Through the Laptop Screen: Keeping my eyes wide open
Remote study is not just online studies; it is an entirely new way of experiencing and understanding education. And for this, it forces you to keep your eyes “wide open.”
October 30, 2020
Night and day used to seem just a mere pattern of nature to me, something that had little consequence to when my night and day should be.
As I mentioned in my previous article, I have been enjoying my flipped time schedule. But sometimes reading the clock upside down becomes a struggle to keep my eyes wide open— literally. For a night owl like me, a flipped schedule comes with a temptation to continue my summer schedule. Interestingly, that is technically not a schedule, just becoming nocturnal, without a time-table.
I barely had two hours of sleep before a midterm exam last week, that was, for me, at 5:30 a.m. Indian Standard Time (IST)—for other remote students, it might have been worse. With just that much sleep, I could get through the test, but after the test, I realized I had some assignments due. Due to my lack of adequate planning, I ended up getting only an hour of sleep before my day’s classes officially started at 7 p.m. IST.
That day (or night), I realized that though flipping my schedule might be fun and very adventurous for me as a night person, it is not the most ideal thing to do if it is unplanned. I’ve come to realize that planning my days out in detail might help me increase my productivity especially when I am at home, easily distracted with things around me or even by my comfy bed.
Time difference is by far the greatest challenge remote international (or those living in faraway U.S. territories) students have been facing, but I have seen that we all have made great efforts to adjust and sit with a smile in front of the camera at 3 a.m. I participated in Vanderbilt University Theatre’s 24 Hour Production at 4:30 a.m. IST. to make myself feel a part of the Vandy community, and seeing two other students joining at 7 a.m. from China made me feel even more at home.
Added to that, wearing make-up, rehearsing monologues and yes, making new friends all on Zoom is something I was proud of. Many educators have made helpful accommodations for me, but some were not able to. Perhaps, unlike many, I did not feel left out. After all, Vandy can’t flip its schedule, can it? But of course, making demands and asking for accommodation is our duty, and suggesting solutions to the problems we face is even more important.
The time difference has not only taught me to keep my eyes wide open during the lectures at night but also to forage for a little excitement to brighten up my midnight doldrums. Being at home, I do not see flyers around that tell me about the events on campus, nor do I have Mr. Commodore giving away posters to decorate my room. All I have is this 13-inch screen and an inbox full of unread emails. That being said, I sometimes feel that my emails are exciting packages of surprise.
“Campus Happenings” is definitely not a suitable subject for an email that has more than half the events it features being entirely virtual. However, there is always at least one thing from that email that I can add to my bucket list for the week. So, I always keep in mind that whatever is emailed to me, is for me. This way, not only am I getting closer to Vanderbilt, but I am also encouraging Vanderbilt to keep organizing events that will benefit me and other remote students. One of my favorite habits I have developed since I became a Commodore is constantly checking for Anchor Link events. I have not had the best experience with every event I have ever attended and feel that some events could be much better planned, but they at least help bring me closer to the campus.
Eyes Wide Open, for Myself
Apart from browsing virtual events, I try to better organize myself. I’ve also learned to keep my eyes open to ways I can better present myself in an online environment and to better amalgamate myself with my virtual college. Not only am I seeing everyone virtually, but everyone else is also viewing me virtually.
Just as I expect my online classes to give the in-person feel, I should be able to present myself as though I am there, engaged. To others it might seem awkward, but I like keeping my video on even during a hybrid class. I want my picture to stick in my professors’ and classmates’ minds so that they recognize me if they see me when I am on campus. Writing math questions or responses in the Zoom chat box is a task in and of itself. However, I communicate with the chat box in a hybrid class because I want everyone to know that I am a part of the class. I attend and actively participate in random university events because I want Vandy to remember that remote students are an integral part of “the campus.”
Lastly, another thing for which I keep my eyes wide open is to find some time in my day to pop my isolation bubble and learn about my classmates’ experiences and share mine with them. Thinking in isolation, just jumping to conclusions on the ladder of inference but knowing each other’s highs and lows helps. I can get connected by just texting a friend, Zooming with a classmate on campus or meeting professors and classmates during office hours. It comforts me to know that it’s not just me who has had a tough exam or is feeling guilty about enjoying the weekend a little too much. Sometimes, the drain of online learning makes me feel like the most unfortunate of all but talking with others makes it easier to brave any scary paper.
For all those who are experiencing college through a 2D screen, you must keep your eyes wide open, literally and figuratively. Till we meet in my next article, let us try our best to scout our own ways of virtual learning and socializing, and let’s see if we can make the campus know us even before we know it!