Of experience and adapting to the new normal

By Nurfatihah Irdina

After a long break from studying, students resume their learning endeavour in mid-October.

During the entire course of Ta’aruf Week that took place from 1 until 11 October at the main campus in Gombak, not to forget Kuantan and Pagoh campuses, many anticipate to begin a new chapter in their life.

For instance, students are excited to attend classes especially when most of us are new, unfamiliar with this so-called the “Hogwarts” of Malaysia environment where all buildings, blocks and even the colour of each rooftop—shade of blue to be precise look oddly similar; and the vast magnitude of this land itself becomes confusing and tiring when it comes to navigating direction, which in turn resulting to possibly asking a nearly-friendly-looking face around that seems unbothered enough to answer your questions.

Lost in campus? This is a problem often faced by new students and even to lecturers as well.

Adding to that, students are also excited to meet new friends and teachers; perhaps even trying out new dishes such as the honorable mention—shawarma sold at each Mahallah respectively, each that tastes differently, however remaining scrumptious, hearty that leaves the stomach full at the end of each bite taken.

This could probably be one of the reasons why students are eager to experience university life, oh! and of course the reality all students must face nonetheless—grilling brains to figure out how to complete an assignment and catching up with deadlines by rushing to the lecturer’s office to hand it in on time; an exhaustive sport to both brains and minds felt by all of us at one point.

However, things took quite a turn with the recent heartbreaking announcement and the return of conditional movement control order (CMCO) addressing that citizens of Selangor, Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya are advised to stay indoors at all times starting from 14 until 26 October.

Recent circumstances have hindered many progressive events for students to transpire. Students can no longer attend face-to-face classes, conduct on-hand activities or even take part in volunteering activities. All of which contribute to personal development, polishing interpersonal skills and creating lasting memories that will eventually prepare us for the outside world.

In parallel fashion, lecturers having to brainstorm for new ideas in readjusting the study plan that aligns with the atmosphere of online learning and most importantly, obeying the SOP and health guidelines provided by the Ministry of Health— a new norm during this pandemic.

Prior to COVID-19, in searching for reading materials, students would ask around from their friends and lecturers in their respective Kulliyyah or even from other Kulliyyahs.

Now that things have changed, we can no longer rely on the power of real-life networking whereby you meet friends and talk to them at a café or a library.

Today, most of us rely strongly on the power of the internet. We tune in to YouTube, SlideShare, eBooks and other reliable websites and sources in getting extra information because reading materials from the lecturers alone are inadequate.  

Online classes come with a great deal of emotional turmoil. For instance, listing a few day-to-day challenges faced by students: morning headaches, eye-constraints, backaches, long hours of staring into the computer and others too deadly to mention. 

Moreover, we have to think outside the box in doing assignments. Back then, passing up assignments was as easy as one-two-three, all we had to do was to be present in front of the class.

Today, students ought to utilise their video editing skills when presenting  assignments that are mostly video-based. Many factors come into play when editing a video; internet connection, phone storage, trimming out unnecessary information in the video and others. While all of these may seem like a hassle, students are given the chance to produce their finest means of a perfect presentation. Consequently, enhancing their skills to talk in front of the camera confidently.

Moving on, unlike any other registration days as before, those days where everyone is accustomed to; hugging friends the moment you meet them, lounging at each other’s room for hours and weekly planned activities—now, a figment.

As time progresses, we are more or less adapted to the new normal but the question is how do students deal with the alterations done by the higher authorities especially when it’s their first time registering during a pandemic?

Recent registration that took place was packed with an air of uncertainty by both students and parents alike. Among them are IIUM students, both international and local new intakes making their way for the first semester.

The new normal registration includes adjustments furnished to adhere to the strict SOP, such are wearing face masks at all given times, practicing social distancing, temperature checking and applying hand sanitizers.

We cannot deny that students are disheartened with the fact that every activity is now conducted via internet. With this, it is with no doubt that students begin to worry of their certainty about getting a job especially having to continue our studies in a virtually-based environment. Despite it all, lecturers and alumni of this university are willing to lend a hand without an iota of doubt.

Those are just a few of what goes on in university life, but I believe what goes beyond what we see on screen is a much more refined hardship that goes unspoken. Despite the profound silence, it exists. Either for the worst or the better, this is the reality we now live in. Sometimes, words are easier said than done, “keep holding on” or so they say but in fighting this invisible enemy, a big question mark gravitate us back to the very expression of what exactly are we holding onto?

Everything seems so surreal and unreachable but as students we must remember that the privilege to receive education despite the neurotic environment and multiple setbacks that surround us, it is one-way ticket to make this world a better place not just for us but for our friends, for the unfortunates and above all, for the betterment of ourselves.***

Students are socially distanced during Taaruf Week session

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