by Swithin Thomas, Alumni Scholarship Recipient and MA student in the Department of Philosophy
At CEU this has been a semester unlike any – I suspect – that we have ever experienced before. From masked faces to two-dimensional faces, to faces with landscapes running through them (does Zoom just like the virtual background or not like my face?), we’ve seen it all. There’s no denying that there are difficulties inherent in living and studying online. But beyond that, there are ways to make the most of the strange, new circumstances we find ourselves in.
I miss being able to have discussions outside of the classroom with my peers: but, to enhance our learning experience, we adopted Perusall – an online platform which allows us to make comments on the texts and discuss what we find interesting with each other. Besides this, our professors are very welcoming; it’s easy to meet them virtually and the quality of their instruction has been a constant in an otherwise turbulent semester. A special shout out to those of them who have been working overtime to ensure that everyone is able to cope.
Then there are ways to make life just a little more wholesome. Some folks create memes, someone set up an online quote board (our professors say the most fascinating and hilarious things in the space of 100 minutes), and some do video calls just to vent. A friend suggested the idea of doing joint study sessions too (writing this is a reminder for me to take her up on the offer!).
There are also dangers to our mental and physical health that come with studying online. The isolating nature of the experience makes me grateful to be at home with family and realise the value of friendship more than ever. I also find getting up to look outdoors every 25 minutes an invaluable way to avoid headaches and eye strains. Though, if you’ve read this far, I’d really appreciate a reminder to go out every day and get some exercise. Deal?
I suppose what I’ve learned the most has been how much we need each other: we aren’t made to live alone and we aren’t disembodied minds trapped in physical bodies (sorry, Descartes). On the whole, studying online has been far better than I expected at the start of the year. There’s no hiding that it hasn’t been easy, but there’s a lot to be grateful for and a lot of blessings to count.