How four UW Environment students are adjusting to online school | College of the Environment

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We’re constantly impressed at the ingenuity and resilience of College of the Environment students. Now that we have all had time to adjust to this new way of living, we checked in with four students at the College to see how their studies and work lives have changed, hear about the challenges and opportunities they have found in online courses and listen to how they’re taking care of themselves in the era of COVID-19.

Gregory Moore: sophomore in Bioresource Science and Engineering

Q: How has your school experience changed?

A: Since switching to online classes I have found that my sleep schedule has changed and there is less of a distinction between “school mode” and “home mode”. Before, when I was on campus I could kind of physically distinguish when I was on campus and taking classes was ‘school mode’ and back in my dorm was ‘home mode’. But now that I take my classes in the same room that I sleep in, and live in, it can be harder to separate the times in my head. 

Q: What about your classes that typically have lab sections?

A: Certainly, online classes have changed the way labs are done. For my BSE 248 class, we were going to have labs every week. The show must go on! My professor, Anthony DIchiara, is working very hard to bring creative lab activities we can do at home. One of my favorite ones had us test the direction of paper grain strength at home in our own kitchens! We soaked the paper strips and watched as they curled to analyze the grain direction. It’s not the same as doing it in the real lab, but anything hands-on is a welcome addition to this online learning environment! 

Q: How have your extracurriculars changed?

A: Unfortunately, as a result of this some of my extracurriculars had to be canceled. I was looking forward to studying abroad in Switzerland this summer but unfortunately, such is life. I am fortunate that my job at the College of the Environment allows me to work remotely from my desktop at home, so in that regard things haven’t changed. 

Q: What has been your biggest obstacle or hurdle? 

A: It has been much more difficult to juggle all of the assignments that are required of me, especially when there are so many different websites to keep track of. Each class does things a little differently so getting a hang of the ins and outs of each class and making a consistent routine is challenging.  

Q: Any positives to come out of remote school?

A: The biggest positive thing that has happened from this is that I am able to spend much more time with my family and my dogs, and when the weather allows I am able to watch my classes outside in the backyard and enjoy the fresh air! I have also found that it is much easier to get extra help when needed because it is much easier to find the motivation to go to office hours when it is just a link away, rather than across the campus on a rainy day, so I am going to office hours a lot more often now

Jenna Truong: junior in Environmental Studies, living in an on-campus apartment

Q: How has your experience shifted from in-person classes to virtual? 

A: ​Switching from in-person class to online was definitely overwhelming at first. Online classes have a lot of moving parts that students really have to take personal responsibility for tracking. That being said, the beginning of switching onto Zoom was a huge learning curve to understand how all of our class assignments worked, how to get participation and the general timing of things. However, once you get in the groove of your class schedule, it’s kind of nice to be able to go at your own pace if you have some pre-recorded lectures. One of the things I miss is definitely personal interactions with my classmates. I was actually in a focus group the other day where we were talking about how Zooming has impacted our ability to form community, and in this discussion, we talked about how disabling student-to-student private chats really took away that sense of camaraderie among classmates because it kind of mimicked that ability to whisper or write notes to the people next to you. 

Q: How have your extracurriculars changed?

A: ​I’m the Executive Director of an organization, Students Expressing Environmental Dedication (SEED), which is affiliated with Housing & Food Services (HFS). The move to virtual work has really impacted all of HFS’s student organizations because our normal operations are completely out the window. Before, I was planning weekly meetings, collaborations, working on the Reusable Containers program administration and other advocacy work. Now I’m mostly figuring out ways for virtual engagement and how to select and on-board next year’s team. One little silver lining is that I can get in my work hours through volunteering at the MILL to assist in making masks, so it has been nice to be able to have time to sew again and feel like I’m helping my community. Outside of official extracurriculars, I’ve found myself able to focus on physical and mental wellness a lot more than before. For physical health that means distance running, sunrise yoga and taking advantage of UW Recreation’s online fitness classes. For mental wellness I’ve been bullet journaling, finding ways to connect with nature, reflecting on my long-term goals and reading. I didn’t have much time to engage these aspects of wellness before, so it has been nice to really slow down and find ways to work on myself.  

Q: What has been your biggest obstacle/hurdle?

A: ​I think my biggest hurdle has been missing physical connections and being in close proximity with people. I, of course, have my weekly Zoom game night set up with my friends and all of those virtual ways of connecting, but it’s just not the same and I don’t feel that same sense of being replenished by social connection as I did before. I really miss hugs and high fives. It’s also super hard to connect when really nothing new happens over the last week. However, I’m very clumsy and sometimes awkward, so I’m lucky to usually have a new story about breaking something (or myself) or having a weird interaction when I go to get my food for the week. Plus, once you’re done telling your story it can be really weird to transition between things and we have to rely a lot more on verbal cues than physical ones. So, in general, connecting and feeling like it’s a valuable connection can be really difficult now. 

Q: What has been the biggest positive thing that’s happened as a result of remote school?

A: ​I tend to get caught up in the fast pace of life, and being stuck inside with less hours at my organization has really allowed me to slow down. I think this is a product of our society, but before this I really associated my personal value with how productive I was and if I wasn’t burnt out at the end of the week I doubted if I was doing enough. So being trapped inside and forced to slow down has really had a positive impact on my sense of personal value and relating that to a balance between being productive, but also taking time to do things that I really enjoy. And I think this is really good for me, but also for my peers that find themselves equating their value to what they’re producing. Now is a time that we can truly take advantage of the extra time we have for self-care and self-love! Although connections can be hard, I think there’s a lot of value that will come out of this around us being more intentional with our time, being cognizant about when we’re using technology, and generally seeing more value in our typically less valued interactions like smiling when you’re walking by someone. 

Andrew Chin: fifth-year senior in School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences and Marine Biology

Q: How has your experience shifted from in-person classes to virtual? 

A: Honestly, I’m where I would usually be, mentally, in any other quarter. I don’t know how that reflects on my regular schedule. One shift is having to create my own structure. So, being really intentional about planning my week out and setting aside time for work. Some classes have transitioned a little better than others. Lectures have been ok. Some of my courses, though, are more collaborative or experiential by nature, like . Those classes required a lot more work and have been more difficult to adjust to. I miss working directly with people.

Q: How have your extracurriculars changed? 

A: I’ve been keeping in touch with my friends over Zoom and Discord. If anything we meet more regularly than before! A lot of RSOs have transitioned their activities to social media, like

Q: What’s your biggest obstacle/hurdle? 

A: Trying to disengage from school and work has been a huge challenge. Doing work all day with no change in scenery or nothing to break up the monotony is draining. Finding other activities that keep my mind busy, like cooking, sketching, or simply going for a bike ride, have been extremely helpful. 

Q: What has been a positive thing that’s happened as a result of remote school? 

A: I’ve spent a lot of my days noticing and checking in with myself. Lately, I’ve been thinking about how the wind plays with the cottonwood leaves, noting the spring parade of blooms along the Burke-Gilman trail, and the way light filters through my window. When I would be rushing around from point A to B, I’ve been able to stop, notice and reflect. And how lucky I am to be able to do that! This whole experience has also brought home how tightly linked the human and natural worlds are – not only for our mental wellbeing in the midst of crisis but and where we are headed as a global community.  

Tyler Cox: second-year graduate student in Atmospheric Sciences 

Q: How has your experience shifted with the change from in-person classes to virtual? 

A: I’m not taking too many classes this quarter, and my research is computer modeling based anyways, so thankfully I have not been severely impacted! All in all, I do spend more time on Zoom than I would like, but thankfully my academic progress hasn’t been impacted too much.

Q: How have your extracurriculars changed?

A: I love to trail run and hike, both of which have had to change pretty dramatically. I’ve been doing lots of city runs, but I miss running with friends and running on soft ground instead of concrete.

Q: Biggest obstacle/hurdle: 

A: Restlessness and Zoom fatigue. I don’t think I ever realized how much I appreciated my 30-minute bike commute each day to get me some fresh air.

Q: What has been the biggest positive thing that’s happened as a result of remote school?

A: I’ve been much better at connecting with old friends and hearing about how they’re doing. Even though Zoom happy hours and trivia nights can’t replicate in-person interactions, I don’t think I would have talked to my friends scattered across the country if it weren’t for social distancing.

Be sure to follow UW Environment on Instagram to see what our students are up to as they take over for a day!