HOW THE PANDEMIC AFFECTS FIRST- AND FOURTH-YEAR UNIVERSITY STUDENTS
University of Waterloo student Sheridan Hill explains her experience of being a first-year university student studying remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic.
After the first day of school this year, my sister was overwhelmed with work and considering changing her major. The COVID-19 pandemic significantly changed her first year at university, removing milestones like moving out, attending orientation and studying in lecture halls. However, the move to remote learning affected me as a fourth-year student just as much, limiting my hands-on experience, isolating me from my classmates and completely changing my final memories of university.
My transition to remote learning was fairly smooth. I finished my third year online and planned to commute from home for my fourth year, but I didn’t plan for the last year of my hands-on program to be online. Usually, fourth-year students interview people in the community, use audio-visual equipment and work in a lab to create a wide range of digital reporting projects. With remote delivery, no in-person interviews outside our social circle are allowed, and we have limited access to the equipment we need. This restricts our learning, project quality and the amount of practical experience we would gain if campus were open.
The pandemic has also prevented me from seeing my classmates, changed my school routine and threatened graduating student events. Over the past three years, I grew close to the 12 students in my cohort. We have the same classes every year, many being just the 12 of us. When campus shut down in March, we never expected it would be the last time we had a class together, that we would finish our degrees on Zoom or that we may not have a graduation ceremony together in June.
For many students beginning their university career, the pandemic has threatened the tradition of things like living in residence and celebrating orientation week. For graduating students, this impact exists just as significantly, disrupting our experience, cutting university memories short and making us feel under-prepared for the workforce.