Dreams Interrupted: Is 2021 the Best Year to Start a Degree?January 16, 2021

The open spaces tuned you to a vast scale. You wanted to dream and think about the future. Is 2021 the best year to start a degree? Yes. The affirmative answer would surprise you, as you survived being yanked in and out of school during the pandemic. The gap year is not an option, so why not soldier on to university. But we're getting ahead.

The new COVID variant doesn't sit well with some of your course mates, who have been missing their mates (including you) and struggled with dodgy Internet. You don't have to be reminded about your admissions essay. (Analysing "Doctor Zhivago" wasn't a walk in a park, as David Lean's epic treatment of Boris Pasternak's novel didn't help you at all.) As your father told you, one more time, the restrictions wouldn't make travelling possible. You envy the tennis players who would come to Melbourne this week (and compete for the Australian Open). This is not the time to rue on class differences (or why you didn't think about wanting to be a professional athlete), as you must look back at the previous year. You lived through the most disrupted school year ever, so you're all right. (And the same thing applies to your mates.) What now?

The upcoming term will remain turbulent, which shouldn't elicit some complaints from you (and your mates). You must have a list of your new year's resolutions, albeit short. You like to travel to Indochina later this year, if not early next year. (Hooray!) You must talk to your friends about a weekend at the beach, where you must learn how to surf. (They have been making fun of you lately.) And you must be fearless about the first half of the year, as no one can tell if the vaccine will react to the new COVID variant. (You must not be foolish about flouting safety protocol, though.) On the other hand, you might have to adopt an indifferent approach to the crisis that resulted from the pandemic. As your mate would put it, it's unfair for the likes of him to pursue a degree in law this year. (The low number of international students could be a factor behind the increase in tuition fee.) Keep in mind that difficult times bond a community. There's so much to discover - and share. All together!

8 Things (Incoming) Students Must Expect in the New Normal

Will learning be online? No. You have known this answer to this the question last year, so it won't take a long time for you to make that adjustment (or transition) next season. If you haven't been sent an e-mail on how you would be facilitated, then message your admissions tutor about it. You can visit your university's social media accounts and make inquiries, and you are likely to get a reply from older students, if not alumni members. You might have read a news feature about other universities offering a mix of online learning, which would be three days a week, and (two days of) face-to-face learning. Confirm it first before making preparation.

How much face-to-face time will there be for each module? The answer depends on your degree course. You happen to be a Literature major, so it won't last beyond two hours. (You must have gone through the syllabus, read the assigned text, and prepared some questions.) It could be longer for other students pursuing different courses, but it shouldn't make you worry about the first month (of the new term). You can expect your department to send you the details before the end of summer.

What is the class size per (faculty) staff member? Your mates are arguing about this one, as physical distancing would mean that the number could be lower than 50 (students). One of them insisted that it should be 30 or lower, and there may be some issues on when to talk and how long. Think about it next month, as there are a number of things that must be resolved very soon. Have you made any arrangements for your accommodation?

What are the rules for an individual consultation? You can choose the most convenient way, where you and your professor (or tutor) can arrange a Zoom meeting. You can request for a face-to-face meeting if your issue would take a longer time. For instance, your professor thinks that you can do better in your analysis of a written text. You can't read at a leisurely pace, but it can be done. Ask your tutor (for tips). Your mates might offer something as well. You must enjoy it (despite the circumstances).

What is the range of offering? If you haven't received a word from your department, then don't fret about it. You'll receive an e-mail next week or the week after next.

What are the support services do look like? You have received a catalog on this one. If you haven't gone through it thoroughly, then do it (after reading this post). You have lots of time to acquaint yourself with these support services, and yes, it's not too early to let them know of your worries about the new term.

What is the access to libraries? You must have done your homework on this one. (If you haven't done it, then your mind might be wandering somewhere else. You're envious of your cousin, who lives in Perth. There are fewer restrictions in that part of Oz.) Take a look at the library's website, as you familiarise yourself with its features and what it can offer online. You must send an e-mail to the librarian (in charge), but your queries must include the best time to set foot in it. (You may be paranoid to think about the number of students in the library, which is normal.) Your first assignment is to check the list of books in your syllabus. Make sure that most, if not all, of them are available in the library. You can ask your tutor (or older students) about the others.

What are the opportunities for social interaction? Plenty. As a matter of fact, you have discussed Australia Day with your friends. There will be an extra layer of tension due to the ongoing pressures of COVID-19 regulations. (You have read the news on the Invasion Day protest.) And you must have looked at the catalog of events during the Big Day. How about next month? Is it possible to look for love? Of course. (You didn't pull a leg.) As for the first week of the term, you can share your experiences on how you made it through this unusual summer. It should help you let go of your anxieties.

How to Keep Learning While You're Home for the Summer

If you miss school, then think about the upside of this new normal. You're free from strict teachers in a boring classroom. Free from cafeteria lunches. Free from school, which you've become too familiar with it. You're also not one of those teenagers whose winter break looks a lot like school, so this is one more reason to get out (and soak in the warm weather). Your parents struggled to keep up with a classroom-style regiment, but you assured them that your brain was far from becoming mushier. (You're done with the fifth book of the Cirque du Freak series, You have seven books to go.) You might be struggling with the lack of structure, but you're not falling behind. And your mates are telling the same thing. You might need a break, though. You haven't been to the beach. When is the best time for a visit?

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