A Day in the Life of a Cornell Engineer during the Pandemic

Cornell Engineering student StephieMy typical day during the pandemic consists of fewer in-person activities than before the pandemic, but we are very lucky at Cornell that we have successfully pulled off a hybrid model and still have some in-person opportunities! Typically, I wake up and take any morning classes I have at home. I also try to take a break where I can run or go on a walk with a friend in the mornings (see picture). My afternoons are more variable, depending on whether or not I have something in person. If I have to go into lab, or if I have an in-person discussion or lab class, I usually go to Duffield with my friends to study before and after my in-person activity. If not, I stay home to study. Then I usually eat dinner with my roommates, or get takeout with some friends, and proceed to do my homework or club activities over Zoom. If I don’t have too much work, I try to bake or watch Netflix with my roommates.

Overall, I have a mix of things in my daily routine that have stayed the same and that have changed since March. Going into lab and always doing homework with my friends hasn’t changed much since the onset of the pandemic, even though some of my homework sessions are now over Zoom. Clubs, however, are very different and primarily take place on Zoom. For example, I am on a dance group, and trying to learn choreography over Zoom while dancing in my relatively small bedroom is certainly a challenge. That said, it has been really cool to watch everyone adapt (both individually and on a group/club level) to COVID, and I am thrilled that all of my clubs have remained active during the pandemic. Of course, having most of my classes and extracurriculars on Zoom can be tiring at times, but I have found it helps a lot to go to Duffield to do work because I can then separate my place of work from my home as I have done in previous semesters. If you (understandably) don’t feel comfortable working in public during the pandemic, I would suggest designating a place in your apartment or dorm to do homework and separating it from where you eat, call friends, sleep, etc.

Finally, some aspects of virtual learning have pleasantly surprised me. It is now much easier to listen to class content (e.g. review videos) while also doing something else; I tend to listen to review materials while doing chores and that has helped save time for me. In addition, it is interesting that some classes have more work while some have less to adapt to online learning. One of my classes essentially had to cut its lab component, instead opting for a few short projects, while another class added in new pre-class assignments to help reinforce the material. While it is easy to roll your eyes at the second strategy containing more work, I have found that the exercises really force me to interact with the material and help simulate in-person learning better. Overall, I am really pleased with Cornell’s hybrid model. I am grateful to still do lab work and discussions in person, and happy that all of the professors have come up with various strategies to make online learning as meaningful as possible.

—Stephie, biomedical engineering