I believe I can speak for a majority of students when I say that this semester has been rough. Usually it’s hard enough while students are on campus, but we have things to do and places to go. We have club events to attend and sports games to cheer at and friends from all backgrounds to surround ourselves with. In short, these small components that make up the college experience make the learning and school work bearable. There were days on campus where I would find myself counting down to Saturday when I could hang out in Gaming Club and crush people in Jackbox. It made getting my chemistry assignments and creative writing stories manageable and gave me a good timeline to work with.
Now, with the first fully online semester at Dickinson College coming to a close, it really has hit me how much worse of a semester this has truly been.
At my home, I don’t have the plethora of activities that college once offered to help me pass the time. The day drags on, with only my computer, the internet, and a stray book here and there helping me pass the time. Oh, and also the massive amount of work assigned while online. At this point days blur together, and I almost forget what day is what.
Professors also aren’t making the workload easier. Personally, I have had professors that have been considerate of the times and have taken things a lot easier. But I know several people who have told me of their frustrations with professors for acknowledging that “we are in a pandemic” but refuse to lessen their workload. A few have even been so discouraged from even talking to their professors about it because all of their previous efforts to extend an assignment or redo an assignment have gone in vain. This isn’t the kind of environment we need while trying to learn in an already stressful environment.
I have nothing to look forward to on the weekends. Like many of my peers, we are working jobs at home while also balancing full-time classes, and it’s one of our only chances to get out these days with all the COVID-19 restrictions limiting what we can do and with who we do it with. Without the comfort of working on campus and the flexibility, I have found the weekends to just toss another pound of bricks onto my stress load. I don’t even look forward to the weekends anymore because this has become more of a cycle and less of what campus life would offer where there is always something different to do.
On top of it all, my mental health has been ten times worse than it has ever been in the first two years of my time at Dickinson. Ever since mid September, my mental state has kept plummeting, and when I think it’s going to get better, it just keeps tanking. There have been many weeks in a row where I have cried at least once a day. And what can I even do about it? All of the campus friends aren’t around to go to the Quarry and have a small rant session. Yes, I can talk about it in a Discord server and vent, but even then it feels like a burden because everyone is dealing with the exact same mental depletion because of online classes.
In short, I can officially call the fall of 2020 one of the worst semesters I have ever taken. If you were a time traveler and told me in July that this was what my life was going to be if I took online classes, I would have taken the gap semester. Yes, I have had classes that have changed my life this semester and have impacted me in ways I will never forget. However, I’m not sure anymore if that experience was worth the emotional and mental pain that I and thousands of other students across the country have dealt with and will take a long time to recover from.