What's it Like to Start First-Year During a Pandemic: A direct Account from First-Year Students
Updated: Apr 25, 2021
Written by: Roberto Armena
Edited by Jocelyn Tan and Kyla Finlayson
Roberto is the first-year representative for the Western One Health Club. As a first-year rep, he works as part of the executive team to promote the importance of One Health to the Western community. Moreover, he aims to foster interest and engagement in One Health events throughout the year, particularly amongst first-year students.
“Tell us a bit about yourselves, and why did you join the Western One Health Club?”
Hey there! I’m Roberto, a first year computer science student currently studying at Western University from my hometown of Mississauga. When I’m not in school, you can find me trying to master a new song on my guitar or cooking up a new recipe in the kitchen.
Despite not being in a traditional medical or health science related program, I’ve always been passionate about the principals that One Health stands for: improving the health of everyone and everything on this Earth (from humans to animals to the environment itself) and the holistic view that everyone, regardless of career or background, is responsible for maintaining this health. I also hope to unite Western students (especially first years!) who share an interest in the collaboration of multiple fields towards the goal of improved healthcare.
“What TV show are you currently watching?”
Money Heist! After going through virtually every other show on Netflix in the first month of quarantine, I decided to venture out into foreign-language shows such as this one. Having to watch with subtitles and listening to a completely different language (in this case, Spanish) may turn away some people, but I highly suggest everyone give it a try. Especially with Money Heist - its excitement, action, and thrill is unmatched by any other show I’ve seen before.
“What have you found to be the most notable difference between high-school and university?”
I’d definitely say the style of classes. High-school fosters a more intimate environment with 20-30 students in each class, letting you form those deeper relationships with your peers and teachers. Switch over to university, and now you’re in a lecture with hundreds of others (or no-one at all in asynchronous classes). Your professor likely doesn’t know who you are unless you make an effort to know them outside of class. You also can’t just ask them to slow down or repeat course content in the middle of a lecture - you sit there for an hour or two and listen, with little to no interactivity.
Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of opportunities outside of class to speak with your professor and get extra help if you need it, but it’s still a very different learning environment that’ll take some time to get used to.
“What’s your favourite thing about online learning?”
My favourite thing is the convenience. Without having to physically travel to lecture halls, I have so much more freedom with my time. For example, I can have a class at 10:30, wake up at 10:29, and still make it right on time. In normal years, I’d have to get dressed and prepared to go out to class. Now, I have more free time to do what I want - whether that’s getting some extra work done for an assignment or unwinding a bit on my guitar.
“On the flip side, what is your least favourite thing about online learning?”
While there have been some good things about switching to online, I definitely miss being physically around other people and getting to talk to them in-person - that’s usually one of the best parts about school after all. Especially since I’m away from London this year, I spend most of my days doing my work alone at home. That being said, I’ve still had a taste of the amazing community at Western and can’t wait to experience it in-person next year!
“Seeing as you're both living at home for your first-year, how have you been able to form connections with other Western students?”
It’s definitely been a challenge to meet new people, and I’m obviously not getting the typical “first year experience” being at home, but I’ve been making the best of the situation. I’ve put myself out there and joined several great clubs (obviously none as good as One Health) and tried getting to know people virtually in my classes. Even though it’s not quite the same as being with people in-person, I’m still having a great first year!
“What’s your favourite course (so far) this year?”
HIST 1810E - Wars that Changed the World.
This course has been an absolute delight! As a computer science student, most of my classes are very math- and science-related. Thanks to breadth requirements, however, forcing me to have at least some variety in my schedule, history has offered a nice and much needed break from these. It also has an amazing prof, great content, and some really fun assignments (we got to make our own musical!) - those are always nice bonuses.
“What do you hope to accomplish as a First Year Representative this year”?
I hope to show everyone (especially first years, but really everyone at Western) how easy it is to integrate One Health into your everyday life, regardless of who you are.
One Health isn’t just about those big things like extensive research and groundbreaking discoveries in the medical field. You don’t have to find the cure to cancer to practice it.
As long as you’re doing your part (no matter how big or small) to contribute to the health of us humans, animals, and the environment, you’re practicing One Health in your own, yet still meaningful, way. Something as simple as wearing a mask to slow the spread of COVID-19 or using reusable water bottles to reduce the amount of waste on our planet can make all the difference in improving the health of humans, animals, and the environment.
Thank you, Roberto, for sharing your first-year experiences!