Virtual ’Burg—Take Two!

Tuesday, September 22, 2020
Ebube Onwusika ’21 at her home work space in Lagos, Nigeria

If you asked me two years ago what my first week of senior year would be like, I would have said something very different from what it actually is, maybe something inspired by “High School Musical.” 

Instead, it involves careful planning and precision (not that there wasn’t any of that in “High School Musical”). If time management was essential before, it’s crucial now. The time difference can be a friend, but it can also be a hassle. I’m taking my classes from home in Lagos, Nigeria, and I’m five hours ahead of Mercersburg. For the last week, I’ve built enough stamina to attend some meetings (like clubs and advisory) at 12 a.m. and still be up and running for classes the next day. But I’m getting ahead of myself. This is meant to be an orderly account of my first week with Virtual ’Burg this fall, and I skipped over day one. 

I have two classes this term and one of them is blended, meaning there are virtual and on-campus students in the class. I have the option of attending one or both sessions in the day, and the teacher makes recordings available. I personally enjoy attending the sessions live because then I can ask questions and get them answered immediately. As for my all-virtual class, I only need to attend one session each day and do the asynchronous work provided. Initially, I was confused by the term “asynchronous,” but it basically means we get homework and reading assignments that can be done alongside what we’re learning in class; that way we cover more subject content in less time. It has been very efficient, and once I got the hang of it the first few days, I’ve been having a blast. 

As I’m five hours ahead and a senior, most of my classes are in the afternoon, so mornings are for essays and college applications. I’d say the best thing academically about being a Virtual ’Burg student is that you are really in charge of your time and your schedule. It’s your responsibility to choose which sessions to attend, let your teacher know, and stay on top of your work. Though we’re taking fewer subjects at a time, the workload is pretty much still the same. Organizing my schedule the day before, setting alarms, having a distinct work space—they had to become regular in order to avoid chaos midweek.

On the other side of school life, remaining socially involved has been a bit of a challenge. Our student activities coordinator, Ms. (Trini) Hoffman, has been doing an amazing job organizing virtual events for students to take part in. And thanks to social media, it’s been easy to keep in touch with my on-campus friends. Serving as a prefect virtually has also been different. I still pitch in ideas on our group chats, and whenever I can, I attend meetings held virtually. My goal is to remain involved even from a distance. But there are still those little moments of FOMO (fear of missing out), especially when I see my fellow Swanksters (Swank Hall residents) enjoying recess with tie-dye or yoga led by Ms. Wrzesinsky. But at the same time, it’s more like they are having fun on my behalf, which is a great feeling.

Another essential part of Mercersburg schooling, PGAs, is also being handled differently in the virtual setting. Each PGA has its own unique plan, but there’s a form we complete four to five times a week which inquires about our workouts, water intake, and our general well-being. Personally, it’s been a fine adjustment, and having to fill out the form helps me remember to get some exercise in, which would have been a challenge otherwise. 

Overall, I’d rate my first week of Virtual ’Burg a 9 out of 10, because there’s the occasional FOMO. Once I settled into a flow, it became much easier to manage my time. And while I can’t wait to be back on campus, I’m liking how being 3,000 miles away doesn’t stop me from engaging in our community.

Editor's note: Ebube Onwusika ’21 is one of two interns in Mercersburg’s Office of Strategic Marketing and Communications for fall 2020. She is also a prefect in Swank Hall and co-editor for the Hustle and Bustle section of the Mercersburg News.