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Starting University during a Pandemic: Update from 2019/2020 Co-Heads

Our 2019/2020 Co-Heads, Anna Bakowsky '20 and Matthew Fraser '20 had no idea when they began their senior year at Grammar, that the following September would look so different from what they had originally envisioned for their first year of undergraduate studies. While Matthew headed to University of Toronto for online classes, Anna remained at home in Halifax to take part in her Guelph University courses online.

Here are their perspectives on their first year of university:

"First semester amidst lockdown in Toronto meant that the usual first year experience wasn't there," says Matt. "There was no Frosh Week or Orientation, classes were completely online, and groups couldn't gather inside." He explained that even with these restrictions, the few students on campus were able to make the best of the situation as they recognized that they were all faced with the same realty and together found ways to have fun while respecting the rules.

"The biggest lesson I learned was that sometimes things are not going to be how you pictured them or how you had always hoped, but you will find ways to create memorable experiences nonetheless by being open-minded."

Anna says that her first semester of university was definitely far from what she would have expected a year ago, but parts of it were still really great. "I had an amazing Introduction to Environmental Science course where we did some small group projects and debates virtually."

As for advice for those feeling uncertain entering into their undergraduate studies for the winter semester or next fall, Matt encourages them to "be open-minded, flexible and prepared for things to be different than you had imagined, but to remember that everyone around you is in the same boat and that you will be experiencing it together." He also feels it's important to remember that even with restrictions, you will find ways to meet people, but you must not be afraid to put yourself out there and step outside of your comfort zone."

Anna echoes Matt's sentiments, noting that her most important piece of advice would be to not be too hard on yourself as adjusting to university is difficult to begin with, but even more so when everything is online, so it's important to not put yourself under too much pressure.

"Don't be afraid to reach out to others in your program. Everyone is feeling the same way and it can be helpful to have friends you can talk to about classes and participate in Zoom study sessions though."

Kudos to Matt and Anna on successfully completing their first semester of university under unusual circumstances and continuing to strive for more.

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