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Art School During a Pandemic: A Reflection

Updated: Apr 14, 2021

With the turn of a new year on it's way, there is a lot of hope with the new vaccine. Turning the ugly page of 2020 in hopes of a brighter future could not be anymore desired than in this moment.

If you are a college student, you probably can relate to how difficult and challenging remote learning was/is. Most colleges will remain online after the new year given the current circumstances. Hopefully, it won't be for the entirety of 2021.

Going to PNCA, an art school in the pnw, has been extremely challenging. There are a multitude of factors that made me want to leave (tuition increase, tuition expense, poor leadership, lack of/nonexistent communication, lack of work-study funds, racism and homophobia etc...) but the biggest two issues that made me question myself periodically this fall semester (2020) is the online platform and the work load. I want to first state the positives of online learning.

Small List of Pros of Being Online:

  • Not spreading the virus (Period)

  • Having amazing professors who were willing to teach on the remote platform


Lets move on, shall we.

Here is my breakdown of how miserable online learning was (in general, I did improve a lot and learn *shocking* thanks to my awesome professors. Although, the experience was not enjoyable and my mental health was suffering so much. What is the point if you are not having at least a little fun during school; learning should not be torture it should be pleasurable with the occasional challenge.

1) The Zoom Time

Oh Zoom, the infamous Zoom you are. Zooming for an hour to hear what we were assigned was already hard enough, but having a critique for 3-4 hours on Zoom... that's when the burnout happened. I feel like people who did not have to do zoom learning or be in the position of a student don't believe in zoom burnout. But when it is required by your department to have your camera on for those long hours of sitting idling at a blue computer screen with little engagement, you are bound to get tired. People also don't fit in how students are full time, so you have 4 or 5 classes a week that will be on screen for at least an hour. In general, I would say my zoom time a week was about 12.5 hours, some classes more than others, others much shorter. So put that zoom time on the timeline of sixteen weeks. 200 hours on Zoom. That repetitive cycle of long zoom hours will affect your mental health hands down. And this is just an average, I'm sure I had weeks that were much worse but you get the picture

2) The Work Load

Okay so this will be another blog post in the future, probably once I finish my sophomore year so I have a bigger picture of how the work load really is. Nevertheless, the workload was ridiculous. I would say that 3 of my 5 classes had a normal workload until finals. The other classes were literally hell to keep up in throughout the whole semester. I would stay up so late just to not fall behind and dedicate all my hours in my day to it, but both classes would lay on more and more work. This was noticeable among my peers too. The amount of assignments being turned in by everyone on time diminished considerably, some weeks three out of the fifteen people would turn in their painting studies on time. My roommate took the same 2 studio classes that I am mentioning, and she can attest to the difficulty those classes were. Finals for all theses classes were so much, substantially more than any previous finals I had. Comparably, the work was twice as much. These classes were also higher in skill level, so the work was grueling to complete. Whatever reduced workload for the online learning that was mentioned was a lie.

All in all, my mental health steadily declined. More and more, I found myself being more short with others and myself. I stopped exercising as much as I did. Many days I only did school and work. I had at least three mental breakdowns sobbing because it was all too much for my spirit. I was working 21-23 hours a week in order to pay rent, gas, and groceries on top of all the workload I was given. To say the least, this semester was one of my darkest.

Moving on, I'll be taking one less studio class next semester to give myself a break. I'll still be on track to graduate, but I'll be needing to take full class loads for the rest of my 2 years at this institution. I'll also be using the school's 10 free counseling sessions a year to give myself extra support because I'll have a bit more free time than last semester. It's hard not to compare the joy I felt learning in person to the gloom I feel learning online, and I know that my mental health would have been a lot better in we were in person. All that being said, I have come out more resilient and more aware. I've come really aware of what are my limits. I truly hope that next school year will by great faith be in person, but the future is unclear.

Thank you to any of y'all who read this. I hope you found my experience interesting and perhaps relatable to what you experienced. Stay safe and always check in with yourself! Lots of love!

***photo credit to Jeswin Thomas

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