Magazine Student Voice

Gratitude and Adaptability

Lessons from remote learning during the COVID-19 pandemic

By Rachel Shellstrom

Spring 2021

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues and I attend my college classes online, each day of the semester feels the same. Typically, my alarm goes off at seven o’clock in the morning. A few minutes later, I start up my laptop, which waits on the desk beside my bed. Out my window is a view of the beautiful University of San Diego campus, where I once hurried from class to class. When the pandemic began, I moved home with my mom, but the situation proved too distracting for my studies. Because of this, a roommate and I ended up renting a one-bedroom apartment close to campus. She sleeps in the living room, and each morning I text to ask her to let me know when she’s up so I can make coffee. I respond to emails and finish any reading for the day’s classes as I wait for her reply. After getting the OK, I make coffee and spread cream cheese on a bagel. Then, leaving on my comfy pajama bottoms, I change into a top that looks good from the chest up so that I’m “Zoom ready.” From this point on, my day consists of classes, meetings, and virtual events on Zoom, after which I work on my assignments and class readings.

With each day of this routine, my motivation decreases and the pain in my eyes increases. Some professors are empathetic, but many act as if we students were still on campus in a healthy learning environment. If only they understood that we are fighting ourselves, trying to be as driven as we once were while battling to stay positive.

For instance, several of my friends have had to return home to help save their family’s business. Others have to attend Zoom classes while on the clock at a job they’re working to afford tuition for a private university. While I’m fortunate to be living in the same time zone as my university, many of my friends who returned to their families on the East Coast are keeping late hours so they don’t lose class attendance points. One friend returned home to Indonesia. She tells me that she’s been living like an owl, sleeping most of the day and attending college remotely at night. She’s been missing out on family functions and feels disconnected from the world around her.

We are fighting ourselves, trying to be as driven as we once were while battling to stay positive.

While it’s easy to be pessimistic, I’ve realized how important it is to prioritize mental health, especially after staring at a computer all day. My eight-month-old puppy, Gracie, has been my biggest lifesaver. She brings me comfort when social distancing becomes lonely, and her constant begging for walks ensures I get fresh air. All remote learners should spend time outside every day. Social distancing from each other has been key to slowing the spread of COVID-19, but we should make a daily effort to also distance from technology.

Life during the pandemic has encouraged many people to be more appreciative of the little things, like having a desk to work at, a bed to sleep in, and WiFi to connect to. I hope we remember these lessons of appreciation and adaptability and apply them in our lives after the pandemic. For me, the pandemic has demonstrated how my communications studies can translate into a meaningful profession. I am now more interested in pursuing a career in either school counseling or higher education. I want to work toward improving the lives of high school or college students as I connect them to vital resources and let them know that they are not alone as they navigate the world around them.

Photo courtesy Rachel Shellstrom


  • Rachel Shellstrom

    Rachel Shellstrom is a rising senior at the University of San Diego.