Are you wondering how coronavirus has affected UBC? As COVID-19 continues to spread across the world, our students are staying home.
Like most schools across the globe, the international outbreak of coronavirus has meant a shift to online classes and staying indoors. We spoke to four students to find out how they’re adapting to the new situation. Discover how each meets with their professors and connects with their friends, how they’re keeping up their hobbies, and what advice they have for future students.
Degree: BASc in Mechanical Engineering
Year: Fourth year
Hometown: Edmonton, Canada
Where you’re staying home: With my family in Edmonton
Now your learning has moved online, how are you taking your classes?
I’m taking classes in a few different ways. Some of my courses are offering pre-recorded lectures that I can follow along by topic, and others are using a live lecture software to teach using a document camera. I quite like that there’s a mix, because it means I never get bored and I can make my own schedule at home.
How are you finding learning remotely?
At first, I was worried and anxious about how digital platforms and technology would play a role in my learning, especially since a lot of the platforms would be new to our instructors and would mean we’d have to adapt to a new lecture style. There were definitely a few rough spots initially, but as the semester progressed, the lectures consistently improved, and professors continued to adapt to the requirements of our classes. Now, I’ve gotten into more of a groove and its actually quite nice to be able to review particular concepts I didn’t understand. I can watch different parts of lectures and adapt my learning to my work day.
What are your professors doing to support you?
Some professors are hosting virtual office hours! They’ll host live meetings to discuss course content, or give us an opportunity to ask any questions we might have. They’ve also been great at releasing updated notes online and breaking up the content in manageable chunks.
It’s nice to see that our professors are learning how to digitize their teaching style, too. Learning remotely has given us an opportunity to get a peek into their home lives – I think it really humanizes the learning process, especially in an online world. I’ve had some professors have their kids accidentally come in during a lecture or show us their pets to lighten the mood. It’s really nice that professors are being very understanding of the whole situation, and it’s clear that they care about our wellbeing and are doing their best to accommodate our needs.
What are your tips for other students who might be taking classes at home, or be completing their application for UBC?
This uncertainty is really, really challenging, and it’s important to recognize that none of this is normal. It’s okay to take it day by day, and to work where and when you feel comfortable. It’s important to remember that you’re not alone in this worldwide shutdown, and that every day presents a new way to be creative and innovative. Spend time to do things that you enjoy or take a moment to write things down about your day in a journal to help keep yourself motivated! Mindfulness is key, and taking care of your mental health and wellbeing is of utmost priority – especially while taking classes in this new normal.
Degree: BA in Computer Science, Minor in Commerce
Year: Second year
Hometown: Vancouver, Canada
Where you’re staying home: In my room on campus
How is UBC supporting the students who have chosen to remain on campus?
Understanding that some students may be unable to return home due to COVID-19 concerns and travel restrictions, UBC residences have remained open with an optional move-out. I’m a Residence Advisor, and I’m currently staying in my room within Totem Park Residence on our Vancouver campus so I can continue to fulfill my role. I am supporting students remotely while maintaining social distancing practices to ensure their wellbeing, and check in with how they’re adapting. By maintaining a positive presence in the community for those that are still around, I remain a part of their support network that they can reach out to for assistance, or even just to be a friend to talk to. There also continues to be active members of our community that are planning online activities to keep residents engaged and carry on the first-year experience.
What does a typical day look like for you now? How is that different from before COVID-19?
In order to help maintain my daily routine, I’ve tried to wake up at consistent times and study in intervals to allow myself the opportunity for breaks. In comparison to before COVID-19, my study breaks are often video calls with family or loved ones to make up for the lack of physical interaction. I find that taking dedicated time for self-care is especially important now, so I’ve also been spending more time doing things I love such as skincare, virtual fitness classes, or choreographing dances in the comfort of my room.
Do you belong to any teams, groups, or clubs on campus, and are you able to continue them during this period?
Although my work guiding campus tours has been on hold, I’ve luckily still been able to stay in touch with my friends on the Student Ambassador team by joining in with online board games nights and weekend yoga sessions to stay connected. We also had our very first team meeting over a video call, which was surprisingly smooth and really fun. The dance club I usually attend, UBC Dance Horizons, isn’t currently holding any online classes, but there is a good variety of free dance classes offered on social media platforms to help get my feet moving in my room.
Why are you making sure you stay at home?
A few weeks ago, my twin sister contracted an unknown virus with COVID-19-like symptoms, and was advised to self-quarantine as a possible case of community transmission. With our mother being immunocompromised, it was difficult to be unable to visit or help my sister in her recovery. She has thankfully since recovered, but understanding the first-hand danger this virus can pose, I implore everyone to practice social distancing properly.
Degree: BA in Sociology, Minor in Political Science
Year: Fourth year
Hometown: Calgary, Canada
Where you’re staying home: In my apartment in Kelowna
How are you finding learning remotely?
My classes are being done through PowerPoint uploads and recorded lectures. I really like it! It gives me the freedom to structure my day as I need to, while also navigating what’s going on globally at my own pace. Granted, a little more structure would be nice, but it’s a good challenge for me to become that much more independent and self-sufficient. Professors are also available to chat via Skype or email, which has been incredibly helpful in relaying my questions about coursework.
Have online classes made anything easier for you?
Yes, it has. I struggle with a chronic mental health condition and being able to slow things down and work at my own pace has been incredible for me. As a student registered with the DRC (Disability Resource Centre) I think being able to learn remotely is especially helpful for those who need to be able to take care of themselves at home some of the time. Having recorded lectures and profs who are tuned into their virtual communication has been really helpful to absorb content at my own pace, especially when my symptoms flare up. I know that learning remotely isn’t for everyone, but it is helpful because it makes things that much more accessible for students with diverse abilities.
What does a typical day look like for you now? How does that differ from before COVID-19?
I like to start my day with meditation. For me that’s in the form of prayer, but for someone else that might be silent reflection or some other meditation practice. I think it’s important to ground yourself before starting the day, and once I’m grounded I can tackle the items on my daily to-do list. My morning routines have actually gotten better now because I need the structure that much more. The need for structure has pushed me to become better at delegating my time because I find that if I don’t, the whole day gets away from me and before know it it’s 7 p.m. and I haven’t done anything. However, I’ve also found that I used to draw a lot of energy from seeing people on campus, so I’m working that much harder to stay in touch with people virtually.
How are you finding the experience of staying at home?
I didn’t know I could cook so well! Having all of this free time I’ve had to get creative with food and how I’m spending my time overall. But passion projects aside, I have to admit that staying at home has been really lonely. The virtual check-ins are a great way to stay connected, but I’m really looking forward to seeing friends again and hanging out in a more relaxed setting.
Degree: BA in Honours in Anthropology and Linguistics
Year: Fifth year
Hometown: Santa Ana, USA
Where you’re staying home: In my apartment at UBC’s University Village
Now you’ve finished your Honours thesis, are you waiting to graduate? Has COVID-19 affected those plans?
Yes. I submitted my thesis in late February and was planning on delivering campus tours and looking for work until my graduation in May. I was also most likely going to move out of my on-campus apartment in April, depending on where the job I got was. The COVID-19 situation has affected quite a few of those plans – I am not delivering tours anymore, and put a pause on the job search for a few weeks as companies adjust to working from home. As of now, I’m staying in my current apartment as it’s not an ideal time to be moving. I’ll still be receiving my degree via mail, and have my letter of completion, so I’m able to work full time (it’s just a matter of finding a job!).
How is COVID-19 affecting your job hunt?
Both of the fields I’m interested in – student recruitment and reproductive health advocacy – are experiencing massive changes due to COVID-19, and such changes require corresponding adjustments, which of course take time. Additionally, I needed some time to personally to adjust to staying at home, connecting with people on an exclusively virtual level, and finding activities to pass the time. I feel ready to begin looking for work again, which is what I’ll be doing from this upcoming week onwards…wish me luck!
Is there any other way that COVID-19 has affected your UBC experience? If so, how have you responded to that?
I am lucky in that I chose to do four-and-a-half years of full-time studies, so I had my spring semester of “lasts” (Block Party, Sorority formal, Storm the Wall) in the 2018-19 year. However, a lot of my friends had this spring as their “last”, and it’s upsetting that they may have not been able to experience their final year in the way they were expecting to. There were a few activities I was looking forward to that I didn’t get to do because of COVID-19 – visiting California to talk to students at Applicant Information Events (and see my family and dog too!), making ceramics in the Pottery Club, and attending the Anthropology Students’ Association’s end of year Bzzr Garden event. All those have sadly had to be cancelled due to COVID-19. Luckily, I’m able to do the Applicant Information Event online, and connect with other club members through Facetime and Zoom.
What is your opinion of how UBC has responded to the COVID-19 crisis?
UBC is one of the only universities I’ve seen who committed to holding a postponed, in-person graduation ceremony for the class of 2020 when it is safe to do so, and allowed students to remain in residences even though the campus is effectively closed. In my opinion, these examples are essential for students’ health and safety, but also the morale of students in general.