Getting Used to Zoom and a New Normal

By NVC Student Daniel Acosta

First-day-of-schools can be stressful or exciting and I have had many since I was 3 years old. However, having to go through the pandemic was one of the most challenging periods in my life. Returning to school after the initial COVID lockdown felt like it was going to be a shot in the dark. I already had a lot of experience being a college student and graduated from UTSA, receiving my bachelor’s degree in 2016.

After training with the local adaptive sports program, STRAPS (South Texas Regional Adaptive & Para Sports) program for 4 years, I was experiencing some burn out. I won some medals, met some great people and given the circumstances of the incoming pandemic, STRAPS had to shut down as well. The stress level of being stuck at home made me realize that maybe it was time to return to school.

With my sister’s advice, I chose to attend Alamo College in the spring of 2021. I was excited to return to the academic world but obviously I had to tame my expectations as I instantly thought it was going to be like 2016 and before. I had plenty of experience dealing with Zoom during 2020 as I managed my local support group and other gatherings such as speed dating or playing online Jeopardy with my peers.

But I didn’t know what to expect trying to navigate Zoom in the classroom environment. So, I did what I would normally do on a typical first day of school: get up early, get dressed and look my best.

I open up my mother’s iPad, click on the Zoom link and then I saw a screenshot: “Basic Graphic Design Zoom Lecture starts at 9 AM.” In my mind, I needed to forget that I was still home. A few other students came in the chat and I remember telling them a silver lining: “Well, at least we don’t have to worry about morning traffic.”

I have been riding on a city bus between three cities since 1998. When Covid hit, I think I only caught the bus a total of four times in 2020. The old saying goes, you don’t appreciate what you have until it’s gone. Despite the city bus not being a luxurious experience, I always try to appreciate it because it gives me a sense of independence especially since I have Cerebral palsy which keeps me from mastering the reflexes to drive a vehicle. Overall, riding the city bus has certainly saved my family a lot of money in gas over the years.

Trying to interact with the other classmates in a Zoom or online environment is still a challenge. For this particular class, there was a chat section but the settings in our Zoom sessions didn’t’t allow us to chat privately or in groups. There was only one chat window where everybody saw everyone’s comments, which everybody was respectful and kind. But, I know I can’t be the only one that misses the side interactions with individual classmates. For example, I would more likely build a bond with the classmates that are next to me in the physical class setting.

Although a group of students and I made a GroupMe chat to alleviate the chat limitations, it cannot replace the physical dynamic of in-person interactions. Unfortunately, I think the lockdown created a lot of hesitation and isolation to try to create those interactions virtually. I know a lot of people are still so conditioned and still enjoy the benefits of being at home. I think if Zoom continues to become an option for classes, those in-person interpersonal skills will start to diminish if they haven’t started already.

I would also try to show up on campus and go through the COVID protocols when going inside a building on campus. Going to NVC on the bus takes about 2 1/2 hours. Yes, there is a huge convenience to not having to go to campus a few times a week especially if your classes are already online.

On the other hand, who wants to miss student orientation with the Ducks?

But I guess I have been conditioned since I was in preschool that going to another physical location for my education was normal and despite the commuting challenges I would face, it was part of the journey.

I don’t know what the future holds for in-person instruction in schools, but I’m sure I will be done with my certification before things get closer to “normal”.

But for better or worse, virtual gatherings will be in our lives. However, given that the stability of our Internet infrastructure at certain times like extreme weather, moderation is key. During the 2021 Texas winter freeze, my sister made a comment, “Now that we have Zoom, there are no more school weather closures. Then I said: “Maybe, unless the power goes out.”