By Shayna Herszage
When most people begin their time in college, they think of going to classes, getting involved in student life, and social interactions on and off-campus. They seldom find themselves factoring quarantine and social isolation into their college careers. However, this is exactly where the Yeshiva University community and the wider international student community have found themselves in, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. What began as a typical spring semester at Yeshiva University quickly descended into online classes, an empty campus, and the cancellation of dozens of in-person events. Students are learning to adapt to a life that revolves around video communication through Zoom.
This sudden shift from in-person classes to online classes has been a significant shift from the norm. In some cases, it has proven to have a positive effect on students. “Some of my classes I’ve been doing better in because of it being online. Mostly this has been in instances where the teacher has been using zoom and canvas effectively,” said Adina Bruce, SCW ‘21. While she acknowledged obstacles such as technical difficulties, Bruce said, “I really appreciate the teachers who have worked hard to be supportive, whether by being more understanding about workload or checking in with people at the beginning of class.”
On the other hand, academic life through Zoom is not perfect. Many students express distress that professors seem to show less regard for the students, assigning more work than usual, and continuing class after the designated ending time. “We may be at home now, but we aren’t idle,” an anonymous Stern College for Women student expressed. “We have other classes and assignments. And while we don’t need to walk to our next classroom, we need to take a break, at least for a few minutes. I need a snack. I need to look away from my screen. I need to stretch my legs. Some of my professors teach up until the beginning of the next class, and I have no chance to clear my mind. This is a stressful time, and I would appreciate it if my professors understood that.”
Luckily, the energy of college life is still very much present, even if the students are home and the classrooms are empty. One initiative has been a WhatsApp group, started by the student councils, entitled “Wherever YU Are.” In this WhatsApp group, events are announced such as movie viewings, games, and speakers. “Student events are a huge part of the YU experience. In the same way that learning is still happening, events are happening too. Does it look a little different than we’re used to? Sure. But the content is the same,” shared Miriam Schloss, the president of SYMSSC.
One of the events which took place through Zoom was a reading of Legally Blonde, which was produced through SCDS. “It was a nice change from online class, and it was wonderful to see people I haven’t seen in a while,” said Zippy Spanjer, SCW ‘21, who was a member of the cast. However, the Zoom format was not perfect, as Spanjer added, “As far as event quality, there were the typical Zoom issues, like people talking over each other, people being muted when they were supposed to be speaking, and background noise from people who should have been muted.” Nevertheless, the initiatives of the university and the students have helped isolated college students feel more connected to one another.
In an era of social isolation, Zoom, while not perfect, provides a form of connection that comforts many people during a stressful time. Matthew Silkin,YC ‘20, said, “It’s good to see people’s faces, even when I can’t physically be in the room together with them.”