Adapting to a virtual semester

How my experience shaped my outlook beyond Loyola

In the final weeks of August, as it set in that I would be learning online for the fall semester of my junior year, I thought about how much I would miss being on Loyola’s campus for a whole semester. I wondered what a virtual semester would be like.

As a communication major with specializations in advertising/public relations and journalism and minors in Peace and Justice Studies and American Studies, most of my classes were communications and were able to seamlessly transition to an online format because of the flexibility that communication classes provide. In addition to my communication classes, my core classes were also able to transition to an online format.

There is something for everyone here—even as we navigate this new normal. Loyola is such an incredible place to live and learn, and I’m incredibly grateful that I get to call Loyola my home away from home.

All my professors were engaging despite the unprecedented challenge of having to teach online. They altered the course content and structure of the class so that it was easier for students to learn the material online. My professors also allowed my classmates and me to work on a more flexible schedule, which was highly appreciated because it showed they understood family obligations, jobs, and that many of us were sharing spaces and responsibilities with the people we live with.

My experience studying communication has allowed me to gain knowledge in the classroom while learning from professors who have had real-world experiences and are sharing their expertise with their students. This semester, my Case Studies in PR class with Veronica Gunnerson, lecturer in public relations, has been extremely helpful and interesting because we examined a variety of public relation crises and which PR professionals have handled crises well (and who could have done better and how).

A virtual semester and the current pandemic have also reshaped my outlook on my professional career. These unprecedented times have made me realize that the world is always changing—and that the ability to adapt will be critical.

This semester has also taught me a lot about myself. I feel a lot more comfortable with the unpredictability of life. While there were many challenges these last several months, the greatest for me was not being able to be with my friends that I have made at Loyola. Community plays a huge role in my life at Loyola. Despite the unusual semester and being far from one another, my friends and I wanted to keep in touch and have a sense of normalcy. We would meet one day a week at lunchtime to catch up with each other and to spend time like we would if we were at Loyola. Those Zoom lunches gave me a sense of the community that I was missing since we left campus last March.

Luckily for me, I was still able to participate in my clubs, activities, and leadership roles through digital formats. This semester I served as a Student Leadership Corps mentor and mentored three sophomore students. It was a great way for me to be involved and meet new people. I found it rewarding to be able to connect with these students and assist them with applying for leadership opportunities on campus.

If I learned anything about Loyola this year, it was that its sense of community extends far beyond the geographical campus. It lives in each and every person. This sense of community isn’t just a talking point but a real feeling that is felt and spread by faculty, staff, and students. Loyola offers so many great opportunities and programs.

I am so excited to return to Loyola in the spring, and I know it will feel as though no time has passed at all.