A semester like no other

Three students -- Sonali Anderson ’22, Uajda Musaku ’21 and Frank Shi ’23 -- look back over the last few months and talk about how this very difficult time changed them.

Sonali Anderson ’22, Uajda Musaku ’21 and Frank Shi ’23

Sonali Anderson ’22, Uajda Musaku ’21 and Frank Shi ’23

There’s never been a semester quite like it — classes taught by Zoom, having to wear face masks around campus, rarely leaving campus, taking a test for COVID-19 twice a week and always worrying that you or a friend might become infected. 

These are just a few of the changes students experienced this fall as they faced unprecedented challenges and tried their best to have a “normal” college experience.

BrandeisNOW asked three students to reflect on their time at Brandeis these last few months — what they learned and how it changed them. 

Uajda Musaku ’21

As a senior on the swim team, I was definitely upset that I wasn’t going to be able to interact with my team as much as I liked. Some of my best friends at Brandeis were other seniors on the swim team. I was also looking forward to providing guidance to this year’s first years. But with only 10 people allowed in the pool at a time, our interactions were limited. 

Still, being allowed to practice at all was enough to fill me with gratitude. We even held our annual senior swim meet. It was far from traditional, but it still managed to bring my time on the team to a successful end. 

If this semester has taught me anything, it’s to cherish what you have in the moment, your passions, your time and your loved ones,

Sonali Anderson ’22

I knew my role as a Community Advisor (CA) was going to change. 

Since I’d no longer be advising first years, I expected a decrease in interactions with the on-campus students that I advised and interacted with. My focus was on sophomores, juniors and seniors. 

However, the extent to which new COVID-19 related campus regulations made fostering community amongst students living on my floor even more difficult was more than I could have imagined. 

I missed people filling the halls or knocking on my door. I felt isolated. 

Fortunately, the Department of Community Living provided staff to support CAs. I count myself lucky to have had such an empathetic supervisor. He helped me redefine community in a way that was more fitting, prioritizing safety even if it meant sacrificing contact. 

Back home in Georgia, the pandemic is mostly on TV. People are aware that it exists but are not seriously being urged to protect themselves and others. Coming to Massachusetts showed me just how selfish that is. Having rules and restrictions drastically change my life impacted my view on the importance of individuals’ actions.

Frank Shi ’23

When Brandeis shut down in the spring, I had to return to my home country of China and take classes remotely.

The 12-hour time difference between China and Brandeis required that I operate in both time zones. Having never experienced anything like this before, I missed many deadlines and my grades suffered. Synchronously attending classes that are in the middle of the night in my time zone was difficult. 

Before the fall semester began, I sent out emails to all the professors of classes I wanted to take. They were often very understanding. My professors held office hours that were considerate of the time in China. This made the world of difference for Chinese international students like me.

I haven’t mastered the time difference just yet. I was still thrown by Daylight Savings increasing the difference to 13 hours. Nevertheless, I discovered that carefully managing my time and being communicative with professors was key to making this semester less chaotic than last. These habits served as some of my most useful tools for remote learning.

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