future as more and more of the world gets turned into a digital counterpart; we have gained many soft skills in using and understanding technology alongside the main concepts taught in our classes through online learning.

Did we know how to set up and use virtual meetings before the pandemic? Did we know how to access course content and associated sites to realize that everything we’ve learned before in school could also have been done on the internet in merely a digital manner? Did we know how to collaborate with other students through the use of handy applications like Flipgrid and learn how to create videos, podcasts, and other virtual presentations? I’m sure many students would say no to these questions.

It’s easy to say that online learning has been nothing but terrible and that the only takeaway is that we have taken traditional schooling for granted, but what I see is that students have also gained so much from this unusual experience, and these learnings will help us far into the future as well.

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The Digital Year

by Jesse Cook

Needless to say, the COVID-19 pandemic has presented many challenges over the past year. My academic life as well as my social life were greatly impacted, and I had to adapt to a makeshift school structure. The transition to online school last spring was a challenge, but my teachers did a fantastic job helping us, addressing our individual concerns, and preparing us for the 2020 AP exams.

After the abrupt end of my junior year, many of my extracurricular activities were faced with a lot of unknowns. My speech and debate team was going through its second coaching change in as many years, and the format of competition for the upcoming season was unclear. Our league has hosted exclusively online tournaments this season, and our team has had to adjust to the new competition paradigm. I no longer spent my Friday evenings inside of a classroom or a lecture hall delivering my ten-minute oratory; instead, I would face a camera once every month and send a recording to be judged by somebody to whom I would never have the chance to introduce myself. The novices in our program have had the toughest year out of all of us. With no competition experience from past years, they didn’t know what to expect from a year of brand-new virtual competition. Many of them were excited to try new events and enter in debates, but they were understandably apprehensive about a forum nobody was familiar with. The other captains as well as myself did our best to lead the team forward and give everybody a reason to be excited for tournaments. At the beginning of this year, I helped set up online platforms so we could properly talk to each other, play games, and introduce ourselves to the novices. Even this year, I developed deep connections with people of different ages and personalities. I am a firm believer in camaraderie in any team, and it was important to our leadership to create that even if we couldn’t be together in-person.

Perhaps my most affected activity was the National Honor Society. My first year was spent focusing on community service and volunteer work around the Las Vegas area. I, along with the rest of the NHS officers, made plans during the summer involving the club in online-accessible volunteering that would still create a positive impact on our community in these trying times. At the beginning of this academic year, we organized an event in which all of our members recorded a clip thanking the continued efforts of healthcare workers. We compiled them into a video and sent it to hospitals in the Las Vegas valley. Overall, the pandemic has shown that our chapter of NHS is nothing short of resilient and adaptable. Even through an international lockdown, we still find ways of bettering our community. Each month, we introduce new means of volunteering from home. Organizations such as Habitat for Humanity and even the United Nations offer a plethora of opportunities to continue inspiring change and improvement in peoples’ lives. Even a service such as tutoring or food bank donations goes an incredible distance toward helping those around us through one of the most challenging years in our lifetimes.

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In front of a screen

by Micaela Lavado Cornejo

COVID-19, I think that it is one of he worst things that ever happened to me. Since I was a child, I used to do a lot of things; for example, dancing ballet, training track and filed, soccer or volleyball, attending to the Model of United Nations debats, studying new languages like English and Portuguese, or doing social services. I always liked to be doing something because every single moment in our lives helps us becoming the person who we are in the present. I truly believe that the base of our existence is to learn new things and to experience everything that we want.

As I was telling you, this pandemic really affected my routine, my “busy life” of a student in Peru. But it affected me in many other ways. I lost family, two really close uncles: Tio Maco and Tio Francisco. They two were special for me and the rest of my family, they were always making jokes, asking you “how are you”, but meaning it because they really cared, they always cared. I know that I am not the one who has lost someone special in this horrible pandemic and that really makes me feel hopeless. But at the end, we have to push through, fight and keep going. That is what humans do: survive.

Social media has been one factor that helped a lot of people to understand how is the modern world. And the technology has been truly important is this pandemic, and it has improving a lot of things in order to manage this new world. For example, Zoom has been my best partner in this situation, it has been by my side since the first week until now. It has been very useful and I think that is going to be part of the students lives for a very long time. We had to survive and we are doing it.

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Navigating through COVID-19

by Molly Patel

March 13th, 2020. The sudden coronavirus pandemic hit the United States hard. Hearing our 2020 president say the words “We are on a nation-wide lockdown” created fear and chaos. From that day on, my life has drastically changed. I am not sure if my life changed for the better or changed for the worse. I lost friends and family but at the same time I gained more friends and family.

The pandemic limited many opportunities and experiences for me. I had missed out on fun high school events like our prom dance. For the majority of the entire summer, I was socially distanced from my friends which tanked my mental health for multiple nights in a row. It was difficult for me to stay focused during online school because my motivation had dropped. I felt like I was not truly learning anything new which disappointed me. I was unable to continue my goal of obtaining 100+ volunteer hours for a platinum award I would receive at graduation. Instead, I had to settle for my 20+ volunteer hours for the Jefferson award. Entering the new school year, half of my friends were continuing online classes while the other half of my friends and I went back to in person school. I even missed out on our senior football season and senior homecoming dance. I had waited twelve years for the moment of receiving the best high school year of my life but due to the pandemic, it felt as if everything was ripped away from me.

On the other hand, I did gain many things out of the pandemic. Staying on my cell phone was one of the few ways I could keep myself entertained. I would get on social media apps, like for example, TikTok, and created some online friends who had the same interests as me. I also got to keep in touch with my school friends through facetime and text messaging apps and spend more time with my family by going on neighborhood walks outside. During the pandemic when restaurants were able to open up again, I pushed myself to get a job as a hostess at a local restaurant in my hometown. Now, I had created work friends and I felt confident making my own money. Also, I joined wrestlerettes for my school wrestling team with two of my best friends and we got to have a different kind of senior night which made up for losing the football senior night experience.

Overall, I would not change anything from this experience. Though it was hard at many times, the pandemic helped me in many ways for both my mental and physical health. My senior year has been a confusing and unpredictable experience but I am so grateful for my school for doing everything they can to help me and others navigating in an online world during the coronavirus pandemic.

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