By Rui Wang

Since the coronavirus hit Canada, the education system is experiencing a large-scale transformation, from in-class to online learning. COVID-19 has also transformed the student experience, from how we play, to how we learn. Everyone is forced to keep social distance by self-isolating at home. As the university closed the physical campuses to avoid the spread of the virus, we have to move our courses to online formats. These transformations have brought about both positive and negative impacts on me.

When Carleton University announced the possibility of online learning, I was frustrated because I hate being isolated from my friends and forced to accept the online teaching format. It was hard for me to study online. Losing my attention and motivation to do the online classes was my biggest challenge. I struggled with surfing Facebook, Instagram and ignoring the cell phone while taking online classes. I can’t focus on classes once I open up electronic devices. Another issue with online courses is the lack of teaching support. I have trouble listening to the accents as an international student. When some professors speak with a strong accent, I will find myself struggling for further explanation when I can’t keep up with the pace of the course. I can’t ask questions and get answers immediately from the online course. The adjustment period was a bit chaotic, but now I feel more comfortable with online learning and have settled into a reasonable pattern. I was self-motivated to be a good fit for online classes. For example, I have to pass this course to get a diploma, this is my goal and reminded myself what I am working toward. This is quite useful for me to motivate myself. To deal with the distractions of online learning, I usually block out sound and turn off my phone to avoid distractions.

I have been studying from home for months now and have learned that online learning not only brings me some negative aspects but also a lot of enjoyable things. My life has transformed into a new normal: from offline to online. Being isolated at home, I gain more time to spend on other things in my life. I get more sleep hours because I don’t need to get ready for school. I can have time to cook lunches without eating from the school’s cafeteria. The most exciting thing for me is that I can save a lot of money without socializing and entertaining, my budget is definitely reduced by buying stuff and eating outside every day. Also, I am able to wear my pajamas while watching a video lecture at home and lie down on the bed with a packet of snacks.

The hardest thing for me during this pandemic is to maintain my mental health. I usually feel anxious and fear of loneliness during social distancing. I live by myself, and it’s difficult for me to socialize with my friends and family especially as an international student. Due to the pandemic, my flight was cancelled, and I can’t go back to China this summer, I was forced to stay in Canada with no certain date to leave. At that time, I felt stressed and disappointed. But thanks to COVID-19, it makes it easier to talk about the feelings of loneliness. Rather than call us to keep social distance, I would like to call it “physical distancing.” We can still have social interaction via electronic devices! When I feel anxious about not being home or missing my family, I will pick up the phone to call them or leave a message. It’s useful to talk about my concerns out loud with my friends and families, at least, the conversation can reduce my feelings of boredom. Talking to someone makes me feel loved, it shifts my attention away from being stressed. The key to feeling better is to divert your attention, but sometimes, we need to accept and understand our emotions. Sharing your emotions can make you feel that you are not alone and help you to relieve emotional stress.

Since coronavirus has been associated with all the countries, I have realized that it has become a problem for everyone in the world. It leaves no space for distinguishing a particular country or group. COVID-19 has removed the national boundaries. No matter if you are Chinese or Canadian, the virus treats everyone equally. The virus has pushed the countries to build a united community. Countries are trying to help one another to overcome this global pandemic. We have to realize that COVID-19 is a worldwide threat to our global community. If you are a university student like me, I hope my experience can give you some kind of assistance in this pandemic. I hope all of us can stay together, help others whenever they need you, we will get through it this together.

Rui Wang is a 4th year COMS student at Carleton University, graduating this December. She says that due to COVID-19, she is basically staying at home, finishing up her final courses and assignments, and getting ready for my life after graduation. The picture below is an original piece of art she made for her mother for Mother’s Day, based on an artist’s work that she deeply admires.