A young woman sits cross-legged on a bed using a laptop.

How My Sonoma State Classmates and I Are Handling Online Learning

By Maryalexis Gutierrez

Sonoma State students are known for their resilience, from dealing with the wildfires back in 2017 through 2019, water disruptions last year and, now, the coronavirus outbreak.

They have dealt with so much and still managed to persist in their education. This year, however, has been much harder for a lot of people. Many students are learning to adjust from living in dorms that give them easy access to classes, libraries and other resources on campus to moving back home and adapting to online classes. For some, the transition has not had a tremendous effect, but for others, it has been a hardship.

I had lived in Richmond my whole life up until it was time for me to move to college. I was accepted into Sonoma State and moved there in August 2018. Moving out of my home and my community and into a new house and new surroundings made me feel anxious, but I was able to adapt quickly as I was not as far from home as others might be. I also had the opportunity to come home often, so I took advantage of that and visited many times.

By the beginning of my sophomore year, I already had a firm community that accepted me, and I was living the college life blissfully. I was adjusting pretty quickly to my surroundings and actually had a home away from home; I didn’t even visit my family as often as I did before. When news about the coronavirus began to spread, I never imagined how much would change. I received an email the week before our spring break was scheduled that classes were being canceled and more information would come later. After that, the shelter-in-place order took effect and before I knew it, I was moving back home with my parents and beginning all of my classes online.

On a typical day at Sonoma State, I would wake up relatively early; I had a set routine for each day, and I knew what I had to get done. This routine helped me be productive throughout my day. Wake up, get ready, have breakfast, go to class, break for lunch, more classes, work, clubs, home, dinner, homework, and in bed by 11 p.m. I followed this routine religiously, especially this semester as I had a lot more classes and a job.

Online classes have drastically changed my routine. Everyday is different. Each night, I don’t sleep until 2 or 3 a.m, so I wake up around 11:30 a.m. and have breakfast at noon, figuring out what I need to do as I am eating. Normally, I begin by helping my mom around the house; she is a childcare provider, so I help her with the children as well.

Then, if I have classes, I go to my room, close the door and log on. I mute my computer’s microphone and turn off the video. This way I don’t run the risk of my professor or classmates hearing the children in the background or seeing one of my family members burst into my room with questions on how their technology works. I live with my parents and sister. I am older, so I have a lot of responsibilities.

With online classes, I struggle to keep myself motivated and complete assignments on time. My family constantly distracts me. Although I am happy to be home and help more to show my appreciation for what they do for me every day, it makes it hard to focus on school.

I never thought taking online classes from home would be as stressful as it is now. I am very blessed to have a loving and supportive family, even if they are one of many distractions that make it hard to focus at home.

This is true not only for me but for others as well. I asked some of my fellow Sonoma State students how their experiences have been adapting to this new change. These were their responses:

“College life has been an interesting transition. It feels like adapting to summer break with your entire family home but keeping up with a full-time school load at the same time. I miss the routine and schedule of being on campus because finding time and space to get things done has been a struggle, but I know it hasn’t been easy for the teachers either, so it is comforting knowing we are all in this together and we can all celebrate together when it is over.” -Bethany Martens (Junior)

“It has definitely been a challenge for me switching from in-person to all online classes. I find myself struggling to find the motivation to just complete schoolwork. One challenge that I have been facing is the change in environment. From being on my own at school to being back at home with family has been a distraction for me. When I am home from school, I enjoy spending time with family rather than spending that time doing homework. Another struggle I seem to face is the change in the coronavirus everyday. Dealing with the changes and the unknown has also been a factor in concentrating on classes. The coronavirus has caused the world to have a period of stillness and reflection, but when life still has to continue, it teaches you the obstacles you have to overcome.” -Kyrstan Galosic (Junior)

“Focusing at home can get difficult sometimes, but the programs I am a part of have been coming up with creative ways to support students remotely. I’ve been struggling with not having my own schedule anymore. Since I’m at home now, the time I set aside to do work is influenced by what my family may need from me first.”  -Yasmíne Flores (Junior)

“I think the biggest hurdle in transitioning to online courses is the simple fact that we will not have the opportunity to receive the same face-to-face instruction that we all paid for in our tuition. As an early childhood major, our program relies on a heavy amount of field work in schools and child care programs throughout our community; no longer having this component takes away this part from our academic experience when we no longer can observe teachers and students in our actual field of work. Personally, this transition has taken a toll on me physically, emotionally, spiritually and mentally, but I continue to find ways to ground and recenter myself whether it’s meditating, playing games or spending time with your loved ones, if you can.” -Joseph Lofton (Junior)

“The adaptation to online classes has been confusing from the start. Our professors lack the ability or understanding to secure the chats, or have cohesion amongst disruptive classmates; contrary to the ability they would have inside of the classroom to dismiss disruptive students. With the extenuating circumstances due to the coronavirus, it has been a challenge to navigate tending to our home life, while balancing our class schedules too. Mentally it has been a challenge as well; since the quarantine has limited public gatherings, there are few opportunities to alleviate our stress levels with the anxiety existing from our home setting, and lack of ability for independence.” -Ryan Norton (Junior)

“Being at home while others are constantly walking around and talking in the house is the main distraction. It’s been tough, many distractions, and it’s mentally challenging, but being consistent is key.” -Jacob Glaser (Senior)

“For some, going back home is a privilege due to warm welcoming families, but for myself it’s complicated. Sonoma State University is my home, and I felt overall safer there emotionally rather than being ‘home.’ So, yes, I left home for a better future. I got set back, but I know I will be back soon. At school I would take care of my friends when [they were] drunk, and at home … I take care of my mother. Online school with not much space is rough, but I know God will get me through it.” -Anonymous (Freshman)

For many, the change has been emotionally, mentally and spiritually difficult, and for some, even physically hard to push through. Some have had the advantage of being welcomed back home, but others have not found it as satisfying, as school was a safe place to escape from difficulties at home. The students that responded are hardworking, committed and resilient individuals that have constantly and consistently demonstrated their dedication to their education despite confusing and distressing circumstances.

As someone who grew up in Richmond, change is constant. I have managed to learn a lot from my community to adapt as change comes. Although some change is unwanted, sometimes it is needed and it can be good to change. While the coronavirus outbreak has caused a wave of frustration, stress and sadness, we can support each other in becoming resilient and coping with the unwanted anxiety set upon us. In togetherness, we are powerful and can recover quickly from this confusing time.

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