When COVID-19 hit Singapore, I had the feeling that it would be similar to how the SARS pandemic panned out. Back then I was doing my first degree in NUS and the SARS pandemic lasted for slightly over half a year. I had the impression that perhaps this would take slightly longer but within a year or so we should be able to eradicate COVID-19 just like we did with SARS.

Ok, so I am perhaps not the best at making wise in my own head predictions. It was a good thing that I never said anything out loud to anyone (And a good thing that I am not a betting man or one in the medical field). A year or so down the road, we are in the midst of another round of tightened restrictions. I have not had a decent game of football since early 2020 as casual team sports have not been able to resume safely. Exercising has been reduced to working out at the gym or with the equipment I have at home. I’ve been hiking at Bukit Timah a whole lot more and the post-law school exams celebration was a virtual Zoom session with my coursemates. We made the best of what we could. Once our last paper was over, some of us gathered that very night at 10 pm and drank and chit-chatted till the wee hours of the morning. I bailed at about 1 am. I had to wake up to hike with my good friend and fellow law schoolmate Derick.

Moving forward, virtual classes on Zoom will be common. For the record, I do not like Zoom lessons. I feel that both the tutors and the students have to put in much more effort to make the session effective. I had virtual classes for my social work module and most of the class had their cameras off. There was once the tutor had his camera off as well without realising it. I guess there is no real way to weed out all technical issues as everyone’s equipment and setup are different. However, this is the norm not just at SUSS but throughout the education system. There are definitely benefits to virtual learning. For example, one can save time from having to travel down to campus. I am, however, trying to adapt to this new method of learning. The worst thing about me is that I am someone who needs to be in a physical classroom or examination hall to “get in the mood”. The examinations were done at home due to the heightened restrictions and I felt like I was doing an assignment more than sitting for an examination.

This norm, sad to say, will persist for longer than most of us would like.  I would prefer to have all my classes in physical face to face classrooms but would most probably not happen. We were supposed to stick to the same learning circles (i.e. same classmates) for the duration of our studies. Bonds might not be as strong if we do not see each other in person and this is why I am so grateful to have my close bunch of classmates from boot camp (the first four full Saturdays of lessons). We tried to all get into the same physical face to face class. All of us camped online when it was time to register for our modules for the following semester. Once the portal opened, we synchronised our selections carefully. Heck, one of us even wrote a petition for all of us to be in the same class moving forward!

Come to think of it. Perhaps all this adversity is pulling us even closer?