COVID-19 anniversary: How the university experience changed in Manitoba

At first, the class of 2020 had to finish their year remotely, then miss graduation celebrations and finally start their first year of post-secondary education online.

The milestones were marked virtually or in smaller groups to protect people from COVID-19.

Sarah Stoesz was one of those people faced with a year separated from friends and new classmates.

“It’s definitely not at all what I was expecting earlier, knowing that university is such a big jump from high school and now it’s just — it doesn’t feel like such a big jump because I finished high school from my bedroom and now I’m continuing university at my desk in my room as well,” she said.

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Stoesz is taking courses at the University of Manitoba, a campus she’s only physically visited a handful of times.

“It’s definitely weird to not have that in-person contact and not get the interaction with other students here, but it’s also understanding that this is what we’re living in now and this is what we have to be able to adapt to,” she said.

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“So I am hopeful for the future when I will be able to be on campus and will be able to have those interactions again, but for now it is just something to learn and adapt to.”

Movies depict the university experience to be full of parties, socializing and studying but for students experiencing it for the first time, it has been more isolating.

And making friends in a virtual classroom is a bigger challenge.

“Being online, you’re not sitting next to someone or doing group work. In semester two we have gotten more group projects and more individual time with other people, so I have been able to make a few study groups and a couple different things like that, but it is definitely a completely different way of doing so,” Stoesz said.

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“It’s nice to have closure,” Winnipeg grads celebrate physically distant ceremony – Jun 24, 2020

Stoesz says while there have been a number of hurdles to overcome this year, she’s remained optimistic.

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“I think it still has been very good. Obviously I haven’t been able to experience the in-person lectures. All of that aside, I have been able to see how hard the teachers are working behind the scenes, and I’ve seen how much work goes in to putting lecture slides together and how much work goes in to putting these lectures together each week, and I do think it is very good quality despite it not being in person,” she said.

“I’m excited for the future, I do know that eventually I will get to be on campus, and I do hope that will be in the fall. And I do plan to continue my studies — whether it’s online or in-person — because I know that either way I’m getting the same education that I would be as if I was in person than I am online.”

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