The New Normal at UCSD

Arts and CultureCoronavirusStudent Life

Student with mask on.
Photo by Kate Trifo / Unsplash

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The UCSD student experience feels more fractured than ever. With remote learning distancing our relationships to campus and each other, what it means to be a UCSD student is unclear. We interviewed four UCSD students about what their college experience looks like now, and how it has changed since March.

Although the transition from in-person to online classes has been abrupt, not all students find the change negative. “I think there are pros and cons to both,” said Aaron Nguyen, a fourth-year ERC student. “Online school takes away the added stress of commuting to class or missing a class that isn’t podcasted and scrambling to get the notes from someone. It makes school in general a lot more accessible and lets me take it at my own pace.”  Though he enjoys the accessibility of online lectures, Aaron also finds them “less engaging for students and professors”, as many people are unable to attend the class at the designated time, or choose not to. Even when students do attend, many have their cameras off, making class feel impersonal and disconnected.

Remote Learning also affects students’ plans for post-grad. As Ndiya Usim, a fourth-year in ERC, explained, online classes are leaving her “feeling behind and unprepared.” She planned on applying to Physicians Assistant (PA) school, but with classes being remote, she may not be able to complete the required hours she needs to apply. Because many labs are closed, she realized she needed to readjust her plans to accommodate quarantine. For many graduating students, going to class online has thrown plans for their future into flux..

Some students are finding it hard to adjust to college because they don’t feel fully informed of the changes happening at UCSD in response to the pandemic. Audria, an incoming 1st year in Revelle, explained how she hoped to attend summer session and get a head start on her GE’s before finding out that she would have to pay $3000 out of pocket because her financial aid wouldn’t cover online classes. This experience is an example of the added stress incoming students and their families experience due to online learning.

Living situations have also changed in the pandemic. Audria wanted to live on  campus in the fall, but because of COVID-19 she had to stay at home with her family. It upsets her that she won’t be able to experience life as a newly independent first year. Like Audria, Aaron is staying home for the upcoming year. “It’s nice living at home because I don’t have to worry about food or rent, and I like having my parents’ support all the time, but I really miss being independent and feeling like my own person”. Although living at home may not be ideal for everyone, under these circumstances some people don’t have another choice.

On the other hand, Lyhour Lay, an RA for Sixth College is currently living on campus and described his experience as mostly enjoyable because of its convenience: “The dining halls are walking distance and HDH seems to prepare the best protocol to protect students and staff.” However, he also feels campus is much “less vibrant” than it used to be. He’s found difficulty creating a community and connecting with students on a personal level as an RA because of all the new protocol. “We can’t make decor or any welcoming posters and we’re not allowed to do any in person programs,” Lyhour stated. Although this is a small sacrifice to make for the health of others, Lyhour said it is “sad to see the campus like this.”

Living off-campus, Ndiya’s college life isn’t as affected as it would have been considering she’s living off campus in La Jolla. Living with roommates this year is exciting for her, but she feels she has to be even more cautious while she is away from home. “People in San Diego act like the pandemic is over while in LA, everyone willingly wears gloves and masks and uses hand sanitizer. The 6 feet rule is more like 3 feet in San Diego”.

Besides concerns about academics and safety, students find that balancing relationships has become more difficult the longer they spend away from their families, friends, and significant others. Ndiya discussed how this pandemic has changed her for the better as it allows her to forget about past issues and move on. “It has helped me remember to be more forgiving of people,” she responded. She feels as though this period in her life has “helped her become closer to her friends and build stronger relationships.”

In contrast, Aaron said his relationships have been negatively impacted by quarantine. “It’s not too bad with my friends because we play games together online almost everyday, but it’s still different from getting to hang out with them in person or being able to quarantine with them.” He also discussed how being forced into a long distance relationship with his significant other, without being able to prepare for it, amplified fear and insecurity. The sudden distance meant love languages like physical touch and quality time can’t be honored in the same way. Despite this, Aaron’s communication with his significant other has improved and the distance helps him appreciate his partner more.

Audria found that beginning new friendships has been difficult. Being in the Triton Community Leadership Institute program has helped her make new friends. However, she finds it harder to connect and interact with them because everything is virtual. She said, “You don’t get to understand or know the people since they can act differently online.” Even though it’s been harder to connect with others virtually, Audria has still been able to find community at UCSD as she looks into joining Christian clubs. She wants to strengthen her faith while at college and make the most of this situation.

Although quarantine has interrupted our lives, college students can find positivity in challenging circumstances, and comfort in our shared experiences. For many, this has been a period of healing and growth as we learn to navigate our new normal.

Caitlyn Vilar & Kiyahna Brown are the Arts & Culture Assistant Editors for The Triton.