Returning to campus after one year for graduation

By: Isaac Donsky, Staff Writer 

Views expressed in opinion columns are the author’s own.

In about a week, I’ll hopefully be walking across the stage to get my diploma. It’s hard to believe that this will be the first time I’ve stepped foot on Towson University’s (TU) campus since March 2020. In a world completely changed by the COVID-19 pandemic, I’ve spent the entirety of my senior year online. And now I have to ask: was it worth it? Did I actually learn anything during this dreadful year?

Well, the best answer I could find is that online learning was both a blessing and a curse. It was a challenge like none I’ve ever faced before, and, as far as I can tell, it put a strain on my mental health that I’ve never seen before.

Let’s start with the positives. Not having to wake up super early for classes was definitely a pro. I could set my alarm for five minutes before class and get a full eight hours of sleep (if my schedule allowed it). If I was feeling sick, I could just stay in bed and not miss any class time. For the first time in my entire life, I didn’t miss a single day of school.

Learning also took on a new form. Many of my professors simply published all the materials for each week on Monday and let us students work at our own pace. This actually helped me in a way since I could more evenly spread out my school work without being overwhelmed. Plus, it allowed me to fit in a part-time job on days when I didn’t have to be in a synchronous class.

That’s honestly where the pros end for me. Don’t get me wrong; my experience was mostly positive, but there were a lot of negatives that came with online learning that I feel I need to get off my chest.

For one thing, group projects were a living nightmare. You would think that a bunch of tech-savvy college kids could figure out how to coordinate a final presentation over the internet. Instead, I found group projects to be time-consuming and difficult to even get started. I feel as if it’s safe to say that without that in-person element, there’s not as much motivation to get to work.

I also found that some courses that were designed for in-person learning didn’t translate well to the online world. I give my professors the utmost praise for trying their best to make things smooth for us. Without their support, I don’t think I would have made it to graduation, but man, the amount of stress I had during some classes is still haunting me to this day.

Those first two cons are more pet peeves than actual complaints. I feel as though most of us at TU were aware that things were going to be very different online, so we fully expected those kinds of issues to arise.

What I didn’t expect was the impact on my mental health. Safe to say that I’ve missed being on campus more than anything else during this last year and a half. I’ve missed walking to class during the fall when the first frost is still on the ground in the morning. I’ve missed Uptown and all the crazy shenanigans my friends and I used to get into there. I’ve missed attending sporting events, eating at Paws (I don’t care if it’s called Los Fuegos anymore, it will always be Paws to me!), and the long nights spent binging Netflix with my roommates.

It’s that lonely feeling that has made online learning seem more of a curse to me. The lack of social interactions has made these last three semesters seem almost like a bad dream. Which may explain why I expect to be emotional when I finally walk across the stage. It won’t just be due to me graduating, but because I’ll be returning to TU and all the things I’ve missed one last time.

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