"I am maintaining hope that all goes well, and I can move past the current situation I am being faced with."

September 9, 2020

Since the spring semester, I have been struggling with overwhelming stress and anxiety because of a grading mishap. I accidentally opted to take the credit/no credit grading option provided by the school. It was aimed to alleviate students' stress about not passing with good qualifications due to the abrupt stop of in-person learning from COVID. This pass/fail option was meant to help students, but it ended up hurting me.

Because of the pass/fail selection, my GPA progress was not recorded and passed along to my financial aid office. Since it appeared that I had not shown academic progress for the spring semester, I was at risk of getting my tuition aid cut. I didn't think I was at risk of losing my aid because I wasn't on academic probation and hadn't failed to improve my grades. I had fought all year to get out of academic probation and raise my GPA.

Going into my fall semester of junior year, the school had not awarded me financial aid assistance. I am stuck with a giant tuition bill that my family and I are now forced to pay out-of-pocket.

Because of COVID, UIC has switched to hybrid learning. This change in campus dynamics for the new semester has left me and most of the student body -- feeling resentful. It seems the administration is focused on COVID testing and campus health, but have not been attentive to students' needs when ensuring campus services are available.

Since the middle of July, I have attempted to contact the financial aid office to resolve my tuition issues, to no avail. I've heard from other students in my online classes that they need problems addressed with the financial aid office. According to the office voicemail, financial aid staff are working from home due to the pandemic. The most progress I have made is leaving a voicemail and not receiving a call back. I was able to find out why my financial aid was rescinded through my Bottom Line Advisor, who got to work attempting to find out the cause of the situation and tying it back to the credit/no credit mistake that was made the previous semester. They advised that my best option for receiving answers would be to file an appeal with the financial aid administrators.

This whole situation has caused intense distress. I feel that I have been left to slip through the cracks by my university. I am attempting to file an appeal with my university's financial aid committee to see if they will consider refunding my aid for this semester. I am maintaining hope that all goes well, and I can move past the current situation I am being faced with.

"Pre-COVID life consisted of steady streams of travel plans and new itineraries. Sadly, the beginning of 2020 marked a full stop in my travel itinerary for the foreseeable future."

July 31, 2020

My family works primarily in the hospitality industry for some major airlines in the city, so constant updates on the state of international travel and the daily state of airport conditions are continually discussed. My travel plans for the year had been solidly marked and planned out in full. During the summer, everyone had their travel destination well planned out. Some of my family intended to spend the summer in the family ranch in Mexico while I had a separate set of plans laid out sporadically throughout the upcoming months. In May I planned to spend a few days in Krakow Poland, June was reserved for a return trip to Tokyo for an extended stay and July I had planned to visit Greece before coming back home to begin the fall semester at UIC. 

I am excited to be able to go back to campus in the fall, even if it is just on a semi-weekly basis. I am, however, hesitant to step back into classrooms because of the risk of infection. I am trying to balance my anxiety with the excitement that I'll spend time with my friends and do things that I missed being away from campus (such as order physical copies of books from the library)! The new social distancing rules and sanitation on campus make me feel a little more secure about returning. 

I am curious how online classes will work since most students tend to have different learning methods that online courses cannot accommodate as easily. The thought of, "why am I paying thousands of dollars to stay home," has crossed my mind on multiple occasions. Over the last few months, I've been observing mass emails being sent out on behalf of the student body, asking for a cut in tuition prices for the upcoming semesters. Students feel that they're overpaying to stay home and cannot access resources that generally would be available.

Since I don't plan on returning to campus for the fall semester due to all of my online lectures, I can't say I have much of a need to leave my home. I have learned many things to keep clean that I plan to utilize for the rare occasions when it would be necessary for me to step foot on the UIC campus. Carrying sanitizer has become a habit for me to implement for occasions such as touching objects or visiting public areas. My mask is an essential part of what I carry with me as well. Wearing a mask is important to me since it helps reduce the risk of infection. It makes me feel more secure about being in public spaces. I know that wearing my mask can keep the risk of infection low. I've learned how to implement better cleaning habits to reduce the risk of infection and keep myself and my loved ones safe.

"I didn't fully understand the implications applying to credit/no credit would have on my GPA. When I received my final grades, I was discouraged. All of the effort I had put in during the semester had gone to waste. Even though I ended my second year of college with straight A's, there is no way for it to be acknowledged since my GPA is still stuck at 2.18."

July 9, 2020

A challenge that I have been facing has to do with my University. During the spring semester, the school made the switch to online learning. This caused some changes in classroom procedures to go into effect. One change that the school implemented was to offer credit and no credit option for student grades. This would allow students not to worry about ending their semester with a low grade as they would still be able to receive credit to their degree. This credit/ no credit option does not factor in accumulated grade point average, though.

I was negatively impacted by this change in the grading format. I didn't fully understand the implications applying to credit/no credit would have on my GPA. When I received my final grades, I was discouraged. All of the effort I had put in during the semester had gone to waste. Even though I ended my second year of college with straight A's, there is no way for it to be acknowledged since my GPA is still stuck at 2.18. I won't receive credit towards my major GPA because of the credit/no credit option. 

I tried to reach out to the school to undo the error and explain that I hadn't meant to apply to the credit option at the expense of my grades. Ultimately, the school only informed me that the credit/ no credit option was irreversible and that nothing could be done. I received an email from the financial aid office weeks later saying they might cut my aid due to not seeing improvement in my grade point average for the spring semester. This came as a hard blow to me. I spent my freshman year in academic probation trying to ward off termination of my aid by tirelessly working to improve my grades. I achieved my goal, but it went to waste in the end.

After this all happened, I ended up having panic attacks so severe I would experience severe stomach pains and be left unable to fall asleep. If I closed my eyes, I would start thinking about my lost progress and the months of effort I had pushed through. Even now, it still doesn't feel great to talk about it. I am still trying to move past the pain and embarrassment of the situation. I've decided to try and continue the same momentum to succeed in my next semester and make up for the loss of the spring semester.

I am now trying to appeal my grading situation as a final option with the school to allow me to get back my grades. 

I'm also reflecting on the current moment and trying to help others and take care of my own needs. I don't plan on taking part in large social gathering events or leave my home much just as a precautionary measure. But, I do look forward to traveling once again when it is safe to do so and meet with friends after the issues we are currently facing find positive resolutions.

"During my tour, we walked through the dorm lounge that overlooks the student atrium. As I sat down on the giant U-shaped sofa, I felt the most comfortable that I had ever felt in a new environment. It was then I made up my mind that this is where I want to study."

May 29, 2020

I chose to attend UIC after I participated in a campus tour the summer of my senior year of high school. I took a campus tour to get a sense of what the university was like and what they had to offer. Initially, I was vehemently against attending UIC because I had always wanted to attend school out-of-state. I wanted to live on my own and have "the full college experience." I wanted to live in a dorm and work on a campus away from home. I was set on all the way through high school. I applied to schools outside of Chicago so that I could move away for college but still stay in-state. I only applied to UIC and city colleges as safety schools to appease my mom.  

Eventually, my plans surrounding in-state studying changed thanks to my visit to campus. I agreed to go since it was technically on my list of colleges I had applied to. After touring the school and seeing what they had to offer, I ended up really loving it. During my tour, we walked through the dorm lounge that overlooks the student atrium. As I sat down on the giant U-shaped sofa, I felt the most comfortable that I had ever felt in a new environment. It was then I made up my mind that this is where I want to study. 

UIC didn't initially have the publishing major I intended to study, which made me hesitant. But, as I researched other alternatives, I came across the communication major. It had all the basics as the publishing major I had been intending to study. I met with professors in the communication department during my time participating in UIC's summer college. It really helped to ask them questions about the field so that I could get a better sense of what I could expect going into my intended major. I didn't have any expectations before coming to study under my communication major or when I joined the school, choosing to form my thoughts as I went along. 

My love for literature and my love for travel have informed my future aspirations. My mom and aunts all work for airlines, so I started traveling from a young age. As I grew older, I became more invested in the cultures of other countries we would visit. I enjoyed getting to learn about different aspects of other people's cultural identity and experience the feeling of learning about a new city and the customs of people outside of American culture. I want to meet new people and learn about different cultures and experience a "new normal" every day for the rest of my life. 

I also chose to go unto the communication field because of my love of books. It sounds very overdone and typical, I know, but it's the honest truth. I had trouble learning growing up due to my attention deficit disorder. It was always difficult for me to concentrate on schoolwork and retain information. One day, I was in the car with my mom, and I began to read out the warning that comes etched into the side-view mirrors in cars, "Warning: objects in mirror are closer than they appear," with perfect accuracy. At first, it didn't register that I had just read the entire thing without a mental delay or afterthought. Then it hit me like a truck that I had just read it perfectly. I was ecstatic! I ran into school with a sense of pride and a determination to read as many books as possible. I've developed a fondness for reading because I felt that it was the one thing that I could do well, and I enjoyed it. 

I further solidified my love of reading during a trip with my mom to our family ranch home in Mexico for summer vacation. I spent a lot of my nights awake until four in the morning reading Benjamin Alire Sáenz's, Aristotle and Dante, and crying my eyes out with tears of both sadness and laughter. That book remains one of my favorite pieces of young adult literature to this day. After reading Sáenz's writing, I was determined. I want to help make books that make people fall in love with literature as much as I fell in love with this book.

From then on, I had a goal. And I figured that the best way to accomplish it was to find a major that would help me connect with people on a large scale within my area of interest. 

My dream job would be an editor or copywriter for one of the major publishing companies. I enjoy writing and editing other's work to make it shine. It gives me a sense of accomplishment to help someone else become better than they already are. Being able to read someone's unpublished work would be my idea of an afternoon well spent. 

This is my primary goal. The truth is, I still don't fully know what job I want to go into. My criteria have changed so much since childhood. I now think about things like a job that allows me to be comfortably independent, and that will pay me well enough to help my mom out if I ever leave home. My only constant is to work for a company that I feel comfortable in, and that allows me to travel and connect with new people. 

"COVID has consumed everyday conversation. Most of my final papers for shifted to talk about how the quarantine has affected the lives of students and how it has affected their relationships to technology."

May 14, 2020

The last two months have been hectic and stressful, but I have been learning to adjust to the new normal that is COVID life. I have been working on my final papers for the last two months. And I've been rushing to meet tightly packed deadlines on top of tutoring during my free time. I love to tutor, but it did become time-consuming as my deadlines became shorter.

COVID has consumed everyday conversation. Most of my final papers for shifted to talk about how the quarantine has affected the lives of students and how it has affected their relationships to technology. It felt repetitive and automatic to have to discuss the topic from different angles when it seems like the rest of the world is auto-responding to the same situation.

My biggest win has definitely been finishing up my finals after two months of consistent work on research papers and personal portfolio pieces. I was proud of having finished my second year of college with fantastic grades because I was at a really low point last year in terms of academics. I am really proud that I've been able to achieve grades better than what I had expected and surpass my own academic expectations within one semester.

Not everything has been easy, but I have managed it and pushed through the obstacles. I have been dealing with tight deadlines as well as starting to go out a bit more while respecting social distancing and sanitary guidelines. It's been strange seeing the way that fast-food restaurants and other establishments function to follow guidelines. Advertisements are reminding people that we are living through a crisis while trying to instill positivity. It makes going out feel like we're living in a dystopian novel. Despite these feelings and hardships, I feel that I've been able to keep a positive outlook on things.

My grandmother and aunt have recently been making face masks at home for the family to keep us safe. My mom and I have also been spending time at home, trying to make our own face masks. I have also spent a bit more time with my family in a safe manner.

Now more than ever, we need to help each other and be civil with one another. This feels like a permanent state of living because nothing is guaranteed at the moment. I've learned that everything that has been put on hold is something to look forward to for the future. The optimism for the return of small pleasures is something I will carry with me for the future. My plans for traveling, spending time with my friends and family, and attending concerts are all things I'm looking forward to. I also have learned how to integrate new safety protocols into my daily routine to stay safe and keep others safe.     

"Being separated from the rest of my family for so long makes me want to see them more often once the quarantine lifts."

April 30, 2020

COVID has completely changed my plans to pursue my degree in communications, as well as how I planned to go about applying to prospective job positions.

Being confined to my house means I'm not able to interview for working positions in-person. Now, every application I fill out is sent through email or over the phone. It makes the experience seem impersonal and takes away being able to visit job locations, which is an added benefit of in-person interviews.

I also feel unsure about what my prospective future is going to look like. Will the way we are living now become the new normal? I feel uncertain about what the norm will be in the aftermath of COVID. Having to hear on the news how the pandemic has taken a heavy toll on the economy day-in and day-out as quarantine life consumes the media takes a toll on my mindset. I have started to wonder if I will be able to make a living out of my chosen career path and what this will mean for me in terms of independent living. Will I ever be able to afford to live on my own if I get a job in my intended major after college?

For me, working in the communication field in the aftermath of COVID feels daunting because of the uncertainty of what interpersonal and mass communication will look like. This being said, I am hopeful that we have better things to look forward to, and we will be able to bounce back with even more energy than before.

Thinking back on life pre-COVID, I miss visiting my family and friends. I miss gathering with my friends on weekends and taking trips to Chinatown to make our usual trips for boba and good food. I also don't get to see my family as much these days. I've made trips to my grandparents' home to check in on how they're doing. But those trips consist of seeing them through their windows while I stand on their porch, or take my dog on brief walks in the front yard. I miss being able to spend quality time with my pet. Being separated from the rest of my family for so long makes me want to see them more often once the quarantine lifts.

I also miss traveling and going to concerts! Since my mother is an airline employee, we often travel. Once air travel halted, I felt dismayed at the fact that we could no longer follow through with our travel plans. Because of the stay-at-home order, we have had to put our trips to Poland and Madrid on hold. I had high hopes of being able to make a return trip to Tokyo for the summer, but that won't be happening for some time.

Since our first trip to Spain five years ago, my family and I fell in love with Madrid, and since then, we've made it a stable destination spot to visit. Knowing that we can't go this year was a sore spot.

I was looking forward to attending a concert for one of my favorite artists with my friends in a little less than a month. The concert venue was reluctant to release information until the beginning of April, which made me hold hope that we would still have a chance at attending their concert. Even though the idea of canceling my plans for the foreseeable future put a damper on my mood for a while, it puts me at ease, knowing that this is just a low point. Everything that had to be put on hold is something to look forward to once we return to normal. 

What I will miss once we resume normal life will be the comfort of having personal time for myself. It has been very calming to be able to work on my class assignments and work at a pace that feels comfortable for me, in an environment that makes me feel comforted. Once activities resume, I will have to readjust to a strict and fast pace schedule. I've also been able to spend more personal time with my mom since quarantine put a strain on the travel industry. Her hours at work have been less extensive, and she spends more time at home. We fell into a habit of watching Korean dramas together, an activity that we did before this all started but were able to enjoy more after the stay-at-home order was enforced. I have come to enjoy spending time with her doing something we both like.

I have to say being at home has allowed me to make more frequent use of my kitchen space. I have been able to experiment with food and improve my cooking skills!

Habits that I will be sure to maintain even after quarantine lifts will be maintaining a clean lifestyle and healthy eating habits. Ever since COVID began, my apartment has become my primary workspace, and an extended amount of time has proven to me that I enjoy having a clean workspace. This wasn't something that I put too much time into noticing before. I never stopped and noticed my surroundings as much, but realizing it now has allowed me to form better cleaning habits, which puts me in a lighter state of mind. I've also taken to developing better eating habits. I have had more time to pay more attention to the things I consume and the fact that being stuck at home increases probability for weight gain, so I've taken it upon myself to eat healthier and maintain as much of an active lifestyle as possible. Working out at home is great, but it'll be nice to be able to go to the gym and go for runs when the time allows it.

Overall I feel that I have used this time for a positive reflection of my lifestyle choices and to enjoy time for myself that I didn't take advantage of in the past.   

"Throughout all of this, my Bottom Line Advisor has been a great support for me. She checks in on my classes, as well as my mental health, and listens to all my questions and concerns."

April 20, 2020

Making the switch to online learning was a relatively easy process considering I had already been taking online courses for my major before the change. That being said, just because I already had experience with online learning did not mean I was accustomed to it. I still had things to learn that I hadn't experienced with my other online classes, given that each of my instructors had their own expectations. I went in with the mindset of not having any set expectations for my online courses because I didn't know what to expect. 

UIC began their online instruction on March 30, after extending our spring break from one week to two, giving professors time to acclimate to an online learning forum. I enjoyed the extended time off because it gave me the ability to unwind and forget the stress of having to meet strict deadlines for a few days. As a college student, I am rarely allowed time to mentally decompress between the anxiety of college bills and class deadlines looming over me like a gray cloud. The buffer period was a welcomed surprise. 

I did find it challenging to adjust to online lectures in some ways. As I was no longer going to campus to attend classes, I would wake up thirty minutes to an hour before my class started and log into my discussion. This warped my perception of time a considerable amount as I didn't feel obligated to get up and out of bed to complete my assignments. I slowly lost motivation, and at one point, I even questioned why I was paying any tuition if all I was doing was staring at a computer screen and listening to lectures. I did manage to pull myself out of my mental rut and get back on track. 

The longer hours spent at home also began to hurt my ability to work at one point during the early days of quarantine. I became very enamored with the idea that I would finally be able to get much-needed rest after having dealt with multiple ongoing deadlines. What I failed to accommodate was my job. 

I work as a Student English tutor for the UIC writing center. My job is to help students improve their written assignments or give them guidance in other areas outside of classwork, such as overviewing personal statement pieces, job application reviews, or even resume work. I love my job immensely, and I take pride in the work that I do. When classes went digital, so did my job. My department and I found ourselves having to work from home. My previous schedule required me to work early morning hours, which I had pushed aside the idea of when online instruction began. 

After having missed two shifts due to oversleeping and drafting final paper assignments, my supervisor grew worried that my missing shifts would become a habit. I decided to adjust my schedule and work evening hours. This change allowed me the time to attend my lectures and keep track of my work schedule without added pressure. 

I won't sugarcoat anything and say that the stay-at-home order has been entirely beneficial. It has had its downsides.

As a communication major, my profession is based on public outreach and human involvement. Due to the stay-at-home order, I cannot go out to seek internships. It has set me back as I had a goal of acquiring a summer internship at a literary firm, which would have set me on my path to working within the publishing field. Now that has been tabled. I will say that while this idea of not being able to meet with employers in-person caused me some worry, I was able to reach out to my Bottom Line Advisor, Tashea', and talk about these issues with her. She was able to reassure me that even if I wasn't able to meet with prospective employers at the moment in-person, it shouldn't stop me from still reaching out to them and applying for internship positions that I truly wanted.  

I would have to say my Bottom Line Advisor has been significant support for me. She checks in my classes, as well as my mental health, and listens to all my questions and concerns.