As a senior civil engineering student approaching the fall semester, I am trying wildly to prepare for the challenges that lie ahead. Students are facing unprecedented change this semester in nearly every aspect of our lives. We have to learn how to study in a completely different environment, while battling the weight of an ongoing global pandemic.
Personally, I will continue to live in off-campus housing, due to the lack of stable internet connection at my parent’s home. I serve as a researcher for several professors in the civil engineering department at Ohio University, and my research will continue into the school year. I have grown accustomed to meetings over Microsoft Teams, wearing a mask for hours while working in the lab, and keeping space between myself and my boss and coworker. I still have to remind myself to set down tools and not hand them off, and doing any sort of demonstration has proven even more difficult than expected.
I have prepped my work space to the best of my ability. I have a desktop computer and double monitors with all the engineering programs I could possibly need downloaded. However, I still have concerns. I convinced myself by now that I would have this “working from home” situation down. I thought that I would be productive during the day and regulate my sleeping schedule, but I find that my work days turn into nights and the stress of my courses bleed into everything I do. I have trouble separating productivity from relaxation time.
My classes have gone fully online for at least the first month. This brings up my next point: online classes are not a replacement for in-person engagement, at least not for me. I am someone who has never skipped a lecture, because they are way too valuable to me. When classes are online, I feel that it becomes easy to miss material or fall behind. When you are taking 4-to-6 classes from the location of your bed, desk chair, couch or kitchen table, it can be too easy to miss a notification.
I also find myself – living in a small rural town in the foothills of Appalachia – worried about the state of our university and our town. It is a struggling area, with poor healthcare and hospital infrastructure. We had a local COVID-19 outbreak about a month ago, causing everyone to panic. When students come back to live in their apartments next week, there will likely be another one. I can only hope that my fellow classmates choose to act responsibly.
Liz Myers is a senior civil engineering undergrad at Ohio University focused on water/environmental engineering. She is a national ASCE student ambassador, president of her student chapter, and captain of her environmental competition team. She has worked as a researcher in her department for 3 years on several different projects.
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