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Markkula Center for Applied Ethics

One Student's Perspective on Life During a Pandemic

person sitting at table with open laptop, notebook and pen

person sitting at table with open laptop, notebook and pen

Tiana Nguyen
Avel Chuklanov/Unsplash

Tiana Nguyen ‘21 is a Hackworth Fellow at the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics. She is majoring in Computer Science, and is the vice president of Santa Clara University’s Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) chapter.

The world has slowed down, but stress has begun to ramp up.

In the beginning of quarantine, as the world slowed down, I could finally take some time to relax, watch some shows, learn to be a better cook and baker, and be more active in my extracurriculars. I have a lot of things to be thankful for. I especially appreciate that I’m able to live in a comfortable house and have gotten the opportunity to spend more time with my family. This has actually been the first time in years in which we’re all able to even eat meals together every single day. Even when my brother and I were young, my parents would be at work and sometimes come home late, so we didn’t always eat meals together. In the beginning of the quarantine I remember my family talking about how nice it was to finally have meals together, and my brother joking, “it only took a pandemic to bring us all together,” which I laughed about at the time (but it’s the truth).

Soon enough, we’ll all be back to going to different places and we’ll be separated once again. So I’m thankful for my living situation right now. As for my friends, even though we’re apart, I do still feel like I can be in touch with them through video chat—maybe sometimes even more in touch than before. I think a lot of people just have a little more time for others right now.

Although there are still a lot of things to be thankful for, stress has slowly taken over, and work has been overwhelming. I’ve always been a person who usually enjoys going to classes, taking on more work than I have to, and being active in general. But lately I’ve felt swamped with the amount of work given, to the point that my days have blurred into online assignments, Zoom classes, and countless meetings, with a touch of baking sweets and aimless searching on Youtube.

The pass/no pass option for classes continues to stare at me, but I look past it every time to use this quarter as an opportunity to boost my grades. I've tried to make sense of this type of overwhelming feeling that I’ve never really felt before. Is it because I’m working harder and putting in more effort into my schoolwork with all the spare time I now have? Is it because I’m not having as much interaction with other people as I do at school? Or is it because my classes this quarter are just supposed to be this much harder? I honestly don’t know; it might not even be any of those. What I do know though, is that I have to continue work and push through this feeling.

This quarter I have two synchronous and two asynchronous classes, which each have pros and cons. Originally, I thought I wanted all my classes to be synchronous, since that everyday interaction with my professor and classmates is valuable to me. However, as I experienced these asynchronous classes, I’ve realized that it can be nice to watch a lecture on my own time because it even allows me to pause the video to give me extra time for taking notes. This has made me pay more attention during lectures and take note of small details that I might have missed otherwise. Furthermore, I do realize that synchronous classes can also be a burden for those abroad who have to wake up in the middle of the night just to attend a class. I feel that it’s especially unfortunate when professors want students to attend but don’t make attendance mandatory for this reason; I find that most abroad students attend anyway, driven by the worry they’ll be missing out on something.

I do still find synchronous classes amazing though, especially for discussion-based courses. I feel in touch with other students from my classes whom I wouldn’t otherwise talk to or regularly reach out to. Since Santa Clara University is a small school, it is especially easy to interact with one another during classes on Zoom, and I even sometimes find it less intimidating to participate during class through Zoom than in person. I’m honestly not the type to participate in class, but this quarter I found myself participating in some classes more than usual. The breakout rooms also create more interaction, since we’re assigned to random classmates, instead of whomever we’re sitting closest to in an in-person class—though I admit breakout rooms can sometimes be awkward.

Something that I find beneficial in both synchronous and asynchronous classes is that professors post a lecture recording that I can always refer to whenever I want. I found this especially helpful when I studied for my midterms this quarter; it’s nice to have a recording to look back upon in case I missed something during a lecture.

Overall, life during these times is substantially different from anything most of us have ever experienced, and at times it can be extremely overwhelming and stressful—especially in terms of school for me. Online classes don’t provide the same environment and interactions as in-person classes and are by far not as enjoyable. But at the end of the day, I know that in every circumstance there is always something to be thankful for, and I’m appreciative for my situation right now. While the world has slowed down and my stress has ramped up, I’m slowly beginning to adjust to it.


Jun 10, 2020