After days upon days of seemingly endless Zoom calls, we are already one quarter into the school year! Some of us may feel like that time flew by while others may feel like that was the longest quarter ever. Regardless, one thing that we can all agree on is this first quarter was different than all the other first quarters IMSA students have ever experienced. Although everyone has different lives, many of us share similar experiences during this first quarter of remote learning. There seems to be a general consensus that, although there may have been enjoyable parts of this quarter, it was mostly stressful, lonely, and boring. As Rachel Tin (’21) so eloquently puts it: “Zoom. Eat. Sleep.”
Due to the virtual learning environment, classes look pretty different. As we navigate through the online format and what it means for our workload, many of us have had great experiences, while others have had not-so-great experiences.
Here are what some students had to say about their experiences with classes and their workload:
- My teachers have all been extremely understanding, which I really appreciate. They’re willing to work with us around internet issues, college deadlines, and other situations that come up at home. I know this is a hard time for the teachers as well, and I’m really grateful for all the hard work they’ve put in to make the best of this situation. (Anonymous)
- I feel like I’m not learning very much and am just doing the minimum. It’s very hard to focus on a computer screen. (Anonymous)
- My classes aren’t too bad. I can manage the workload and have some free time. There are some classes where the teacher puts more effort for the students to be engaged than in other classes. I generally appreciate that because those efforts make me more engaged. I find myself enjoying those classes and sometimes even looking forward to it. However, some classes aren’t like that at all. For those classes, I end up getting distracted, not paying attention, and even sometimes go on my phone. (Alan Hernandez ’23)
- Classes are really demotivating and tough at the moment. I feel as if right now, I’m just “riding through the waves” of every single day. (Jay Ganesan ’21)
- The workload was manageable, but being in a Zoom class made participation really hard and easier to get distracted. (Anonymous)
Clubs / Extracurriculars
Being online makes it much harder for clubs to continue to interact with the student body in the same way that being on campus allowed them to. Despite this new challenge, clubs are continuing to work hard to provide the same experience and many of them are succeeding.
Here are what some students had to say about clubs and extracurriculars:
- I feel like the club presence has been greatly reduced, and there’s just not as much motivation to go around. (Anonymous)
- Clubs went well this semester. It is honestly easier to plan stuff out but obviously, it’s the same barrier where nothing conveys as well in this online environment. (Anonymous)
- Clubs and extracurriculars are definitely not as prominent and work-intensive as they are on-campus (aside from StudCo). (Anonymous)
- Most of the computer science clubs that I’m a part of adapted well to the online environment. Some of the other competitive clubs like chess team, math team, etc. lost some of their integrity because it is easier for someone to cheat. (Ethan Haque ’21)
- Clubs are all moved to a virtual format and events just don’t seem effective at this time. I don’t find myself attending many club meetings as I would on campus because virtual events aren’t the most appealing. (Anonymous)
Social life did not go untouched and many students are starting to feel the effects of that.
Here are what some students had to say about what their social life was like during this time:
- Terrible. (Anonymous)
- Disgusting. I barely met with any of my close IMSA friends (aside from one), and even though many of them don’t live very far away from me, I never had time to drive out and meet with them. (Anonymous)
- It presents some interesting challenges, but there’s really no replacement for sitting in a quad with your close friends and grinding on homework. (Ethan Haque ’21)
- My social life has gotten a lot worse. I still chat daily with my friends through Messenger, but scheduling times to FaceTime over Zoom has been hard because our schedules are all so different due to classes, college applications, work, and other family responsibilities. My parents are also pretty strict about quarantine, so I haven’t been able to meet up with friends in person (even if it’s just inviting one really close friend over to my house) since March. (Anonymous)
Although it seems that there have been mostly negative impacts of online learning on social life, some people have found it to be positive:
- I like where my social life is right now. I have a friend group and sometimes even talk to some upperclassmen. As for meeting up with friends, I wish I could do that. The friend group I’m in lives six hours away from IMSA, so the only way we could probably meet is on campus. That doesn’t stop us from having fun though. We’ve done homework together, listened to music, and even had karaoke. (Alan Hernandez ’23)
- My social life has honestly increased during this time. I find myself trying to spend more time with friends to fight the loneliness of always being at home. However, I also lost contact with a lot of people. (Anonymous)
- I think my social life was good. I talk to all of my friends over text everyday and FaceTime my friends four days of the week. I usually meet up with my friends a couple times a month in real life, but throughout October I haven’t really been able to. Most of the time when I FaceTime, it is usually to just do homework and “hang out.” (Anonymous)
As we all know, this is not the first time that IMSA has had to function in a remote learning environment. The fourth quarter of the 2019-2020 school year saw a sudden, seemingly unorganized switch to virtual learning, something that many students were initially displeased with. Given that there was an entire summer between that quarter and this quarter, it only makes sense that everything is more organized and many differences can be seen.
Here are what some students had to say about the differences between this year and last year:
- Remote learning this year is a lot more synchronous, which I think is better. I feel like I’m learning more this year remotely than last year. Because there is less asynchronous work, I feel like I’m getting more support from my teachers because I can ask questions in class. (Anonymous)
- Remote learning this year is much more organized, but the workload is much more immense this year. (Anonymous)
- Having 4 classes per day is beneficial for the stress, though I don’t think we’re learning as much. (Rachel Tin ’21)
- The biggest change is that there was a plan going into this quarter. How good and effective that plan was is a different question, but there were certain concrete rules and expectations laid out. (Ethan Haque ’21)
- I think last year was more chill just because it was the end of the year and everything was looking up for the moment. This year, I really don’t have that same sense of optimism. (Jay Ganesan ’21)
Although online classes are worse than in-person classes, it is even harder to have an online class with people you have never met before. As the newest class at IMSA, most of the sophomores had never met each other prior to the beginning of the school year. This posed challenges that impacted their ability to interact with their peers and their upperclassmen.
Here are what some sophomores had to say about starting IMSA online:
- It’s very hard to meet people when the only opportunity for interaction is to see their face in a box on your computer. That being said, making friends isn’t impossible. It just takes more time and work than usual. (Anonymous)
- Remote learning has had a huge impact, for me at least. I was the only one from my school to apply to IMSA, so when I got accepted, I didn’t know anyone. Having everything virtual didn’t help either. I’d prefer meeting new people in person. I don’t think I have trouble making friends, but not having met them before physically intimidates me. I’m also concerned that meeting in person with the people I’ve reached out to will be awkward after we get back on campus. (Alan Hernandez ’23)
- I made some friends but I’m not really close with them because I don’t text them a lot. It would definitely be easier if we were in person. (Anonymous)
- I feel like it is definitely a lot harder to meet friends through Messenger, but I have still been able to meet people. (Jason Qin ’23)
College apps are always stressful for seniors and that is a fact that will not change. However, this year’s seniors, the class of 2021, have the added stress of having to go through the college application process remotely.
Here are what some seniors had to say about college apps:
- College apps have been incredibly stressful. It’s crushing to be told that whatever hard work you’ve been doing to study for this standardized test or that test or to get a perfect GPA, or applying to a college’s outreach program might not have mattered at all because we simply do not know what is going on. I think one of IMSA’s greatest allures is the support we have in our college application process, but most of that is now semi-informed speculation. The seniors lost a lot of the benefit of experience that IMSA normally could offer us. Watching the seniors for the last two years, applying for college has always been stressful and confusing. But, at least in the past, you could stress out with your friends who all understood what you were going through right there with you. (Ethan Haque ’21)
- College apps are probably the worst part of the semester in my opinion, because there is a lack of access to help and other important resources. In addition, the overload of homework has left little time for me to actually fully prioritize my college apps. My days are just flooded with so much homework that I don’t have time to work on them. (Jay Ganesan ’21)
- College visits were nonexistent, but college apps were probably easier to manage because I didn’t have anything else to do. (Rachel Tin ’21)
- It’s really hard to balance college apps and schoolwork, but I guess the only way forward is to continue chugging along. A lot of times, my virtual college visits clash with club meeting times or wing/hall programming, so I have to let others know in advance. I think the overall isolation and loss of contact with my peers and counselors has made this entire process a lot harder. Since I don’t have any older siblings and my parents immigrated to the US, this is the first time we’re going through this process. (Anonymous)
Every student has had their own personal experiences throughout this quarter. Some can relate to one another, and some can’t.
Here are some experiences that some students had:
- Within the past 3-4 months, four of my family members have died, two of which died from Covid-19. It hurts when I see people blatantly refuse to follow health precautions and/or claim Covid-19 isn’t real when it’s impacted my life this much. On another note, I haven’t told anyone about this, including my teachers. Although this has impacted my focus in class and my ability to complete assignments, I don’t want it to sound like an excuse to get out of work if I tell them I’m going through a family death. Other than these events, I’ve actually been enjoying virtual learning more than when I was on campus. Although zoom classes are long, it’s a lot easier for me to stay focused on my work and my mental, physical, and emotional health. (Anonymous)
- I’ve started to get a lot of sleep (8 hours vs the 6 hours back when I was on campus). I also realized that I hate being alone, but at this time, there isn’t much I can do about that. (Anonymous)
- I know a few people who got infected by the virus, so it’s scary to hear first-hand accounts of what happens to individuals and then see people collectively disregard all safety protocols. (Ethan Haque ’21)
- A lot of bad things have happened, but I think I’m starting to grow out of it. (Jay Ganesan ’21)
- While we have been online, I’ve actually been really productive in terms of studying for AP’s, studying for the SAT, completing homework, etc. (Anonymous)
- Overall, there’s been a lot of screen time, which hurts my eyes and doesn’t help my emotional health either. (Anonymous)