22-year old Astha is a first-year student at a business school here in Kathmandu. She left Pokhara with a prospect of better education and job opportunities in Kathmandu. Pre-COVID, her ordinary schedule used to look something like this: wake up at 5:45 a.m, eat breakfast, dress up, and reach college for her first-class that starts from 6:45 a.m. After finishing her classes at noon, she meets her friends in a nearby cafe and returns to the hostel in the evening. After the country announced a nation-wide lockdown to fight against COVID-19, Astha’s day-to-day life has changed drastically.
Now, her classes start in her bed just moments after she wakes up. With no friends to meet and nowhere to go, the rest of the day usually passes by scrolling through her never-ending newsfeed, binging on youtube, and long hours of mobile gaming. Astha in this story is not an individual but the representation of the majority of college students in Nepal at this moment.
(You can read on how to make your work/study from home more productive here.)
The change that has been a result of practicing safe distances during COVID-19 has directly impacted the lifestyle of students in numerous ways. Here are some of the points that give a deeper insight into how things have changed for college students in Nepal.
Unexpected transition to digitized learning
Until three months ago, we all might have heard from someone or thought for ourselves that remote learning is the future of learning. But, would you have ever guessed it would come this fast? This change has been so fast that it has given us a 5-year head start to online learning. While online learning may be the only option that we have right now, this has surely brought a lot of challenges to the students.
Effective online learning requires proper devices and decent internet connection which most of the students around Nepal do not have access to. In a study conducted by the International Council for Open and Distance Education, it was found that the majority of the students have their personal mobile devices but out of them, only 45% have smartphones and 24% have access to personal computers which are essential for online learning. This means that the majority of students still lack the proper logistics needed for online learning.
Socializing in times of COVID-19
Socializing in the time of COVID-19 has itself been a great challenge for the students. Catching up in the hallways and hanging out in cafes has now been replaced by several group chats, time to time video calls, and lots of online gaming. While this might sound fun for now, these online mediums are not as effective as the way we socialize meeting each other in-person.
Various researches suggest that overuse of these devices is linked to problems such as screen addiction, anxiety, loneliness, and depression. Students are highly prone now more than ever to such problems because of the increased hours they have been having to spend in front of the screen. So, creating a balanced social life for students is not possible if going online is the only option.
Adapting to learning at home
Learning from home can be full of distractions and challenges. The internet speed might be poor, your schedule is no longer the same, and your room is full of distractions especially when you have many siblings or a big family, in addition to various other problems. Students are now being challenged to adapt to a completely new learning environment in a short amount of time.
Also, a college education is not just about attending lectures and classes but collaborative working and a nurturing learning environment where students make new friends, share ideas, and get hands-on experience on the subject matter. While learning from home may not be as effective, it is the only option on the table for now.
The future is uncertain
Although we have thousands of guesses and the post-COVID predictions, no one really knows exactly where this is heading. No one has an accurate prediction on how long this is going to last, or when the vaccine will arrive, or even what is coming next. These questions are pondering not just in the mind of politicians, economists, scientists, or investors but also in the mind of every student.
What’s next? How long till we take in-person classes? And if graduation is near - Will I be getting any job? These are some of the many questions that each and every one of the students are asking.
The COVID-19 has caused fast and unexpected changes in the lifestyle of the students in Nepal. This has caused us to change the way we learn, interact, socialize, and the way we look into the future. While we don’t know how long the virus will last, we can surely say that the impact caused by it is long-lasting.