Crinkled Post-it notes, various pens, a mug, a half-finished crossword, a mask, a calculator, a framed picture, notebook paper both used and unused, headphones, a dry highlighter and even more notebook paper. All sprawled out across a Ping-Pong table, a growing art exhibit showcasing the daily life of a college freshman working remotely.
Similar scenes are seen in dorms across America this fall; or in the case of myself and many other Illinois State University students, trading dorms and dining halls for makeshift basement and bedroom campuses back home.
I was curious of how many ISU students have a similar story this semester. Of the 283 freshmen who answered my poll in the “New Redbirds 2020” Facebook group, just shy of 40% (104 students) say that they are “taking their classes online from home or elsewhere off campus.”
Do not get me wrong. I am not asking for pity, at all. Life is different right now; nothing is as expected, for people of all ages. High schoolers are losing important tests for their future, people are losing jobs, kids are losing valuable social time. But I thought I’d share my experience with the important decision this fall for college students; whether risking health and living on campus just to do online class was worth it at all.
For me, now midway through my first semester of college, I have worked from home since day one. I started at my desk in my room but moved 10 feet out the door to a ping pong table for a change of pace, and to give me a small commute when I get out of bed for class in the morning. I made the decision to stay home about a week before I was set to move in and canceled my housing contract last minute.
I can’t speak for the 103 other students I mentioned before, but from my perspective, working from home has not been that bad. I have a lot more space than a dorm room, and since I’m in my own house, a mask is rarely required. Zoom class has been successful for the most part, although I feel I can speak for many when I say group projects over Zoom are just about as difficult as anything can be.
However, there is an obvious lack of the social aspect. Living on campus presents an awkward situation for those who don’t want to risk their health or education, but also have a boosted social life after months of quarantine at home. I am not speaking negatively about anyone here; everyone makes the choice that’s best for them. However, the way I see it, many college freshmen had an extra motive for living on campus this fall because it was just a change of pace. I would be lying if I said I don’t resent that independence, but in a semester where all my classes are online, I did not see a point in risking my health or education to live in a dorm and possibly be sucked into a premature break from COVID-19, at least for the fall.
Last Sunday I traveled to campus to meet a small group of fellow Vidette sports writers for lunch and to watch football. I got there early, so I took a walk around campus and the Quad, just like I did when I went and visited ISU as a high schooler.
I know that soon enough, whether it is next semester or next year, I’ll move on campus and have a great time doing the whole “college experience” thing, writing for The Vidette, going to games, attending in-person class, meeting new people and much more. However, for the time being, I left campus to drive two hours home and do my chemistry lab exam from my cluttered Ping-Pong table — thinking to myself that maybe next time I’ll just bring my computer and do it from the Quad.