This past semester, I studied more than any other semester at my university.
But I also got the lowest grades.
Just like many other students across the world, my classes this semester were online due to the COVID-19 pandemic. I spent my fall semester in my hometown taking classes on my computer, far away from the college campus I learned to call home. After only two weeks of classes, I learned that I could not concentrate well in my online classes.
After a few hours of looking at my computer screen, no matter what I was reading or watching, nothing would stay in my mind. Assignments that would usually take me an hour or two to complete would sometimes take me more than five hours because of the simple fact that I could not concentrate.
The distractions also increased. I never liked to study in my own room. All the personal things around me took the attention away from the material I was trying to study. The maps, pictures and journals in my room always sparked my creative side. They made me think of projects that I had to do at that exact moment, otherwise I would forget.
By studying at home, I didn’t have the option anymore of going to the library or cafes where I could study without decorations stealing my attention.
Other distractions involved my family. In a true Latino fashion, my mom always speaks way too loud and doesn’t understand that walking into my room many times during the day actually interrupts my studies. Not being in the university environment itself also creates problems. When I’m not at university, I feel like I’m not taking university classes and as a result, I don’t treat the classes as seriously.
I also consider myself an extrovert. I love being around people, I’m fairly social and I recharge by being around others. Having a semester in solitude, away from friends and basically staying in my room all day, every day broke down my mental health and made it even more difficult to get the motivation to study.
Before the pandemic, if I got a grade I didn’t like, I would reach out to the professor, attend office hours, try to understand what I did wrong and adapt my strategy to do better in the next exam. This semester, when I got a grade I didn’t like I just… accepted it.
I didn’t have the motivation to change it because I was just working hard without ever getting a break, or that moment of social interaction I needed to keep me motivated.
Before the pandemic, my best academic semester was the one where I had my heaviest course load. I was taking 21 credits of classes when the normal at my university was around 15. However, that semester I felt extremely motivated. Not only I was doing an internship that I loved and that made me feel rewarded, but I was also making sure to take time to see my friends every Friday.
That social time made me so happy. It was all I needed to keep feeling positive about my classes and feel more at ease. Having my friends around me also resulted in fun late-night study sessions, which always helped me answer questions about the material that I didn’t even know I had. The interaction I had with my professors and classmates also helped create a positive memory linked to the class, which always helps when you are studying.
Unlike my “social semester,” this past semester I felt like I learned the least. My grades were not bad, but they were not as good as they used to be.
I remember fewer things from online classes I had just weeks ago than from in-person classes I had over a year ago.
For this and many other reasons, when the enrolling dates for spring 2021 came around, I tried my best to schedule in-person classes at my university. If I couldn’t take at least some of my classes in person, I came to the conclusion that it would be more beneficial for me to take a semester leave from my university than enroll in another semester online.
Hopefully, having other students around me, even at a social distance, will give me the social interaction I need to feel connected to the material I’m learning again. Maybe going back to the university environment will also help me get in touch with my academic side again.
Even with all of its downsides, this semester also had its perks. I joined College Magazine and I got into contact with certain aspects of my hometown in Brazil that defined what I wanted to do after college. I also got to see my family and high school friends that I haven’t seen in a while.
From this semester, I also learned the importance of not being too hard on myself. For every problem, there’s a solution. You just have to be patient enough to look for it. You also don’t have to worry too much about those grades that bother you. This was a hard semester for everyone. Just be proud you got through it, and know that you did the best you could under this less-than-ideal situation.