Opinion | Reflecting on a year in Zoom University

By Dalia Maeroff, Senior Staff Columnist

We are all hoping for an in-person semester in the fall, but I want to acknowledge the bittersweet ending of our year at Zoom University. We all know what we won’t miss about it, and what we are looking forward to when we get back, but what about the things we will miss and the things we aren’t looking forward to?

Here are the top five things I am not looking forward to about going back:

  1. Wearing real clothes 

Impractical fashion will be back post-pandemic. Don’t get me wrong, I love my heels, tight jeans without pockets and button-down shirts, but I really have grown to love the “sweatpants, crewneck sweatshirt and my comfiest pair of hiking boots” look. It has been a year since I last wore heels. I cannot believe that I actually wore heels all the time. I have way too many pairs. Who needs this many pairs of shoes? Apparently, I did a year ago. Do I even remember how to walk in these? Probably not. If you see a girl on the ground in heels with a green backpack around the start of the fall semester, it’s probably me. Come say hi.

  1. The amount of time lost to the commute

I am a commuter student. Born and raised in Pittsburgh, I chose to stay in my Squirrel Hill home with my parents and 17-year-old brother. I don’t mind, I really do love my family and home-cooked food, but one of the massive downsides is the morning commute. The commute can take over an hour during rush hour, which in Pittsburgh is way longer than it should be, and I need to be up two hours before my class starts to get to campus on time.

Don’t get me wrong, sitting on a bus and listening to music is much less exhausting than walking 6 miles to Oakland and back like I have been for most weekends of the pandemic. I can actually walk 3 miles to campus through Schenley Park in around the same amount of time the Port Authority bus takes to get from the bus stop at the end of my street to the William Pitt Union bus stop on Fifth Avenue. My commute, including waiting for the bus, usually took around two to three hours a day, depending on traffic. That will now be two to three hours less I have to do something else.

  1. Getting home so late and leaving the house so early. 

In pre-pandemic times, I used to get home around 11:30 p.m. or midnight every night. Now, I go to bed at about that time. I used to leave my house two hours before my first class, which would have been 7 a.m. this semester. I now sleep in until about 15 minutes before class or I don’t set an alarm at all. Alarms stress me out and mine makes bird noises, which should be the opposite of stressful. You see how this can be a problem.

  1. The amount of money I will spend eating out on campus even though the food really isn’t as good as what I make at home

I used to eat out about four times a week, and buy coffee or tea three times a week. I don’t even go anywhere expensive — I actually have a $10 rule where I refuse to pay more than $10 for a meal to-go. I almost always packed food to go to campus, but some mornings I got lazy, or I made plans to go out to eat with someone, or I just underestimated how hungry I was going to be throughout the day. Walking around all day with my backpack is exhausting and I love eating snacks. Plus, when it gets to about dinner time and you walk by a restaurant that just smells amazing, sometimes it’s too good to resist. With my $10 rule for food in play and including my summer semester in 2020, I saved around $1800 by not eating out alone in the last year. I do not have the energy to calculate how much it would be with my three-time weekly beverages — math is hard, and I am scared of the number.

  1. Going places when the weather is bad

I haven’t left my house to go somewhere unwillingly in bad weather in over a year. When it’s gross outside, I just stay inside and really strive towards hygge that would make the Dutch proud. I’ve touched an umbrella maybe once in the last year. I also haven’t had to carry around a wet, half-folded umbrella to carefully put next to my seat on the floor in class. I mean, that is also partly due to the fact that I left my Vincent van Gogh umbrella in my postmodern literature classroom right before spring break last year, went back 10 minutes later to get it, and it was gone. Whoever took my umbrella, please give it back in time for the fall semester. I miss my umbrella.

Here are the top five things I will miss about Zoom classes:

  1. Sitting in dumb places/positions and doing class

I can do class from wherever I want. If I was one of those people who didn’t care about COVID-19, I could do class from Miami if I wanted to. But I’m just excited about being able to sit on the front porch or my backyard when it’s nice out and bask in the sun like a lizard. Doing class in a hammock is fun. Why does no one ever have class outside? That should be a thing. I also don’t sit in ways that are acceptable in a professional academic setting anymore. Seriously, after this year, I am incapable of sitting in a chair without my feet up on something. I can’t do that in G24 of Cathy.

  1. The amount of free time I have/multitasking is so much easier at home

Aside from the amount of free time I now have where my commute used to be, it is amazing how many things you can get done during a Zoom class. The best part about Zoom classes is that they’re either like a podcast or like a casual conversation between friends, meaning I am more than welcome to fold laundry, clean my room, carve a new printing block, sketch for a bit, or make a new pair of earrings while still participating in class and listening to what’s happening. 

  1. My desk/workspace 

I never really appreciated my desk until Zoom University. Over the last year, I have crafted the perfect little workspace in the corner of my bedroom. I have dried bouquets of flowers hanging from my window, so the whole room consistently smells like flowers, and I’ve built up my collection of books and plants on the shelves next to them to be quite formidable. I have speakers, and I blast music while I work. And it’s in front of a window! I can open that window for fresh air if I want to! I can listen to the birds all day, and watch the various deer, groundhogs, cats, squirrels and avian species that cross through my backyard. As much as I love the ground floor of Hillman, it’s dark and there aren’t any windows with a nice view. And no, I can’t just go sit on the fourth floor, it’s too quiet and it freaks me out. You can’t even eat up there without someone glaring at you.

  1. The Zoom Chat

The Zoom chat is a whole other world that I never knew existed, and I’m not sure how ready I am to let it go. It’s a whole separate level of the classroom, kind of like passing notes. It’s both helpful and hilarious. Just the fact that I can privately message someone to ask them a question, or the fact that people just put funny quips and comments in the chat during class makes everything so much more enjoyable. I had a forensic anthropology TA tell us through the Zoom chat about the first time he went to Bulgaria on a dig and how it took him forever to get his check at a restaurant because nodding and shaking your head for “yes” and “no” are switched there. We just don’t get that kind of quality content from in-person classes.

  1. The time I get to spend with my family

For the first time in years, we have some semblance of Shabbat on Friday nights. While we aren’t religious, the entire point of Shabbat anyways is not to work and to spend time with family. I spend almost every evening with my family now, binge-watching shows — we’re currently working through “Handmaid’s Tale,” there’s a new season out at the end of the month — and just spending time in each other’s company. Accepting that the start of the fall semester will be the end of that is heartbreaking.

Dalia Maeroff writes primarily about issues of psychology, education, culture and environmentalism. Write to her at [email protected].

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