After six months of quarantine and Netflix, going into the fall semester feels like the Twilight Zone. Most college students attend zoom university where half of the professors’ ask, “Can everyone hear me?” or “Am I on?” Administrators leave it to students who never took an online course to work at their own pace. Tuition rates stay the same despite the drastic change in the class venue. A new normal fails to capture the hell college students experience. Everyone’s adjustment to college life during the COVID-19 pandemic looks different, but I think I speak for everyone when I say it sucks.
Let me tell you about my first few weeks of college after six months of quarantine. Hopefully, this makes you feel a little better.
I moved to a new house, off-campus with my aunt. Fortunately, the house sits close to campus. The house includes dozens of acres, with a rusty barn, a long winding dirt road and enough pine trees to make you think you dropped in the middle of nowhere. I expected nothing but bonfires and good times at the new house. The house came with one problem though: no Wi-Fi.
The original owner never used Wi-Fi, so my aunt requested the local communications company (who shall remain nameless, but all UF students know the “reliable” communication company) to install Wi-Fi in the property. With a good communications company’s tenacity, the local company replied to us two months after the request informing us the only available appointments opened in mid-September. My college started classes in late August. One month without Wi-Fi meant one month without access to school.
I threw a few tantrums blaming myself for moving out of a perfect house close to civilization with access to Wi-Fi and a readily available Dunkin Donuts to a ranch in the middle of nowhere. But, living off-campus with my aunt relieves me of the financial burden of paying for overpriced leases on roach-infested, water-damaged apartments. With all my classes online and no Wi-Fi, the communication company gave me the cherry on top of my 2020.
Like most situations in college, you either sink or swim.
The next few weeks consisted of me desperately looking for different places to find free Wi-Fi. Free Wi-Fi during a pandemic comes close to nonexistent. I found various cafes around the city to study, but whatever cafe I studied in for hours on end, housed a barista eventually walking up to me to ask, “have you ordered anything yet?”—That or a manager gave me death glares.
I discovered some parks provide Wi-Fi, which meant sitting on a park bench while watching video lectures or yelling at my professor over a screaming child in the background. McDonald’s, Burger King, Starbucks and Wendy’s all became my new offices. After a week, looking for free Wi-Fi became a game for me. I found what cafes provided the fastest internet and frequented them. I got lucky when some friends and family offered their Wi-Fi to me. Every day, I woke up earlier than usual to drive to a different spot to work on homework. I hated exploiting my relationships like this, but the alternative looked like failing my classes right off the start. Most of my classmates probably thought I was homeless by the end of the drop/add period due to my Zoom calls’ ever-changing backgrounds.
The day finally came when the cable company installed almost a quarter mile of wire to our house, providing us access to the outside world. The construction and installation took three days to finish until we finally got those beautiful four bars pop up on our devices.
Even though we accessed the internet on a strong bandwidth, my problems continued.
Every day while I traveled around the city, time constraints only allowed me a limited amount of time allocated to classes, so my extracurriculars fell by the wayside. By the time I finally got Wi-Fi, my deadlines and commitments piled up.
I work overtime nowadays, trying to catch up and stay ahead of my extracurriculars and class assignments. Despite the stress, tantrums, city parks and lack of Wi-Fi, I look back on the last few weeks with pride. Not just the survival factor, but the fact I persisted during the worst of times. The year 2020 appears adamant on crushing us all but coming out of a few weeks scouring the city for Wi-Fi gave me the confidence I needed to survive the rest of 2020.
Whatever your fall semester struggle looks like, whether you work a full-time job, COVID-19 affects your family or Zoom crushes your soul, these bad times sharpen your resolve. I know everyone experienced their own no Wi-Fi story last month. Hopefully, like the friends and family who opened their doors to me, we listen, sympathize and help our fellow students struggling to make sense of the chaos and survive Zoom University. I sit here with multiple deadlines glaring on my calendar, the uncertainty of the future and five Wi-Fi bars ready to take on tomorrow, knowing I survived a month without Wi-Fi.