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Zoom University: Starting College During a Pandemic

When I was accepted to Pepperdine in December 2019, a colorful picture immediately filled my mind: sunny days studying by the sea, late night chats with my roommate, studying abroad in a new and exciting place sophomore year . . . you get the gist. As senior year of high school began to wind down, I increasingly focused on the future, so excited for all the wonderful opportunities Pepperdine would offer. I bought a Pepperdine sweater, my room began to fill with dorm accessories from shower caddies to accent pillows, and the days blurred past.

Navigating the Unknown

Then the pandemic hit. As COVID-19 swept through the world, nervous excitement morphed into anxiety and sadness. Everything in the future was one giant question mark, and it only worsened as the pandemic moved through the spring and early summer. My senior year moved online, and I walked across the graduation stage in a mask with my family watching from the car. Needless to say, it was not the end that I expected. Despite the lingering effects of the pandemic, I still hoped that I would be able to start over in college. However, Pepperdine was forced to move online for the fall semester. 

I was terrified to begin my college education in front of a screen. It magnified the already daunting challenges of adjusting to college. I worried about making friends, connecting with the Pepperdine community, and getting through my classes. And at first, it was really difficult. But as I became familiar with my professors and classmates, I realized that most of my fears were unnecessary. Here was my number one takeaway: everyone was going through the same exact thing.

Screenshot of students on a Zoom call

Becoming Proactive 

It now sounds simple, obvious. But taking the initiative to make friends with my classmates was the best thing I could have done. They understood better than anyone the challenges of our unique college experience. This realization prompted me to reach out to the community that was mine to become a part of. I direct-messaged people from my classes, texted my suitemates, got to know my roommate. Even though it was through a screen, the people I met were authentic, funny, and kind. My roommate became my best friend just through FaceTime.

If you are reading this and you are wondering if you should reach out to another Pepperdines tudent, I’m encouraging you to do so. Get past the fear. Whoever you choose to connect with will appreciate it, even if they don’t explicitly say so. And if you don’t click, try again with someone else. Even if they’re not traditional, meaningful relationships can still be formed online. If that feels like too much, start slowly. Attend board events, join a club. Go to your professor’s office hours. I’ve done all these things, and I was always glad I did. Even online, the Pepperdine community is still something remarkable, and it welcomes everyone with open arms.

Tips for Navigating Remote Learning:

After 11 weeks of being an online college student, I’ve picked up some key tips I wish I knew when I started:

1. Keep Your Camera On

Keeping your camera on will help keep yourself accountable to pay attention, and it will foster a more engaged classroom environment for everyone.

2. Use Your Breaks Wisely

Making the most of your breaks is super important, especially if you have a lot of classes back to back. Use those five or ten minutes to stretch, walk in your backyard, have a little dance party. As tempting as it is to reach for your phone, your classes already provide you with enough screen time. Your eyes will thank me!

3. Go to Office Hours

Take advantage of your professors’ office hours. They’re eager to help! Also, going to office hours helps foster a relationship with them, especially given the challenges connecting online presents.

4. Use Your Resources

Even though classes are online, an abundance of resources are at your fingertips: Email a librarian for help on your research paper. Consult with someone from the writing center about the language in an essay. Meet with an advisor to talk about classes. Pepperdine strives to maintain its amazing personal services, even online.

5. Take a Deep Breath

If you are feeling overwhelmed, pause for a second. You might make a to-do list to help organize your thoughts. Take some calming breaths, and remember that these little crises will be part of the past soon. Online classes are challenging, but you’ve got this!

Lastly, remember the Pepperdine community is there for you. Through the highs and lows of online classes, that commitment to you remains the same. I cannot wait to experience this wonderful community when we return to campus. Until then, Malibu is waiting!