What It’s Like to Go To UWM Online During the Health Crisis

What is a routine? I don’t remember what that is…

A few weeks back, I wrote an article about what it’s like to be a UW-Milwaukee student during coronavirus right after UWM announced it would be extending spring break by a week and moving classes online indefinitely.

Since then a lot has changed. 

A few days after I wrote the article, my spring break trip with my student organization was canceled and I found myself calling my mom because I didn’t know what to do. Do I come home? And if so, how long will I be there? How long do I even pack for?

I finished up midterms that Friday, March 13 and aimlessly tried to pack for anywhere between a week to the rest of the semester, feeling like I was packing too much but also too little at the same time. I lugged all my “crap” down the three flights of stairs of my house and loaded it all into my car to make the three-hour journey home to Wausau.

I floated through the week of spring break, sleeping in, watching TV, and refusing to unpack because I didn’t know how long I would be home for. That Friday was my 21st birthday, which was spent in quarantine and undoubtedly pretty underwhelming.

That next week was our extended break, or as many of us students were unaffectionately calling it, corona break or corona-cation. Despite it still being “break,” for myself and likely many others, it was not. With professors losing a week in their syllabus many of my classes were going to be very behind if we didn’t utilize that week – either that or we would have an obscene amount of assignments that next week. I still worked from home for my internship and did assignments here and there that week, serving as a slow introduction into what my life would become.

At some point during these two weeks of break – time has really started to meld together – classes were moved online for the rest of the semester, those who lived in the dorms were asked to move out (as a junior, thankfully I was not living in them) and as for my internship, we would be working from home.

With no reason to be in Milwaukee and my parents feeling safer if I moved back home as Milwaukee’s corona cases started to climb, I was home for the long hall, doing college in the same room I used to do my high school homework in. Strange. 

At some point, my dad and I went back to Milwaukee to get more of my things before the stay at home order was issued, and I finally unpacked my things. The desk in my room I used to ignore every time I came home was cleaned off and school started.

So far, it is just the first week back and despite my slow start into this online school thing, I haven’t really established a sense of routine. Unlike some courses, none of mine make us tune in on Zoom at our specified class times (a.k.a. Zoom University, as it’s begun to jokingly be called). As an English major and a Journalism minor, it just doesn’t really make sense for my classes. Instead, my life consists of discussion posts – lots of discussion posts. However, many of my classes do provide the option of meeting with our professors via video call if we want and holding regular class time over video if we desire (let’s just say it’s not been desired).

Many of my classes like my Literary Magazine Production class and my Honors Slow Writing class also have group components. For those, how we go about that is up to us and our individual groups. Many of my classes are utilizing Microsoft Teams or the chat component of Canvas (the site all of our coursework is on), or just making the most out of email. But don’t even get me started on emails, there are so many emails.

I feel like I can speak for many students when I say that at some point during the last week or so, I’ve had to download or use quite literally all of these: Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Skype, the Canvas app, Facebook video call and personally, for my job, the app Slack.

With no regular class time held and a lack of routine, I’ve tried to get in the habit of doing my work for my classes when they would be regularly held in order to stay on top of things. However, I can’t always say that has gone as planned. When you’re sitting in the same house for hours on end just working on things, it’s easy to start going a little crazy. I try to switch up my scenery a little bit by sometimes changing where I work in the house, going from my desk to my bed to the family room, but it only does so much. 

Despite frequently going stir crazy, I have felt a lot more relaxed and oddly productive than if I were at school. With quite literally nothing else to do, why not work on my schoolwork? As a result, I’ve also felt less stressed than I would be if I was back at school because I have so much time to get things done and am being more productive overall. However, this may not be the case for all college students because many have different circumstances, whether that be taking care of younger siblings, providing care for sick family members, still having to physically go into work as essential employees, etc.

My evenings also look a lot different than they did back at school, as a result. Depending on the day, I still have homework to do. However – and this is so weird for me to say – there are days where I finish everything that’s due by the time my parents are done with work. That is a sentence I never thought I would say in college – that I finished all of my work before supper. What even is quarantined life? I don’t know how to comprehend it. On those evenings, my family tends to do one of two things: play the board game Clue or watch TV. Before all of this, I couldn’t name the last time I did either of those two things I was so busy with school and life. On Wednesday, I even realized as my family and I were cleaning up after dinner at around 7:15 p.m. that I would have just been getting out of my night class if I were still at school.

I will admit, despite the overall weirdness of online class, there are some pros to doing class at home. For one, I can wear sweatshirts and sweatpants every day, which although might have been the case already for many college students, was not for me. Let’s just say ultimate comfort has definitely been achieved. I can also do all of my work with a face mask on–you can’t do that in an in-person class. Plus, I can also eat whenever I please (And trust me, my parents have a lot more options for food. Bon appetit!). Not to mention that I get the added benefit of being able to do my classwork with a cute little dog laying next to me. No joke, in the beginning half of writing this, he was literally sleeping on my legs while I wrote. 

So how is online class going, you ask? The only word I can think of is strange.

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Allie is an Editorial Intern at Milwaukee Magazine. She is a junior at UW-Milwaukee studying Creative Writing and Journalism. You can follow her on Instagram at @alliehabck