Student Voices: The First Year Frenzy

Girl on her computer.
Published: Monday, July 19, 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic shifted learning environments, but with the help of technology and the cooperation of students and instructors, we made it a bit more manageable.

Everyone has a preconceived notion of what their first year of college is going to be like. Maybe it’s going to a new school with new instructors, picking a major, making friends and gaining independence, to name a few. With all of these new changes at such a fast rate, the first year can be challenging. This past year, students had the added experience of virtual learning, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Without the help and patience of students and professors, as well as the availability of technology, this past school year would not have been as successful as it was for me.

My personal experience as a first year student at the University of Arizona was an interesting one. I began the school year online, via Zoom, with the hopes of being on campus in a few months. However, like many others, I experienced first hand the urgent need to adapt to new softwares and online learning when it became apparent that virtual classes would become the norm this school year. As an Architecture student, I quickly discovered that Zoom would be my primary means of communication with my professors. It was how my professors critiqued my work and gave me feedback. All of my classes, but specifically my Architecture classes, required me to be fully involved in mine and my classmates' work. My Studio classes, ARC 101 and 102, consisted of building both physical and digital models, as well as presenting them to the class. It was very important that I be vocal and ask questions, make comments, and/or explain major parts of my projects. Zoom made this possible for everyone and it allowed students to interact with each other, giving us the opportunity to engage and meet people like we normally would in an in person class setting.

Zoom was only one of the many different applications that I had to learn and adapt to quickly. Along with Zoom, I was required to learn the basics of a few apps in the Adobe Creative Cloud software, specifically Photoshop and InDesign. My main uses for these were in my Studio and lecture Architecture classes, which required editing photos and creating portfolios. Many students came into the class with previous training in the Creative Cloud Apps, while others came only beginning their journey with Adobe. Luckily, it didn't matter what your knowledge was with these applications, because regardless of where you were, professors took the time to make tutorials on how to do little things for class. Along with these tutorials, students got together constantly through text and video chats to compare the different methods of use. I made sure to use both the tutorials and the student collaboration methods to further enhance my knowledge in the Adobe applications. The necessity of these applications in my classes really made me open up to new methods of learning and collaborations with students outside of class. I had the chance to help others learn what I knew, while also learning a few new things myself. On top of that, I had more opportunities to get to know my colleagues and work with them on something that is equally crucial for all of us. The Adobe suite gave students another reason to connect outside of a classroom setting, and overall brought students together in order to fulfil a common goal.

The final application that I was required to learn to use quickly, and the most difficult, was Rhino. This is a software used to create digital 3D shapes and structures. My main use for this app was in my Studio class, where I was required to build digital models. I started to learn about it half way through the year at a super-fast rate. I was not only expected to know how to use it well, but also to be able to apply it to my work perfectly. I knew that I would have to treat this application the same way that I did the Adobe Creative Cloud software: I needed to collaborate with my colleagues. Luckily, I wasn't the only one struggling and it was apparent that the students in every class felt the same way I did. Learning to use all of these different softwares at such a fast rate and all at once was difficult, to say the least. It was very demanding to have to adapt to so much at one time and it quickly became clear that with all of this new and unfamiliar technology, students were in need of some extra help. Before I knew it, I was receiving emails about attending office hours regarding help with the Rhino software. I attended almost every single one and I believe that it showed in my daily work. It wasn't too long after this that we were finishing up the year and submitting our final projects, assignments, and portfolios, giving students the perfect opportunity to apply all that we have learned regarding the Adobe Creative Cloud and Rhino softwares. By the end of the school year, we students showed great progress and truly proved ourselves. We managed to accomplish all of these amazing things during a year in which we had to make the best with what we had, and we showed our true strength!

This year was a crazy one and there is no doubt in my mind that it will be in future history books, but all things considered, I think that everyone made the best out of a very unusual situation. We all got put to the test when the pandemic made its presence known and it really pushed us to the limits. This just goes to show that we can do anything when we put our minds to it with the help of others, from a distance of course! Due to the help and cooperation of the students and instructors, as well as the availability of technology, we were able to make this uncanny school year a bit more manageable. Who knows what kind of a year it could have been for students at the University of Arizona without the help and teamwork of the students and faculty.

Authored By:

Alondra Rodriguez

Alondra Rodriguez
Communications Assistant