Students Reflect on Winter Quarter

Illustrated by Bridget Rios

Sarah Fishman

Contributing Writer

The winter quarter is now behind us. Upon reflection, it is impossible to figure out where the time went. Time moved simultaneously fast and slow, and now that the quarter is officially in the past, the weeks blur together.

Starting winter quarter online isolated many members of the UCSB community. Some students chose to return to campus right away but many opted to stay home as the Omicron Variant spread like wildfire across the country. First-year student Danae Stathatos describes the beginning of the quarter as “lonely,” because “everybody was gone.” Another first-year student, Courtney Aponik, builds on this statement by remembering how she “felt like a hermit” because “no one was on campus, so there wasn’t a social aspect.”

First-year student Brianna Noriega found online school frustrating. “It got overwhelming because doing lectures took up a lot of my homework time – especially because a lot of professors posted their lectures later in the day and not at the designated class time,” she explained. 

Stathatos discussed how for her “online school made it 10 times harder to focus.” Noriega captures this wavering sense of motivation by explaining how “school felt optional.” Furthermore, Aponik describes how asynchronous classes made it hard to differentiate between weeks. “Because of the online format, the days started to blend together,” she said. This stark contrast to the in-person structure of fall quarter required students to rely much more on their own planning.

However, students also found that there were many upsides of remote learning. “I enjoyed doing my lectures at the beach,” recalled Noriega, noting that with online school she “embraced nature a lot more.” 

As the Omicron Variant rates declined and more people began to return, these benefits became even more apparent for many students. Stathatos recalled how it was “kind of nice to do my work with my friends constantly.” Many people used the increased freedom and flexibility as an opportunity to fit more fun and relaxation into their lives. 

First-year student Olivia Sclafani sums up these mixed emotions about online school. “[Remote learning was] more convenient and more time manageable, but I also had less motivation because it was online,” she said. 

This change in the structure of classes — for better or worse — significantly contributed to how fast the quarter flew by. Sclafani explains how, to her, the “online part went by faster, [and the] in-person part went by slower.” Stathatos partially attributes this to how “once we came back, it was already week five.” First-year Jaden Orli recalls how “going back in person during exam week, when the entirety of prior classes were online,” presented an added challenge that compounded the existing difficulty of students’ workloads. 

Sclafani discussed how some exams that are designed for “weeding people out of classes” can feel “unreasonably hard.” Noriega agrees with these struggles, adding that this “makes students doubt themselves to a point where they want to change majors.” Orli cites “not knowing your grades until the end of the quarter” in some classes as another cause of stress and uncertainty.

Despite any chaos that winter quarter involved, it was also characterized by fun moments and exciting opportunities. Aponik remembers the transition to in person very fondly. “Going from being stuck in your room to being able to see friends again and have fun was very refreshing and made life lively again,” she explains. 

First-year student Baylin Lavy enjoyed “further developing my computer science skills and my athletic ability,” and Sclafani recalls “beach days” as a highlight. Even parts of the quarter that weren’t ideal also had upsides: Stathatos points out how the initial emptiness of the campus yielded some perks, such as “having my room to myself.”

Overall, winter quarter evoked a particular sense of surrealness as it sped by. Stathatos discussed how “fall quarter felt more permanent.” Noriega expressed a similar, and equally hard to explain, sense that winter quarter “didn’t feel real.” Whether it was due to the online portion, increased workloads, or something else, this quarter was characterized by a new perception of time and reality for many students.