Learning through the Pandemic
Note: I’m a University of Richmond student who studied remotely from China during the Fall 2020 semester.
Today is a typical morning of October 25, 2020, and I have never imagined where I am now.
A year ago, I took an English class called 20th Century British & Irish Literature. We covered topics such as British Imperialism, World War I, World War II, etc. Everyone in the class got to do research and give presentations on one of these overarching topics, and I chose the 1918 Great Pandemic. I was surprised to see how devastating the Great Pandemic was for people worldwide and, more importantly, how World War II overshadowed the pandemic. While military soldiers were dying in the battle, women and children were suffering at home. There was an extreme lack of healthcare resources since many doctors went to the war. I remembered that I was amused at one historical record that people in Richmond sneezed to protect themselves from being robbed at that time. I did not expect that another global pandemic was so near to me a year later. When the pandemic first hit China and then many other countries like the United States, I noticed how people suffered from this global health crisis. One hundred years ago, communications and transit between countries were not such prevalent as it is today, and one hundred years later, transportations such as airplanes, trains, and cars make travel much more accessible and also make my study abroad at the U.S. possible.
As a Chinese student studying abroad in the United States, I get used to receiving two very different kinds of sources from Chinese and American media and people. In the 2020 pandemic, while almost all Chinese follow health practices by wearing masks and do social distancing, many Americans try to fight for their freedom. I started to wonder how differences like this could happen under the same crisis. In the past summer I started my first marketing research related to COVID-19 that explored how cultural differences between China and the United States were reflected in storytelling ads. I also started my first novel that centered on the experience of a primary school student who might not fully understand the world under the pandemic.
If the global pandemic never comes, I would never imagine that I could take UR classes back home in China. What becomes more impressive is that the so-called remote learning takes place in various forms for me. For one class, I can take it simultaneously with my classmates via Zoom. For two of my classes, my professors volunteered to hold separate zoom meetings with other remote students and me since there are 4-5 remote students in each of these classes, and we won’t meet with the whole class. For my film class, I cannot take it simultaneously because of the time differences (afternoon for them, but midnight for me). My professor will then record each class meeting for me, and I contribute to the class discussion by posting my responses to class readings on the blackboard.
Despite the incredible technology that makes remote learning possible for many people, I struggled throughout the semester not because of my online classes but because of what I missed from my time on campus. I missed seeing my friends and professors, eating in the dining hall, walking near the lake, participating in different club activities and school events. I gradually realize how important UR is to me. Various online learning platforms emerged due to the pandemic, but their emergence actually helps me recognize all the benefits and remarkable experience that I have in UR that I cannot ever enjoy through online platforms or other universities.
I understand that many people, including me, are still worried about COVID-19 and its effects on the future, but I hope to overcome it together. In fact, you are not alone, and this is why I share my story with you. When the worst happens, things will always go better afterwards.