Collage of New York Tech students


Q&A: Staying Connected While Social Distancing

April 6, 2020

Pictured from left: Bernd Schluter, Maria Perez, Samantha Mazzilli, and Thomas Dowling.

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed our lives and we are all living a “new normal.” College courses have moved online and students are adjusting to a new normal. Where they once met up with friends after class, students now find themselves self-isolating.

Thomas Dowling, a graduate student majoring in communication arts; Samantha Mazzilli, an advertising, public relations, and technology student; Maria Perez, majoring in political science; and Bernd Schluter, a graduate student pursuing an M.B.A. in management and member of the men’s soccer team, spoke to The Box about how they are adjusting to remote learning and how they are staying connected while social distancing.

How do you feel about the situation? What is the biggest adjustment you had to make?
Bernd Schluter: I am feeling anxious about how far this situation will go. However, it is still an interesting and challenging time ahead of us that will go down in history.
Thomas Dowling: I don’t like this situation as I really like learning on the scene being amongst classmates and friends. That experience is priceless. Juggling home life during the pandemic, loss of work time, and staying focused and attentive to the online structure have been my biggest adjustments.
Samantha Mazzilli: In the beginning, I was really relaxed, but still cautious. Now, I’m a little more self-aware and watching the media does heighten my anxiety, but I’m trying to stay calm. It makes me put things into perspective and appreciate what used to be our normal.
Maria Perez: The biggest adjustment I had to make is learning how to manage my time and have discipline with online classes. Staying home does not bother me because I want my family and me to be safe.

Did you have to move back home?
Dowling: I commuted in from New Jersey, so I am home in Jersey.
Schluter: I am staying and living in the dorms.
Perez: I had to go back home to Puerto Rico because New York was getting hectic.
Mazzilli: I commute from home, so I stayed.

Do you find it harder or easier to study remotely?
Mazzilli: Yes, I am comfortable. I don’t mind classes being on Zoom. Studying actually is harder and so is staying focused and listening because I’m home. It feels like there are more distractions at home.
Schluter: Online classes are fine and easier to handle. However, interaction is lacking.
Dowling: I don’t like Blackboard, but I like Zoom. At least with Zoom we can communicate easier. Studying remotely is not hard as we do this already when we work on assignments and written projects but, as I stated earlier, the exchanging of ideas and the conversations are more insightful when in a class setting.
Perez: Honestly, I much prefer online classes since I can understand and visualize better.

Do you stay connected with your classmates and friends? If yes, how?
Mazzilli: Yes, I do. I use social media, texting, and FaceTime for my friends. With my classmates, I use text and Zoom.
Perez: Yes, we FaceTime almost every day.
Dowling: Yes, via text and Instagram mostly.
Schluter: Connection with classmates is lacking. However, I am always connected to my friends.

Outside of your online courses, what are you doing to occupy your time?
Mazzilli: I love arts and crafts, coloring, and painting so it’s nice to be able to work on those more and I appreciate doing that. I also love cooking and baking and trying new recipes, so I now have the time to do that. I’m also catching up on movies and shows I always wanted to start watching from the beginning, like Seinfeld.
Schluter: I am applying for jobs, doing assignments, playing video games, reading news and books, FaceTiming with friends and family.
Dowling: I watched a couple of movies. I’m getting ready to watch the new season of the Ozark. I wrote a horror story and getting ready to start a screenplay.
Perez: I am taking the time to do my online classes and soak in the sun in beautiful Puerto Rico.

What message do you have for your fellow students?
Schluter: Stay home, wash your hands, and stay in touch with your close ones.
Dowling: It’s scary, but you have to have faith. I’ve always been a person that watches out for germs and stays clean and healthy. I feel sorry for the children that are scared and concerned. I know people who had relatives or friends that have passed due to this and it’s very sad.
Mazzilli: This experience is making me appreciate what I took for granted in what used to be our normal, like going out with my friends, getting my nails done, going out for dinner, even seeing my friends and family members. I hope we all get through this soon and this doesn’t become our new normal.
Perez: I feel frustrated with the people not taking this seriously. Please stay home.

Looking for ways to connect with your classmates? Student Life is hosting various virtual events including, Trivia Tuesday – TV Throwback, Virtual Bingo, Virtual Campus Fair, Student Government Association Town Hall, and more. Visit the events calendar for a full listing of initiatives.