Students look back on one year of distance learning


Clare Sharkey | The Ticker

March 11 marked the one-year anniversary of New York City Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s announcement that CUNY and SUNY schools would transition to remote learning due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Ticker compiled Baruch College students’ reflections on their personal experiences thus far.

Pivotal school experiences will never be regained

Yadira Gonzalez

One year ago, I was elated to discover that we had a couple of weeks off from school. Having still been a high school senior, I was compliant with the arrangement so long as we went back for events such as prom and graduation.

One year later, I still have not had an in-person graduation or my prom.

Rather, I am now in college approaching my sophomore year.

Going to college is notoriously the time to explore and meet new people while working toward your future career. Living through a pandemic, however, was a death in it of itself. It was a pause, preventing everything that college was supposed to be.

Freshmen students like myself have been suddenly propelled into this career-oriented world and, for many, the experience has been overwhelming and lonesome. Young adults ages 18-24 have
been reported to have a record number of mental health issues during the pandemic.

An end to remote learning wouldn’t mean going back to the campus. It would mean finally being able to start the experience that I anticipated and meet the faces behind the screens. The prospect of visiting campus for the first time next semester is hope that this COVID-19 nightmare is behind us.

With three vaccinations now available to the general public, the hope of an inperson semester feels that much more possible. As the fall 2021 semester approaches, it would be nice to step inside the Baruch building and see something beyond muted black squares on a computer screen.

Isolation breeds unbearable loneliness and fatigue

Arianne Gonzalez

The first time I heard we were entering remote learning, I thought, “Sure.”
It was probably the best directive moving forward, although a strange one. The weeks leading up to that point had already been quite concerning — COVID-19 cases were increasing in the United States and, specifically, in New York State. Some people had already started wearing masks or sanitizing their seats on the train.

Now, it has been more than a year since Cuomo’s announcement and distance learning is still in place. So much has happened in the course of the last year amid the pandemic, including the racial injustice crisis in this country.

Personally, life has gotten lonelier, even with the reliance on social media, Zoom and FaceTime to see friends and loved ones. With constant worry on how loved ones have been doing, as well as maintaining my own health, keeping up with college requirements and just trying to accomplish something each day, I am approaching burnout territory. I might be there already.

The increase of COVID-19 vaccine roll-out has been promising, but there is still so much grief and worry in the air. Admittedly, it is a bit challenging to see what a post-pandemic life would be like, especially with the proposal of going back to campus for the fall semester. My main
concern would be the health and safety of everybody.

As much as I would love to engage on campus and go to in-person classes again, our prepandemic normal has probably disappeared. I just hope when we get back to Baruch, we are patient with one another and understand that everyone has dealt with so much in this past year.

Remote learning forced me to pay attention to racial injustice

Jahlil Rush

Remote learning has proven to be quite the roller coaster experiment for the United States. While some may have found the learning format convenient or mentally exhausting in their lives, remote learning forced me to pay attention to the world I reside in.

As a journalism major, my remote classes allowed me to use my newfound environment to aid me in my studies. When remote learning began in March 2020, the country was at the height of the 2020 presidential campaign season. Professors got creative and managed to relate Zoom
discussions to the current events at the time.

Conducting classes in remote learning format allowed me to see how the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the inequities among certain communities of color in the nation. The 24-hour news cycle, whether I was watching CNN, MSNBC or even reading The New York Times, allowed me
as a consumer to see the most critical issues that have plagued our nation for years come to a realization.

Taking remote learning classes during the summer of Black Lives Matter protests was a huge positive, as professors in online classes incorporated the summer of social injustice into their academic agendas.

Remote learning also proved to be therapeutic. With fellow classmates also stuck at home, having Zoom meetings allowed us to get to know each other and communicate a lot more than we normally would have if were in an in-person format.

The learning format did take time to adjust to, especially during the start of the pandemic, finding I had the urge to take extended breaks, but overall remote learning showed me that even in such a harsh, pandemic-ridden world, the importance for decent-quality education in a year
that coincides with battling social injustice is as strong as ever.

The pandemic taught me to value alone time again

Jason Galak

On the weekend of March 1, 2020, I went to Washington D.C. to attend the American Israel Public Affairs Committee Policy conference.

Before I left, my mother asked me, “Are you sure you want to go? I heard that there was a new case of that virus in California.” I laughed at her.

One week later, we found out COVID-19 had appeared in New Rochelle, New York. Then my friends had called me from their schools in upstate New York saying that they were coming home.

I thought everyone was going crazy. I was still going to class. I was still hanging out with my friends. I was still living a “normal” life.

Cuomo then told us to stay at home. My professors had no idea what to do. I had no idea what to do. Everything started to shut down. And I had nowhere left to go.

Since I live in Staten Island, I had all this time I was saving because I wasn’t travelling an hour and a half to class.

With this time, I finally began to read. I finally began to watch those documentaries I have always wanted to watch. I finally went back to biking every day.

But every day it got worse. By April, it became very sad watching the news.

Flash forward one year, I have realized that spending a full year of college online has really taught me the value of time. I exploited those minutes that I usually used for travel in many productive ways.

Although I wasn’t able to see my family and friends for quite some time, I learned to truly appreciate some “alone time.”

Now we are beginning to go back to campus to what everyone is saying is the “new normal.” I guess we will see what happens next.

I’ll miss Zoom University, but I miss Baruch more

Jessica Taft

March 11, 2020 was my last day on campus. Minutes after I came out of my last midterm, Baruch announced that the campus was closing, and all students were to leave as soon as possible.

I was never excited about the closure. Instead, I was scared from the get-go.

Although I was always a committed student and an extrovert, I now consider access to education and social interaction to be luxuries. I miss laughing with my friends as we strolled through Madison Square Park or morning Coco visits for my boba pick-me-up.

I learned to value the 200-people lecture classes with professor-student interaction and the stress I felt trying to catch an elevator to get me to class on time.

And yet, when I saw the “in-person” mode option available when mapping out my schedule for the fall semester, I hesitated. While daydreaming about returning to the city has become a favorite pastime, the realization scared me.

Things will be different and, as humans, we fear the unknown. With registration a couple of weeks away, I don’t know what decision I’ll make. Has Zoom University become my new norm?

I never got to say goodbye to high school

Dani Heba

When I walked out of my high school, Brooklyn Tech, on March 13, 2020, I was not eager about transitioning online nor did I think it would last more than two weeks, as was the general thought at that point in time.

It was a Friday. Every Friday from February to March my school had a specific theme day for seniors and March 13 was our Pajama Day. It was supposed to be a fun time for us seniors, as we took pride in our four years of hard work, but that Friday marked the last theme day I got to participate in.

I met with my friends to take the train home as usual. None of us realized that this would be our last time meeting at the corner by Rocky’s, the deli next to the G train.

We never thought that walking out of the building that day, that we would never walk in as students again.

We never imagined that we wouldn’t be graduating at the Barclay’s Center, as is custom for Tech students, but rather having a YouTube video posted of us as our celebration. My friends and I had been thinking about what we’d do for prom for months, but there was no prom.

At first, this was devastating to me. Transitioning to online learning at first was supposed to be an early spring break. While I did get more sleep, less work and no longer had to wake up at 5:30 a.m. to get to school, social interaction was non-existent. I didn’t get to say goodbye to my friends and teachers.

To make matters worse, I found out I had COVID-19 a week into lockdown.

However, while I was originally heartbroken about all of this, I am now at peace with myself. I am healthy, my friends and family are all healthy and I am doing well in my classes.

More than 500,000 families have been ravaged by the pandemic in the United States, so how can I complain about not having a graduation ceremony or prom?

All I can do is be grateful that I haven’t endured the suffering of loss that so many have had the misfortune of going through.

A year later, I am at Baruch with enough accumulated credits from advanced high school courses to make me qualify as a second-year student.

As a sophomore in credits, I have never stepped foot into the Baruch building. So, while I cannot compare Baruch pre-pandemic to now, I hope we can get on campus in the fall of 2021, because I want to meet my peers and enjoy the benefits of learning in-person, even if only for two years.