6 things I learned from an online semester

A Loyola student shares what she learned during her semester online due to COVID-19
Mary Auletta portrait photo

When I pictured my senior year of college, living, learning, and working remotely was the last thing I could have imagined.

I pictured my fall on campus, studying to complete my bachelor’s degree in communication and marketing. I absolutely loved the idea of finishing my final year at Loyola with the support of amazing professors, spending time with my peers, and having all my “last moments” as a student on the Evergreen campus.

Having to travel home to Yardley, Pa., early last spring due to COVID-19 was a big adjustment. Not returning this fall was a bigger issue that I knew could leave me feeling lost. But in my four years as a Loyola student, I’ve learned that feeling lost is not an option, even as I started coming to terms with what an online semester would mean for me academically and socially—and then in September, as I adjusted to virtual classes.

It has been a hard but rewarding few months that have made me fundamentally reevaluate what is truly important during times of struggle and challenge. Here are six lessons I learned from this semester.

1. It’s important to stay motivated

This has been a constant battle for me during my digital semester. I have needed to challenge myself to stay motivated and focused, especially when Zoom fatigue gets the best of me. It is so easy to feel ungrounded and to suffer from low energy, particularly when you’re not leaving your house or your workspace every day. The best thing you can do for yourself is to keep moving and create a routine. I have gone through many trials and errors to make sure I am staying self-motivated and on top of my work. It has been interesting to have the time to explore what works best for me that I sometimes do not get the chance to think about while being on campus.

2. The Career Center is always there to help

The Career Center has been a great resource this fall. Even though the pandemic has created barriers to become more involved with career preparation, the Career Center always goes out of their way to help me, even virtually. The Career Center has offered virtual drop-in hours and times to set up appointments through Handshake for Loyola Greyhounds. Staying connected has helped me figure out a clearer path on what I am prioritizing for my future career.

3. Access to education looks different for everyone

The transition from in-person learning to a virtual environment can be difficult to accept. But what I am grateful for is being able to stay connected and have access to continue my education through technology. Remembering that not everyone has access to reliable Wi-Fi—or the technological equipment or platforms that online learning requires—has made me realize how important it is to still utilize my time learning, even if it is not in the way I imagined or planned.

4. Health is a privilege

Living through a global pandemic caused great suffering to many individuals and families. An uncompromised immune system and an overall healthy well-being is something that is not granted to everyone. I have been fortunate to realize, especially right now, how lucky I am to have a strong immune system to get me through a pandemic. I must remember how my health is a privilege and that COVID-19 is affecting everyone very differently.

5. The value of meaningful relationships

Staying connected while being separated from your friends really showed me the value of my relationships, especially during quarantine. I look at my friends and family in an entirely new light now. I did not realize how important it is to support one another. Our society is faced with a challenge most of us have never experienced before. I’ve learned that no matter what, we need to be able to come together and support each other, in spite of and regardless of the situation. I feel like I depend on my family and friends more than ever now. To me, moving into a virtual environment has taught me that my relationships are a priority in my life that I never want to lose.

6. How much I miss Loyola

Being away from Loyola reaffirmed for me how much I miss being with my fellow Hounds. There is nothing like being physically on campus with my classmates and friends, being involved with and the interactions that come with extracurriculars, clubs, and campus events, and working closely with my professors to further my Jesuit education. I cannot wait to be back on campus next semester to enjoy my final moments with the hardworking and passionate staff and students of Loyola. The moment we reunite on the beautiful Evergreen campus next semester will be so special, and it gives me the extra push to finish this virtual semester strong.

As a student, Mary was involved with the Loyola Marketing Association, Public Relations Student Society of America, Irish American Club, Loyola Dance Company, and GreyComm Studios; she studied abroad in Cork, Ireland, during her junior year.