The biggest difficulty for me in transitioning to online classes has been the lack of face-to-face interaction—with professors, with other students, and with the SWU community in general! I’m definitely an extrovert, and I thrive in the daily interactions I’m used to having on campus. I had taken a few classes online as part of my college experience before this “coronapocalypse” began, so fortunately online work wasn’t completely uncharted territory for me—however, it has been a challenge getting used to a whole new structure for some classes that had revolved heavily around face-to-face interactions! I’m grateful for technology and all the ways it has allowed me to continue my education as well as maintain contact with my SWU family even from hundreds of miles away.
Experiencing a major change in environment and a sudden lack of structure can definitely invite a struggle with self-motivation—never in my life have I had such an empty schedule! I’m used to constantly being busy and on the run from one thing to the next—work study to class to meals to more class to University Singers to work to meetings to homework and on and on! I’ve found that it is just as important to keep myself organized now as it was before. My planner and color-coded pens are my best friend, and I’ve been trying to hold myself to a strict to-do list each day to accomplish all my work. One of the struggles of not meeting face-to-face has been that there are a lot more assignments to complete, so I’ve been trying to stay on top of all of them! This is definitely a test of time management skills, but I’ve found that setting daily goals for myself is a good way to stay motivated! I am also staying in touch with classmates and getting to talk to others via text, call, or email like I would if we were in the class together on campus, which encourages me too.
In all honesty, leaving SWU life and cutting the on-campus semester short has been difficult for me. I miss laughing with friends, having conversations with my professors, singing in choir, traveling with University Singers, getting coffee from Blue Hill, late night homework and Waffle House runs with friends, attending practicum in a kindergarten class I absolutely adored, hearing encouragement daily faculty around campus, and simply living in the SWU community each day. However, I want to commend and deeply thank my professors and all the SWU faculty and staff for all the planning, prayer, work, and sacrifice they have put into making this transition as smooth and student-focused as possible. I have received so many emails checking up on me, sending devotionals and messages of encouragement, giving opportunities to connect with SWU friends and faculty virtually, and reminding me that our faculty will continue to do whatever they can to help me succeed, even from a distance! Best of all, everyone from SWU has maintained an attitude of positivity, hope, encouragement and prayer, reminding all of us to find our joy in Christ; and that has spoken volumes to me.
"Everyone from SWU has maintained an attitude of positivity, hope, encouragement and prayer, reminding all of us to find our joy in Christ; and that has spoken volumes to me."
One positive aspect that I praise God for is that I have found myself with far more time and far more need to turn to Him than ever before. He’s been revealing His goodness to me even in the midst of my lack of understanding about why all this is happening.
I'm grateful that God loves me even when I don't understand Him and I question Him. Since the coronavirus first started turning things upside down, it seems as if one blow after another has been dealt and what once seemed surreal has gradually started to sink in as painful reality. I'm so grateful for the leadership and decision-makers here at my school, and for the way I know they have sought God in every move they've made.
When SWU decided it best to send the remaining residential students off campus for our safety and compliance with the governor's requests to prevent the virus from spreading, I felt anxiety and fear creep into my mind as the reality of all the effects of this virus not just on my life but on our whole country and world hit home all at once. I realized how powerless I am not only to stop its rampage, but even to control many aspects of my life that I'm used to being in charge of.
So that night I went for my last long walk around campus and poured my heart out to the Lord. He saw and heard my anger, my frustration, my fear, my anxiety, my confusion and my grief, and He gave me answers in return. He showed me that it's okay that I don't understand, and it's okay that I'm upset. He reminded me that sometimes He has to remove control from our lives to remind us that we were never truly in charge anyway and that our dependence on Him needs to be far stronger than our reliance on ourselves. And He gave me this prayer:
Lord, use this situation to help me want You more than anything else. Help me want You more than I want to be on my campus, more than I want to be in my classes, more than I want my regular cup of coffee from the campus coffee shop, more than I want to be surrounded by my friends, more than I want to be traveling and singing, more than I want to go shopping just for kicks or to go sit in a restaurant like I'm used to being able to do, more than I want to be going about everyday life as normal. Help my desire for You to become greater than my desire for control, greater than my desperate longing for everything to return to normal and all this damage to be undone.
"He [God] reminded me that sometimes He has to remove control from our lives to remind us that we were never truly in charge anyway, and that our dependence on Him needs to be far stronger than our reliance on ourselves."
That morning, as I left SWU, I wanted to praise God for being so much bigger than this situation. Though it feels completely out of control, it is still in His hands and He is still moving. No matter what happens, no matter how bad or scary or hopeless it gets, His consolation is powerful enough to bring us joy. Everything around us may be changing, but the faithfulness of our God never will. My prayer now is to be transformed for His glory in this present moment, and to develop a desire for Him that is even greater than my desire for this situation to end. After all, His plan for our lives far exceeds the circumstances of our day.