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What does a typical day actually look like for U-M students in 2020? In this post, I’ll take you through a day in my life living and taking classes on campus.
Almost exactly two years ago to today, I wrote a post called “A typical day in the life of a U-M ;Student” where I took readers through a day in my life as a then-first-year student at U-M.
Not surprisingly, a lot has changed since then. Besides the obvious fact that most classes are remote, the underclassman experience – particularly as a first-year student – is drastically different than being a junior or senior.
For prospective students who are interested in what remote college really looks like, or for anyone who loves to hear about other people's routines like I do, here is a glimpse at my life attending U-M during a pandemic.
One of the few things that have not changed in my routine is how protective I am over my sleep. I still wake up early-ish and try to go to bed before midnight. I’m not as strict about getting up right at 7 a.m. as I was my first year at U-M, and will sleep through alarms now and then, but in general, I’m ready to start my day by 8 a.m. every morning.
One thing that has changed is how I schedule my classes. I have had at least one 9 a.m. class every semester in both my first and sophomore years. Even though I’m a morning person, I’m not a morning class person. Going into my junior year, I made sure all of my classes were scheduled no earlier than 10 a.m.(11:30 a.m. ideally). People will tell you this all the time but it’s true: an 8 a.m. or 9 a.m. class in college feels so different from a 8 a.m. class in high school.
Up until I have my first class at 10 a.m. or 11:30 a.m., I usually either spend my morning finishing up any last-minute assignments or I’ll get a quick workout in. Before the gym closed, I would go to the CCRB (which has been spaced out for social distancing) at 8 a.m. when it opens. Now that the gym is no longer open to undergraduates due to the Stay at Home order, I’ve opted for at-home workouts in my apartment (or if I’m up for the walk, I’ll go to the track outside the IMSB).
At some point, I’ll also make breakfast. Recently, I’ve been a big fan of French press coffee – it takes a little more effort than using a drip coffee maker or Keurig, but it helps me slow down in the morning instead of just getting straight to work.
Eventually I do have class. Obviously, “going” to class this semester isn’t the same. Up until the County Stay at Home Order, my one hybrid class (a Spanish theater workshop) would meet outside once a week at 10 a.m. and we would act out scenes from the play of the week (spaced apart of course). But now that all my classes are online, I usually rotate between taking my classes in my apartment or going to one of the open study spaces on campus (right now, Ross or the Math Atrium in East Hall have been my go-to spots).
One plus about classes being online is that I don’t need to walk anywhere so I can use the 10-minute passing period in between classes to eat or go on my phone. Since I have back-to-back classes pretty much everyday, having 10 extra minutes for food or phone breaks makes this a little more bearable.
Still, sitting through three classes in the same spot and looking at the same screen can be exhausting in its own way. Within the Organizational Studies (OS) program, my professors have been very understanding about Zoom fatigue and working with us to make class more engaging. For instance, during some parts of lecture, one of my OS professors gives us the option to turn off our camera or look away from our screen and just listen as though we are listening to a podcast or story. Other professors have been using breakout sessions as a tool to keep us engaged with other students in the class. Outside of classes, most professors have also made themselves available through appointment-based office hours through Zoom. This took some adjustment, but I have personally come to prefer it as opposed to randomly dropping in and having to wait your turn to ask questions.
On my end, I’ve been attempting to combat Zoom fatigue by stepping away from my laptop (and ideally, phone) before and after classes to stretch, listen to some music, or have a snack, all of which has helped break up the monotony of video calls.
On days when I’m not as booked with classes, I usually am in some sort of call for work at the Program on Intergroup Relations. Even though having additional video calls on top of remote classes can accumulate into a whole lot of Zoom, I can’t say I don’t mind not having to make the walk to the IGR office on S. University.
To be honest, I couldn’t tell you exactly what I do after 4 p.m. It changes a lot day-to-day, but if I had to make generalizations I would say I usually spend this time finishing assignments (read: stop procrastinating) or hop on more video calls for group projects, club meetings, or recruitment/professional development events that come up. The latter event is probably the biggest difference between being a first-year student versus being an upperclassman. Back when I first arrived at U-M, my biggest worry was managing all my classes. Now my main focus is trying to get a job (this could be a whole post on its own).
Some time in between, I’ll take a longer-ish break where I eat dinner or get take-out with friends. The other week my roommates and I decided to have a “Taco Tuesday” (we initially planned to follow a recipe but decided to not test our cooking skills and ordered in at the last minute). Even though in a normal semester we would probably go out, eating take-out from Tios while Netflixing a Bollywood film is the kind of crossover I never would have planned but will gladly embrace.
My brain usually shuts off around 10 p.m. so I try to put away my work around then, shower, and pack up my backpack for the next day. I’ve been trying to find ways to not be on my phone before I sleep like listening to a podcast (I usually opt for the BBC’s In Our Time or pretty much any fitness podcast) but other days I end up scrolling through my phone until I go to bed.
I ended my previous first day in my life post with the words, “No matter what you may pursue, I can guarantee that you will never have a boring day in Ann Arbor.” And while I still believe this holds true, I’ll admit that it’s not an easy adjustment to go from being in a college environment where you don’t need to try very hard to fill up your day to having to figure out how to recreate the old ways you used to spend your time. Especially in a time when most activities have shifted to remote formats and during which in-person activities require extra precautions, you have to have a certain level of initiative to make sure you’re doing things to stay engaged beyond attending classes. I’ll risk sounding cheesy for the sake of providing this small consolation – everyone is experiencing remote classes differently, but we’re all experiencing something different together.
Maryam Masood is a junior in the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts majoring in Organizational Studies with a minor in Spanish. During the year, she keeps busy as a student employee for CommonGround and Treasurer for the Michigan Refugee Assistance Program. Outside of class and work, she enjoys to travel, procrastinating at the CCRB, and is most likely watching Kim's Convenience or Criminal Minds on Netflix.