OMNIA Photo Essay: Reflections on the Fall Semester

Penn undergrads on their first week of the digital fall semester, from classes to relaxation.

Thursday, October 8, 2020

By Emma Whitehouse

The current pandemic has shifted classes online for the fall semester, creating both challenges and opportunities for College undergrads working in a new digital learning environment. We asked students to reflect on their first week of classes and share how they are taking time to relax.


Marvin Morgan, C'21 | Major: Physics & Astronomy

Location: Monmouth County, New Jersey

My first week of class as a senior has been bittersweet. I will be in Monmouth County, New Jersey this semester to take on this new virtual journey. Though I will not be on campus this semester, I am extremely excited to conduct my senior thesis project with Professor Robyn Sanderson in the Department of Physics and Astronomy. The virtual Zoom classroom always has its struggles but I think the most unique surprise has come from my professors and their willingness to adapt to their students' struggles and demands. To relax and clear my mind after a long day of classes, I have been running at the beach and my local park. I try to keep a few locations in rotation for a change of scenery.

India Allen, C’21 | Major: Urban Studies

Location: Philadelphia, PA

Connecting with people is the most important and meaningful work in my life, so virtual learning and working exclusively is daunting. How would I learn without being able to discuss with my peers and professors face to face? Do the work I do in schools without schools being open? Learn from my community without being able to interact with my community? Be there for my friends without actually being there? So much in life is a matter of perspective. The positives: I can watch prerecorded lectures on double time and on my own time, I have met my French professor’s cat on Zoom, I have the most wonderful housemates in the world (thanks to my work with Penn Libraries Community Outreach and my work with City Hall), and I am still connected with and working in my community. Life never stops or slows down, so I am moving forward with compassion for everyone, especially myself.

Eduardo Mejia-Garcia, C'24

Location: Chambersburg, PA

In my first week, I was overwhelmed with how real the freshman experience became. Fortunately, because I was able to participate in the Africana Studies Summer Institute and Penn’s Pre-Freshman Program, I was able to adjust to the schedule and rigor that Penn has to offer.

This semester I am particularly excited about Calc 1, which is a subject I haven’t been the best at but am excited to be challenging myself with. I was pleasantly surprised with how fun meeting new friends could be onlinemaking me excited to meet more people on campus! After class, apart from catching up on my hours of sleep, I have been trying to practice the saxophone (for Penn Band!) and draw to try to lessen my screen time. If I get some extra time, which seems like never, I like to explore nature and watch The Office (increasing my screen time).

Ami Ikuenobe, C’22 | Major: Political Science

Location: Philadelphia, PA

The first week of classes has been a unique experience. I am used to entering a classroom and nervously looking for somewhere to sit. Instead, I was nervously looking for my class Zoom links that were buried in my emails. Despite the circumstances, I am excited to take International Law with Beth Simmons [Andrea Mitchell University Professor of Law and Political Science] and to work with Ms. Sarah Lentz, a research specialist, on her PORES [Penn Program on Opinion Research and Election Studies] project by assisting in tracking all polling for the general election in November. A challenging aspect of online classes is that I feel like I am devoting more time to my classes than I would be if we were in person. Nevertheless, after a long day of staring at my computer screen, I once again find myself staring at my TV screen, watching the same five shows to unwind after classes. It will be interesting to see what my eyesight will be like in a year.

William Movsovitz, C'21 | Major: Philosophy Politics & Economics

Location: Philadelphia, PA

The first week of classes is always full of excitement, opportunity, and confusion. Unsurprisingly, being online has heightened those feelings and changed the overall experience of being in class. There are new challengeslike my power going outthat professors are coping with and new methods of content delivery that professors are innovating with. My schedule will hopefully open my eyes to systems and ideas in society. For example, Urban Food Chain (URBS248) exposes the underlying dynamics of food systems.

After a long day of online classes, I enjoy unwinding in my living room with friends. We share our highlights and frustrations from the day over video games or TV. It is nice to remind myself that the fully online schedule is new for everybody and having questions is completely reasonable. I also live right by 7-Eleven and have had my fair share of late-night snacks this week!