First-Year Students at John Jay Share Their Online Learning Experience

Leanna Wells, Editor

All schools, public and private, have made modifications to their learning, including a combination of limited capacity and online learning to accommodate for the safety of its surrounding community.

John Jay switched its modality to online learning in March 2020. It will mark 1 year since John Jay closed its doors and instituted virtual learning, forcing incoming freshmen to complete their first year of college virtually.

For Sahar Hashmi, the move to distance learning was anything but pleasant.

Hashmi, a Freshman and Criminal Justice major at John Jay said, “It was very annoying at first because I had to share my laptop with my mom so that she could work.” 

Hashmi recalled how she had to adjust to online learning in March.

“It was difficult for me to finish schoolwork, and family issues made it harder to work at home,” she said.

Kayla Blenman also shared her unique experience with distance learning.

Blenman, a Freshman, and Law and Society major at John Jay said, “Adjusting to distance learning wasn’t very difficult, it was just different. I was now looking at a screen.”

Starting distance learning near the end of her high school journey, Blenman detailed what it was like for her.

“Passing the classes was easy,” she recalled, “worrying about if everyone was okay was the hardest part.”

The senior year of high school is usually filled with a range of activities, such as prom and graduation to mark the ending of the experience. Then there are college applications and exams which are not the most exciting but still play a role.

It is safe to say that COVID had other plans when it came down to that. Most, if not all seniors had their year cut short.

Ryan-Alexa Liquori, a Freshman and Forensic Science major at John Jay said, “I felt really upset at not being able to go to prom. I was looking forward to that for all 4 years and I bought my dress.” 

Blenman shared a similar experience of her senior year abruptly ending.

“It ended early so it kind of feels like unfinished business. We were getting ready to go on our senior trip in 2 weeks,” said Blenman.

Liquori, who remembered what senior year looked like at her school in the past, explained what it looked like for her.

“We never got to do any of the fun senior things like homecoming games and cut day, where we go to the beach,” she said.

Among other activities and celebrations, graduation ceremonies took a back seat during the pandemic. While some people got creative with what they were celebrating, schools had to wait on the state to plan accordingly.

Last year during the phases in New York City, when restrictions started to loosen up, Governor Cuomo approved outdoor socially-distanced graduations with up to 150 people beginning at the end of June.

Although, with the virus changing daily, some schools chose to hold the ceremonies virtually. 

Anissa Vincent, a Freshman and Criminal Justice major at John Jay said, “We had a virtual graduation, but it wasn’t very interactive.” 

Before the pandemic, transitioning from high school to college could easily be labeled as a stressful process. The atmosphere changes, the people are new, and it’s easy to get lost in a big building.

At the start of online learning and for months after that, email was the primary communication method for students with a potential response time of 3-5 business days; possibly longer.

“When it came to financial aid, I had a few complications and it took a few months to figure out,” said Hashmi.

Some facilities and services within John Jay did not have a virtual front desk for students to connect with a staff member, until recently in the fall semester. 

“I had to contact my high school,” she said, “and they were more helpful than the college.”

Vincent agreed that she did not receive much help either.

“I was struggling with financial aid for a while and it seemed like no one had the answers,” she recalled.

With two virtual semesters underway, the mere possibility of being able to learn on campus seems like a long time coming.

“I would be very happy and I hope that it happens,” said Liquori.

While the return to campus is uncertain, the Campus Planning Committee is working to map out an operational plan following state and local health guidelines and recommendations.

For students like Vincent, virtual learning has run its course.

“I really want to have the full college experience at John Jay,” she said, “because I don’t want to look at my classmates through a Zoom call anymore.”