As August and graduation approach, I look back on my bachelor's at Berkeley College in New York City. What should have been two years of education, challenges, fun, and once-in-a-lifetime experiences, quickly became long hours of online school in Denmark, living with my parents after a global pandemic hit.
In March 2020, I was a little over halfway into my second semester at Berkeley. I had just traveled to San Diego with my dad, where we had loosely discussed the foreign virus, only yet experienced in China. When Denmark went into lockdown, the U.S. was alert but had not yet closed its borders or taken specific actions. I went from sitting in class Wednesday discussing a presentation due Monday the coming week to sitting in a plane on Friday the 13th on my way to Denmark. Being back in Denmark was a surreal experience; while I was happy to be among family and friends, I had left a furnished room and everything known in regard to my education.
I had never taken online courses at Berkeley, and since I am on the honors program doing a four-year bachelor's in two years, I have to take extra credits each semester. This meant that I had more online courses than Berkeley typically allows, and I was challenged to the extreme. The beginning was the hardest; the transition from going online mixed with me being back home, suddenly living with my parents again, presented more challenges than I could have imagined. To my luck, Berkeley has a nationally recognized online program, so my online content made up for everything we didn't have in class. Nevertheless, being in online school every day for 4.5 semesters is tough, even for the best time-management and structured individual.
As stated above, I was home in Denmark in mid-March 2020, and I didn't return to New York until mid-March 2021. A normal day during this year-long period would consist of me getting up at 6 a.m. and working until 6 p.m., with two breaks, one short before noon and a more extended break in the afternoon. I had to work efficiently every day to finish all my assignments on time. Rather than having zoom classes in the middle of the night, Berkeley accommodated its students' different schedules and time zones and created Sunday to Saturday weeks. This meant that all assignments were uploaded on Sunday and had to be done the following Saturday. This presented me with flexibility, and I found that with great concentration and time management, I could have time to spare in the early evening to spend with my family and friends. I had no certainty of when I could return, so I knew that prioritizing quality time was essential.
Now, with only 1.5 months left of my bachelor's, I look back in disbelief. In addition to the responsibilities and duties my education brought about, I had people in both the U.S and Denmark who counted on me, and I was constantly trying not to disappoint. My strategy was simple; take one day at a time and do my best under the circumstances. While I often found myself stressed and frustrated about my situation, I managed to pull through, and I can finally see the finish line after an unusual and difficult two years.
Written by Caroline Lambæk