American University MA students discuss challenges of remote learning and working from home during global pandemic.

In light of the recent news and feelings of uncertainty regarding the global coronavirus pandemic, remaining positive and supportive of one another through these difficult times feels crucial. Although American University students are not able to be on campus at this time, they are continuing their studies from their own homes or safe spaces and using online learning programs to complete the semester’s requirements. Zoom and the digital teaching program Blackboard Collaborate are being used to help facilitate courses, which can be a difficult transition for some students who are not used to these platforms, working and living in remote or international areas, and/or have little-to-no access to technology outside of the university. Yet time marches on, and the Spring semester is quickly coming to a close. Here in the Art History Program, we thought it might be helpful to know how students are persevering through these difficult times and how they are balancing schoolwork alongside the stress of current events. 

Some students are remaining positive by keeping busy with their studies and continuing deadlines, others are sticking to a meticulous daily schedule, many are using downtime to check-in with one another and sharing funny videos and content in order to keep their spirits up. First-year MA student Jessica Tackes finds that creating a task list each day keeps her stress levels low and helps to prioritize things that need to get done. She also finds that taking fun, technology-free breaks are important to boost her mood and to keep her mental and emotional health in check (ie: playing cards or exercising). Jessica also has found it crucial to create a strong support system of friends, family, and fellow peers during this time, stating, “Family and friends are really the people who help me through everything and during this pandemic, they’ve motivated me to continue doing what I know and love which is art history.” Jessica encourages others going through similar experiences to make time for themselves during these difficult times: “Treat yourself to a mental health day or dessert or that new pair of shoes you’ve had your eyes on. Find something that brings you joy and hold onto it!” First year student Lauren Viar is also keen on staying positive, and gets her mind off of the bad news by directing her focus on the good news: “I’ve been staying positive by trying to find three good news stories a day. Sometimes I find a new TED talk on a topic that I find interesting and I learn something new.” 


Workspace of MA Student Lauren Viar. 

Another first-year MA student, Meg Mackenzie, echoes the importance of staying positive and emphasizing self-care, stating,: “Be kind to yourself! Just because you’re home 24/7 doesn’t mean you have to force yourself to be productive 24/7!” Many students we interviewed revealed the importance of balancing self-care, productivity, and staying abreast of on-going information and changes. However, many students discussed the unforeseen impact of relocating their workspaces and the shift that moving back into their homes or staying sequestered in their DC apartments has had on their work. Challenges and distractions abound, and yet, AU students are making the best of things, and creating workspaces where they can be productive.


Workspace of MA Student Aly Schuman. 

Although remote learning has presented challenges, each of our professors have been immensely encouraging. Although we may all not be in a classroom, professors have done a fantastic job at facilitating business as usual, with virtual office hours, and fruitful class discussions. This transition to an online format is especially difficult for those who were finishing their studies at American University. As second-year graduate student Hannah Southern says, “The next time I return to AU’s campus I’ll no longer be a student. We won’t get to celebrate graduation together or be hooded by our faculty. It’s heartbreaking, yet it feels so insignificant compared to everything else happening in the world.” As isolation and social distancing continues, it is important to rely on one another in the AU community for support. We wish you and your family health and happiness during these stressful times!


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