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In addition to the toll it has taken on our daily lives, the COVID-19 pandemic’s detrimental effects on our education are incalculable. Oblivious to the havoc that was about to befall in the spring of 2020, I prepared for a new chapter of my life as an undergraduate student at APU. I completed all the move-in procedures, got the visa, booked a flight, and waited patiently for the date of departure to arrive. Having only limited exposure to Japan and its lifestyle, I decided to take the initial plunge into the depths of Japanese culture before moving to Japan and experiencing it for myself. In this pursuit, I read books written by notable Japanese authors, watched travel vlogs journeying through numerous Japanese provinces, tasted scrumptious Japanese cuisine, and watched a ton of anime. Besides this, I began studying hiragana, katakana, and kanji to ensure a smooth transition to Japan’s seemingly daunting student life. With all this, I was as ecstatic as ever to finally move to Japan.
Nevertheless, fate had a different plan for me. Just weeks before my flight to Fukuoka, the world shut down. I was indefinitely stuck in my home country. After weeks of uncertainty and delays, the spring semester classes finally started in May.
The Downsides of Online-Only
Online learning was something fresh for all of us, so adapting to it took time, as was foreseeable. Figuring out the functionality of unfamiliar applications like Zoom, Manaba, and Campus Terminal was a headache initially. The orientation being shifted online and comprising mostly of just videos further made the transition to APU arduous. The time difference of three-plus hours meant that classes were scheduled as early as five o’clock in the morning for me. Inevitably, I was very demotivated for most of my first semester. Although there were numerous events, workshops, and club activities I would have loved to be a part of, I held back merely due to the assumption that the online replication of these activities would not be as fulfilling an experience as finally being on campus and savoring it with all the other students. I particularly longed for the lively AP House atmosphere, which all my senpai unfailingly gushed about. During this time, I also struggled with my Japanese conversational skills, attributable to the limited opportunities to interact with native Japanese speakers.
The Benefits of the Traditional University Experience
To a great extent, a year of Zoom classes substantiated my belief that online learning cannot replace traditional universities. Beyond the realm of virtual reality, we are but social beings. “Going beyond the classroom” has been an idea expansively propagated by the modern education system. Thus, universities today are not solely focused on textbook knowledge. It encourages students to explore. Online learning, in this regard, hurts the countless possibilities of kinesthetic learning. Human beings are shaped by their experiences. For students, the years in the diverse university environment away from their families accounts for a significant part of their development. This opportunity is crucial for them to evolve and look at things from a different lens. It prepares students for real-world scenarios where communication and building meaningful connections are an integral part of personal and professional life.
With APU’s Assistance, We Will Move Forward
Nonetheless, believing in light after adversity, I am hopeful that I will be even more appreciative of the many opportunities I will get during my upcoming years at APU and will be able to give my 100% in anything I partake in henceforth. I am immensely grateful to APU for going the extra mile in accommodating the students during these trying times. Whether it be the 5-minute breaks in between classes to relieve eye-strain, the APU Student Support Fund, the APU Hands initiative that actively assisted financially struggling students, specialized courses like APU GLAD that aimed to provide cross-cultural communication opportunities even under these circumstances, or the provision of workshops relating to both mental and physical health of students, APU tried to ensure that nothing was compromised during this phase of online learning. Starting from spring of 2021, APU has begun offering classes in four different styles: online, hybrid, switch-style, and on-campus, presenting students the flexibility to choose classes that best suit their unique circumstances. As the new quarter commences, rather than pondering on the challenging times and the squandered chances, I urge everyone to relish the short period we have as APU students from hereon.
Hi! I am Alexa Maharjan, a third semester student from Nepal. I enjoy pursuing a range of interests, including but not limited to dancing, travelling, watching movies, and playing soccer. Writing is another hobby of mine that I am excited to explore as part of SPA. I hope to be able to put forth my ideas and vision while simultaneously getting a deeper understanding of student life at APU during my time as a SPA member.