When I tell people in Zoom breakout rooms that I am accessing all my classes remotely this semester, I am often met with expressions of pity or the question “Why?” At first, I agreed with people’s sentiments to some extent, often wishing I could be on campus and at some points regretting my decision. However, over the course of the semester I have concluded that, while obviously lacking the full Lewis & Clark experience, being fully remote is an adequate alternative to learning on-campus.
Why did I choose to be fully remote? I am not immuno-compromised, nor am I an international student. In fact, my home is only half an hour from campus. However, this last summer, I had growing apprehension about returning to LC and living on campus for my sophomore year as I had planned. When information was released about living on campus, it felt inadequate and underdeveloped, as a testing plan had not yet been released to students. I did not feel comfortable being the guinea pig group of students living on campus, with no idea if the COVID-19 policies would even be successful in keeping us safe. So when the online option was announced, it felt like the perfect solution. I could continue my education without taking a leave of absence and without having to live on campus or scramble to arrange off-campus housing.
I will not sugarcoat it: being fully remote is not ideal. In my hybrid classes, I am usually unable to hear what either my professors or peers are saying. Technological difficulties are inevitable and are nobody’s fault, but remaining engaged is a challenge when you are a face on a computer screen that is often accidentally ignored.
With the obvious separation from my in-person classmates, connection often feels impossible. It is difficult to truly engage with people in the classroom, and I feel that in-person students tend to look past the people online. The distinction is apparent simply in the attitudes I have observed in my classes. I have overheard students complaining about being unable to keep track of when they are supposed to be online versus in-person. Other people I have talked to lament about how they could never imagine having to take their classes online, as though it is an enormous burden or disadvantage. Part of this is just the awkwardness of the hybrid format, but it also feels as though being in-person again has caused many students to lose perspective on what it is like to be fully online. I have grown tired of seeing students taking it for granted.
However, online learning is also not terrible. My professors and their teaching assistants have been wonderful, by consistently checking the Zoom chat, recapitulating ideas shared by classmates and profusely apologizing for the technological issues beyond their control. Their dedication to connecting with online students is extremely validating. It is a reminder that I am a student in the class and an important part of the community despite being a tiny box on a computer screen.
Although we will all be learning online soon, do not assume the situation of a fully remote student. Being able to take classes in person this year is an immense privilege. Many students physically cannot come to campus for medical or travel-related reasons; others cannot afford to pay for housing just to be in an academic environment when online is an option. This is extremely important to keep in mind when evaluating your ability to live and learn on campus. Although I may make it sound like a far from desirable situation, there is no shame in being fully remote. Yes, the fear of missing out can be crushing and Zoom fatigue is exhausting, but ultimately I feel okay with having made the choice to prioritize my safety and well-being over attending in-person classes during a semester full of unknowns.
Please extend kindness towards your fully remote friends and classmates. They are going through an already-difficult semester with added challenges, and would genuinely appreciate your support.
This article presents opinions held by the author, not those of The Pioneer Log and its editorial board.