Lessons of an Unusual Academic Year

Sergey Podlesnykh/Staff Writer

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. This year, FIU students had to adapt to a new remote learning experience. Yes, it was an unusual year, we had it hard, we can’t wait to get back to normal. We’ve all said it. However, bitter pills tend to have the best potency. Reflecting on this academic year, students should stop and look back at the lessons of their misfortunes. This remote learning experience exposed our weak spots, pinpointing all the areas that we, as future graduates and professionals, still need to work on.

Lesson 1: “We are not as tech-savvy as we thought”

While we may have phones glued to our hands, see the world through our cameras, are proficient on social media on almost a genetic level and roll our eyes at people who haven’t heard of TikTok, it turned out we are not as tech-savvy as we believed. 

Despite our creative reliance on technology, we are still not entirely comfortable with its functional possibilities, an example being Microsoft Office. We don’t always know how to export a file, or even convert it to a different format. We struggle with text, image, audio and  video editing. Zoom was our primary learning environment, but we are still figuring out how to create breakout rooms, share a screen or create a new session. Many of our future jobs will want us to be proficient in these “boring” subjects and won’t care much if our TikTok went viral with thousands of views. We need to improve our mundane, career-related IT skills.

Lesson 2: “We’ve underestimated the importance of personal interaction”

For many years, we have been willingly reducing our live interaction. In-person conversations transformed into phone calls, then texting, culminating in communication through emojis and Instagram stories. We hungrily embraced technology, naively assuming it would allow us to make up for lacking social skills. We thought that online learning would be easy and testing in the comfort of our homes would be a piece of cake! It turned out that nothing has better explanatory value than face-to-face interaction with a professor. Doing exams and tests at home could be just as stressful if you don’t fully understand the subject. We got so complacent with our status of the “rational animal”, forgetting we were also a social one. Improve your social skills – they will always have value, even in an isolated remote environment.

Lesson 3: “We don’t have enough discipline and focus”

There was a time when we had to get up, get dressed, travel through traffic or walk through campus to get to class. The ease of opening up a laptop to attend the same class, in fact, made it much more difficult. We could write a two-page paper sitting in the class for an hour and now we can’t force ourselves to write three pages in a week. Your true discipline, willpower and integrity are only worthy if they come through in an unsupervised environment. Remote learning exposed that we don’t live up to our potential when left without external boosters and supervision. Take it up a few notches and project it onto the biggest unsupervised environment: your life. To put it bluntly, we need to grow up and get in the habit of doing what needs to be done, discarding distractions, excuses and personal preferences.    

Lesson 4: “We don’t pay attention to details and have little patience”

Before, your professor could go over the same reminders and suggestions time and again. Now, we were largely responsible for finding that information ourselves. All my WhatsApp chats could have 30% fewer conversations if only everybody carefully read their syllabus. We don’t read the important information available to us, we get too lazy or too impatient to go through all the pages. Instead of committing to a basic five-minute Google research, we rely on others, asking for the ready answer. This fall, you could’ve missed a deadline or completed a wrong task, skimming through the prompt. In the next five years, you could be skipping the fine print of the crucial agreement or misunderstanding the requirements of a highly lucrative project. We do have the answers at our fingertips, but we need to work harder at paying attention to them.  

The final and the most important lesson we learned this year: life has plenty of lemons. It’s up to us to adapt to changing circumstances and make the best out of them. This Thanksgiving, appreciate the lessons of 2020 and listen to some words of wisdom from the Rolling Stones.

You can’t always get what you want,  

But if you try sometimes you just might find

You get what you need.


The opinions presented within this page do not represent the views of PantherNOW Editorial Board. These views are separate from editorials and reflect individual perspectives of contributing writers and/or members of the University community.

Photo by Christin Hume on Unsplash

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