The coronavirus pandemic affected every sphere of our life. This included academic calendars that were moved ahead by several months. Eventually, students all over the country had to switch to online classes including students of Delhi University. The current student body has consistently criticized the online medium. However, the experiences of freshers who started their college life amidst these circumstances haven’t been talked about.
Admissions to the university were delayed, and hence classes began for the fresh batch in November which coincidentally marks the end of the teaching period in the university’s calendar. Hence, a calendar was designed for the first years. All of this seemed to allow smooth functioning for the new batch but was the experience really the same?
If you are in your second or third year, then you would definitely remember this day –
The day we rushed to get admissions and were made to stand in long queues. The day we walked through the gate. The day we met our seniors to the first walk around the campus. The anxiety and struggle we felt in making friends and that first friend. From auditions to discovering the best food from the canteen’s menu. Then finally, the day you realized that it wasn’t just college now, but home.
The online experience has definitely not been the same for freshers. There has been much talk about this already by seniors. Now let’s look at it through the screen of those who are doing it.
Ques) How was your experience with starting college through online classes?
A student pursuing History Honours from Miranda House said, “It is not what I expected and it hasn’t been the most joyful ride I would say. Starting as a fresher through online means was disappointing because I didn’t get to visit my beautiful campus and get that college life feeling that one gets. Secondly, the medium has been hard in making connections because one can build a different persona. Some might not feel comfortable texting. It hasn’t been an integrative experience as we can decide who to talk to, when to talk to and if not to talk to. So I can say it has been a very isolating and selfish experience but in a very limited way.”
She then added, “Societies have not been working properly. One can’t show their entire capabilities in a form. We waste 15-20 mins in every lecture because of connectivity issues. The classes haven’t been interactive too.”
Ques) What are the difficulties freshers are facing in this medium?
Jesus and Mary College student pursuing B. Com Hons. said, “In online classes, sometimes, I am not able to follow what the teacher says because of weak internet connection. Classes extend from morning till afternoon. There’s no interaction between students which leads to lack of motivation.”
There have been similar issues regarding the lack of social interaction. Relationships are indeed harder to form online. Screen time and interaction through screens is a daily struggle for the new kids.
Ques) Do you think societies are working with the same enthusiasm as they would have provided classes were offline?
Kashish Shivani pursuing BA Programme from Gargi College said, “We did not have any special orientation except for two societies. The creative writing society organized a Q&A on Instagram. But the Street play society ensured the best experience. As I logged in, I saw some people dancing with cool songs playing in the background. The energy was infectious. All of us danced for 15 minutes and it was my first interaction with seniors. They even brought our alumni and sang the best songs composed by our society. This was really an ice-breaking session and I never felt like I was dancing with people I don’t know!”
She also added; “Non-performing societies are working in their same spirit. Placement cell is very active and other societies are having regular meetings. The largely affected are performing societies, who have to train their freshers for almost 4-5 hours through constant workshops. But still, the aura of being in a DU society is hugely missing.”
A glimpse of DU societies:
Ques) How are you coping with the classes and planning your work?
A Political Science student from Lady Shri Ram College for Women shared, “Coping with classes has been interesting. The entire experience has been very mixed. It really depends on the professor. Some professors who explained to us basic things like the use of the binders also were the same who uploaded material on Google Classroom. They also went out of their way to answer our questions. Even some of the seniors guided us. The switch from 12th grade to the first year was very difficult but made easier only thanks to our seniors and professors!”
She added, ” I try to follow what is happening in the classes as much as I can. It’s not easy to maintain motivation, but I try to read some material in advance. I am trying to work on an efficient way to deal with the material that we have.”
Ques) What do you think can be done differently to help freshers?
Rachita from the English department of Dyal Singh College expressed, “We need to initiate meaningful discussions. It’s time that freshers felt more connected. There needs to be an increase in student engagement in classes because students are actually sleeping through the classes. Interesting discussions and active attendance is something I think will work.”
Being completely new to the college experience, it is natural for the students to feel lost. They might have many questions and doubts but they are limited because of screens. In this case, it becomes the responsibility of the department unions and seniors to make friends online interactions. Peer support groups have been created in Lady Shri Ram College for Women. Other such mechanisms can create a friendly atmosphere. Societies should also conduct interactive orientations. Film screening and slam poetry are some events that can be organized.
So today I give you a task. Reach out to a fresher and talk to them! Isn’t it something you would have enjoyed doing the day you became their senior?