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The New Normal for a Computer Science Student

By: Susmi Benny

You would think having to work from home would be a blessing in disguise. No more distractions from friends asking if I want to try out the new café in town or having to make sure I’m ready 30 minutes early so I’m not late to my lecture…again! But it’s been more than just joining Zoom calls with my dressing gown on and having an excuse not to go to the gym.

Being a computer science student means the move to online learning wasn’t really a struggle. My course recently changed so that it is completely coursework-based, so I didn’t worry about whether I’ll still have an exam. I just needed to make sure I had a “work environment” set up at home and good Wi-Fi. Both of these I managed…to an extent. Let’s just say I made a few hasty purchases out of frustration. Online sales are definitely hard to resist!

My two weekly lectures were now Zoom calls, with my lecturer sharing their screen. Gone are the days where I would stare at the people in the lecture hall playing games on their laptops or whispering with my friend about what we’re going to do after this. It was just me, my notebook and pen, and my laptop.

It wasn’t all that different from the “real” thing just a lot quieter. It was interesting to see what my lecturer was going to do to keep me and 100 other students engaged. We had days where we would write our ideas on an online whiteboard. Those were the best lectures!

I felt the support from the University and my course was great given the circumstances. My lecturers always tried to finish 15 minutes early so we could ask any questions, and we were offered the option to go to a lab in person or attend it online. Most people, including me, chose to do it online. But I do miss seeing other people struggle with the same problem as me!

The lab session was mainly for completing a series of exercises that they gave us to do based on our lecture. If we ever struggled with an exercise during an online lab session, we could ask the person leading the lab to help us in a Zoom breakout room. Breakout rooms are just another session within the Zoom call where it would be me and the lab lead.

I found the hardest part was socialising and keeping myself healthy. Living at home, I knew had a supportive family, but I missed going shopping with my friends. At the start, it was so easy to just focus on studying and then go on YouTube when I’m bored. But this didn’t help my mental wellbeing at all.

One too many deep conversations later, and me and my friends play games and chat on a Zoom call each Saturday evening. The student union has done a few cool activities like quiz nights and online yoga sessions. I’ve found out I’m pretty bad at pub quizzes but like yoga!

2020 has definitely been a year of realisations. I’ve probably had to be more proactive than I ever thought possible, i.e. make sure I leave my phone downstairs! There’s still a long way to go before things properly return to normal, but it’s been an experience I’ve definitely learned a few things from. Plus, I’ve managed to start meditating which would have definitely been left to 2025.

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