I’m one of many who experienced a majority of my university life on campus before the COVID-19 shutdown forced classes online.
The University of Winnipeg (U of W) would be bustling with people trying to get to their classes or trying to claim a spot at Stella’s across the street. The university held events, like Roll Call or the UWpg Film Festival, for students to connect with one another.
It was easy to bump into someone you knew and connect with them.
I found it much harder to make these connections once classes moved onto Zoom.
I was already stressing about what was going on in the world and needing to isolate myself from my friends and family. Hours spent looking at a screen only added to my exhaustion.
Once class was over, I would log out immediately, because I didn’t have energy to reach out to my classmates.
It also didn’t help that, during classes, you couldn’t see anyone’s face. Once class started, all I would see were numerous black screens with first and last names and no faces to connect to them.
However, the longer the pandemic dragged on, the U of W’s student groups were able to stay intact and adapt, connecting to a wide audience of students despite only a few being on campus.
The University of Winnipeg Students’ Association (UWSA), has a long list of student groups which have found ways to connect with people online. These groups are still able to hold events and gain more members, helping those who started university online find people to connect with.
But not all student groups could make the transition to the internet, since their activities have in-person requirements.
Back in 2020, the University of Manitoba announced plans to repurpose the student group offices as bookable study spaces.
This outraged many student-group executives who felt that their safe spaces were being taken away. Some clubs also argued that they must have an office space to continue to function, since it is a vital part of their club activities.
The UM Photo Club and University of Manitoba Ski and Snowboard (UMSNOW) are two groups that need an office space to function. The Photo Club needs a darkroom for staple activities like film and photo development and other workshops. After losing the darkroom to a fire back in 2020, the club was told that they were not able to move back in due to the University of Manitoba Students’ Union converting the room for different purposes, which placed the club’s future in jeopardy.
UMSNOW was unable to secure office space, which it requires to keep information about students going on their annual reading week trip and to securely hold thousands of dollars of club funds. UMSNOW was forced to cancel its annual trip to British Columbia.
Whether it was in person or online, student groups made it easier to connect with others and make memories.
Going from in-person to online classes made it difficult for me to connect with my peers, because I didn’t want to sit in front of a screen all day. I craved face-to face connection. As things seem to be going back to “pre-COVID” times, I hope to connect with more people, maybe even on campus!
Kim Uduman is a recent graduate from the theatre and film and rhetoric, writing and communications programs at the University of Winnipeg. In her downtime, she loves caring for her plants, cuddling her orange-tabby cat and attempting latte art.
Published in Volume 76, Number 21 of The Uniter (March 17, 2022)