Passions and Obsessions

‘I felt trapped inside my laptop screen’— Pandemic-batch summa cum laude grads speak up

How these outstanding De La Salle–College of Saint Benilde students hurdled the challenges of online classes

From top, clockwise: Kyle Nicole Diorella D. Viola, BS-Hotel Restaurant and Institution Management; Kierstenn Zette L. Dionisio, BS Architecture; Keatrina E. Peralta, BS Hotel Restaurant and Institution Management; Sabrina Iris A. Don, AB Diplomacy and International Affairs; Angelica Nyles E. Tan, AB Fashion Design and Merchandising; Lee Ann Mari A. Austria, AB Diplomacy and International Affairs

A unique breed of recent graduates, they started college with the assumption of a normal freshman experience—attend classes and join extracurricular activities on campus every day, study in the library, socialize in the cafeteria, and hang out with friends after school.

However, the pandemic happened and paralyzed the world, including the global educational system. This led to a painful, unprecedented transition to a fully online mode of instruction.

Through their entire college life, they barely physically saw their classmates, professors, even the campus—an undergrad’s second home. They are the first-ever pandemic batch from the De La Salle–College of Saint Benilde.

This is how these summa cum laude graduates maintained and nurtured their social skills during these rough times.

Sabrina Iris A. Don
AB Diplomacy and International Affairs (AB-DIA)

Online classes challenged my confidence and creativity in initiating and maintaining relationships. I felt forced to showcase myself differently online to leave lasting impressions. It was particularly difficult in a new school—it was added work to gauge when and how to talk on calls, or to analyze body language through webcams, and that was if they were switched on.  I adjusted to create good times nonetheless. It limited me, yet molded me. Although I contemplated the alternate possibility of having greater memories along the very streets of Taft, the privilege of finishing college remotely is something I am eternally grateful for.

Kyle Nicole Diorella D. Viola
BS-Hotel Restaurant and Institution Management (BS-HRIM)

The global pandemic definitely affected many lives in many ways. Among these, I believe that my social skills were subjected to unique challenges that aided in building these abilities further. Ultimately, for someone who prefers having in-person interactions, the pandemic truly took a toll on how I present myself to others and how I view them, as well. Given the virtual atmosphere, I found it hard to clearly discern non-verbal cues and facial expressions, therefore, complicating interpersonal relationships. Nonetheless, I learned how to maximize the given digital platforms, which helped me build the friendships I cherish to this day. This proved to be helpful, since these support networks inevitably became my armor against the stress and isolation that the crisis brought us.

Kierstenn Zette L. Dionisio
BS Architecture

In my initial year as an architecture student attending classes on campus, I was constantly exposed to collaborative studio environments and hands-on engagement with physical models and spaces. This posed a challenge when I transitioned to virtual learning, as I was unsure how to navigate social interactions with my peers in a completely new set-up. I found that the virtual environment inherently lacked the richness and depth of social interaction found in traditional classroom settings, making it difficult to foster new and meaningful interactions. Despite this, the experience emphasized the importance of finding alternative methods to create meaningful interpersonal relationships.

Keatrina E. Peralta
BS-Hotel Restaurant and Institution Management (BS-HRIM)

I grew up in a household where education is very much valued, so the idea of never being able to experience college the same way most people did due to the pandemic was a hard pill to swallow. Gone were the days I would wake up in the morning to attend a 7 a.m. class and sit in my chair, fighting boredom with friends as our professors discussed the lessons of the day. The fully-online class set-up turned my life upside-down and challenged my self-esteem and social skills, as I felt trapped inside my laptop screen—with technology being the only way to learn and grow during that difficult time.

‘Every ‘unmute’ in Zoom rooms gave me stress 

Angelica Nyles E. Tan
AB Fashion Design and Merchandising

Adjusting to college is one thing, but adjusting to college during a pandemic is another. When mute and off cameras became such a thing, I immediately knew my social skills would be at risk. The lack of physical interaction made it even more challenging for me to connect with people. Every “unmute” in Zoom rooms gave me stress and anxiety. It was quite a lot, and the situation may have forced me to put in extra effort in various aspects. But on a positive note, it did help me become more understanding and empathetic towards every person and situation.

Lee Ann Mari A. Austria
Bachelor of Arts in Diplomacy and International Affairs (AB-DIA)

I went from being an extrovert to being an introverted, exaggeratedly shy college student. That’s a total 180 degree change! It was a challenge finding the right friends during the online set-up, because how can you even express yourself to a stranger who just happened to be your blockmate for the term? But honestly, investing time to get to know my peers led to discovering genuine connections. Despite the unconventional setting, I bonded deeply with those who embraced me for who I am. They became my closest companions, offering unwavering support in the complexities of virtual schooling.

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