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Welcome to the New Normal

2020 has been a wild ride filled with too many surprises to count for us all. From experiencing a pandemic to seeing a constant outpour of social justice movements. But, this year has been particularly interesting for us students. You see, 2020 has changed what “normal” looks for us more than most people. And, although we are a technologically inclined generation, this year has us completely immersed in an online reality – from academics to social interactions. Which like all things in life has had its ups and downs. Here’s a glimpse into our new normal.

Zoom Calls and Bedroom Walls
Every student has a love-hate relationship with school. No one ever wants to wake up at 6 am, leave the comfort of their bed only to sit in a classroom for an hour and a half listening to a teacher talk about a subject that you probably weren’t in the mood to learn about so early in the day. It’s the tale as old as time. Which is why when we ended last school year from the comforts of our bedrooms everyone was elated. But, let me tell you as a second-year university student who has to take 6 courses online, zoom calls are not at all what we expected it to be.

Being technologically adept doesn’t mean that learning online is easy. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Learning from the comfort of our bedroom is nothing like we expected it to be. Yes, being able to go to class in our pajamas is great. But, no one ever considered how much of a struggle it is to maintain self-control and have discipline to remain focused. Nor did it make any class that much more enjoyable. In fact, it has made some of my classes even more unbearable. My three-hour-long lectures often feel even longer. Plus the lack of change in environment during “class hours” doesn’t help the restlessness that most students feel during the day.

Photo by Julia M Cameron from Pexels

Not only that but unlike in-person classes, zoom classes make us feel like we are constantly on the spot. Making participating or asking questions that much harder. Because unlike being in person where you are comforted by the confused looks on your classmates faces or the quiet whispering between peers that comes with being lost in a lecture, you are stuck with the knowledge that not only do you not know anyone in class but your face is also magnified on the screens of your peers as well. Which let me tell you is not fun at all.

Another thing that has also been far from what we expected is exams. Within the last couple of weeks, most university students have been submerged into midterm season. And, while most students might have gone into midterms with the mindset of “YES! No proctor no problem” or approaching exams with the mindset of “ pshh, it’s an open book exam that’s so easy” that was not the case. We might not have had in-person proctors but we had to deal with downloading programs that weren’t fully adept at understanding what human behavior is like. This meant that moving too much during an exam or even reaching for something triggered the program to assume that we were cheating. Open book exams on the other hand, presented us with different challenges – such as shorter time frames, and more questions. Either way, leaving an online exam still left students with the same anxious feeling that an in-person exam would have. So, I guess that’s one constant that we can still rely on.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

Go, Grow, Glow Ups
“ If you don’t chase after what you want now then you never struggled with time you struggled with discipline.” – Unknown

As a student, one of the things that we never seem to have enough of is time. The pandemic might have put most of our lives on hold, but it had created the opportunity for students to take charge of their lives and achieve their dreams and goals. What that looked like depended on each individual. To some, it was smashing their fitness goals and spending the last six months losing weight and toning. For others, it was finally pursuing the business venture that they’ve been meaning to go for.

Photo by Eternal Happiness from Pexels

Regardless of what goals we wanted to achieve, these past six months have shown us the difference between lack of time and lack of discipline. Although we learned and we grew through unusual circumstances it didn’t take away from the power that it took and the confidence that we gained in doing so. As odd as it may sound social media is what helped most of us achieve what we did. Tik Tok and Chloe Ting became our anchors. They allowed us to recharge and improve our emotional, physical, mental, and in some instances our spiritual health. And when you have to deal with the never-ending workload that most of us experience on the daily, it’s a huge relief having the resources that provide easy to do solutions that provide long term results.

Not only that but we as a generation were able to see what we truly are capable of. This year has opened our eyes to the true strength that comes from using our voices. We’ve seen that through the impact of our collectiveness against the fight for racial inequalities, human injustices, and how we’ve banded to fight against a pandemic by doing our best in doing what we can. Of course, we are still human, and sadly that means that not everyone is on the same side of things. But, it doesn’t take away from the truth that every person has the power to help create change even if it’s by doing something as simple as wearing a mask and social distancing. Change might not occur instantaneously, but if there’s one thing we’ve proven over and over again this year it’s that the momentary difficulty that we experience to achieve change and growth is always worth it in the end. Which is why don’t ever stop trying or be afraid of starting because the worst thing that you can do is lose hope that something isn’t achievable.

By Ayah Barghout

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