By Sonam Rikha ’24
When I received the email on a Friday in early March telling students that, after Monday, my school would be taking a temporary break due to concerns of COVID-19, I didn’t think much of it. On Monday, fellow students jokingly said, “See you next year!” I scoffed at the idea that this break would last longer than two weeks. Surely it wouldn’t last for the rest of the school year. Like most students, I left my stuff in my locker, assuming that I would be back in school soon. Who would’ve known that that Monday would be my last day in my high school and the last time I would see my teachers and classmates in person? Who would’ve expected that the coronavirus would still be killing so many people in the U.S. today? Who could’ve known that six months later I would still be stuck at home with online school?
When it was announced in mid-July that I would be attending my first semester at Pomona online I was disheartened, disappointed, and surprisingly a little bit excited. Sure, I could’ve wallowed in my sadness over being stuck at home with my bickering family, but the 10% optimist in me thought about all the stories I could tell my future children about Zoom University–well, assuming that the world is still habitable by then.
So today I will be walking you through a day in my life (or, actually a week in my life, since college classes are spread out across five days) as a freshman in Zoom University–oops, I mean Pomona College.
Unlike international students, who have to overcome ridiculous and unfortunate time differences to attend classes, I would consider myself one of the privileged majority who doesn’t have to wake up at 3 a.m. to make it to class. Since I live in Chicago all of my classes are two hours ahead of when they would be in Claremont. My earliest class is at 10:40 a.m. CDT, so I usually wake up at 9, brush my teeth, eat my breakfast, change out of my pajamas, and sit in front of my laptop for the start of my school day.
This semester I am taking Intermediate Spanish, 20th Century China (a history class), Intro to Sociocultural Anthropology, Individual Voice Lessons, and my freshman writing seminar (or, ID1) called Language, Power, and Community. As you’ve probably noticed, all my classes this semester are in the humanities. I’m not the biggest fan of STEM–I’m sorry, mom–and I knew that taking a STEM course online this semester would be very difficult for me. The beauty of college is that the classes are spread out throughout the week, giving students plenty of time to either do homework, participate in extracurriculars, work, or (my personal favorite) procrastinate. On Mondays and Fridays, I only have one class; on Wednesdays, I have two classes; and on Tuesdays and Thursdays, I have three classes.
Luckily for me, my classes on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays are quite spaced out, so in between my classes I either work on homework, go on a walk, or binge-watch Buzzfeed videos. Starting my first year of college online has definitely been quite the experience. Being sent into small breakout rooms to talk to classmates through a screen can be daunting, and accidentally speaking at the same time as someone else can be awkward, but learning online wasn’t as bad as I was expecting it to be.
To try to create a sense of community online, some days I attend office hours and talk with my professors about the class readings but also about random things like the odd weather in California. Other days after class, I join mentorship meetings for AAMP or Posse, attend zoom calls for clubs on campus, and force my introverted self to attend online social events to meet other amazing Pomona students. Zoom University is really what you make of it. Even though being online is not ideal, Pomona does a good job offering first-years ways to be involved in the Pomona community as well as find their own communities amidst this pandemic.