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Courtesy Photo This Zoom window capture shows Ernesto Cisneros leading a discussion for his weekly public relations class this past April 2021, from the comfort of his dorm in Chamisa Village on the NMSU campus in Las Cruces. One of the challenges of online learning is facilitating collaboration and allowing everyone to equally share their ideas. Unstable internet connections to camera and microphone made classwork difficult throughout the school year, but everyone persevered.

Going to College During a Global Pandemic a.k.a. Zoom University

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By ERNESTO CISNEROS


There were many challenges that this pandemic has presented this past year. Something that I never thought I would have to do is give a presentation or take an exam over Zoom. It has certainly been interesting considering that I lost a year of college experiences. Adapting to this “new normal” has been difficult for most students, but for me it has presented numerous opportunities for growth, both academically and personally. I can’t think of anything better to reflect on as a college student who’s experienced college both before and during a global pandemic.


The first year of college, especially if you’re living on campus, is monumental. You meet so many people of different cultures, with different languages, backgrounds, and experiences. For a small-town kid like me, that was eye-opening, considering that some of us in our community struggle with finding diversity. I felt drawn to be myself and explore different avenues for success. Despite numerous opportunities to get involved, I felt the need to focus on academics rather than extracurricular, which was my biggest mistake my first year. I learned quickly that opportunities are limited, and time is immeasurable and unpredictable. My plans for getting more involved my sophomore year were foiled by the raging pandemic. It limited my chances for the opportunity to experience college fully, in a non-academic sense.
This past academic year happened solely online with limited in-person gatherings. I participated in discussions, exams, and presentations on Zoom from the comfort of my dorm. Let me tell you, there’s nothing more exhausting! Having to jump Zoom links for a majority of the day and then complete hours of homework was grueling.

On top of that, unstable internet connections made schoolwork more difficult. School events were cancelled for fear of transmission of the virus, which also meant that spring break was called off. I became stuck! I established a routine of going to Zoom classes, grabbing food from the dining hall, and doing homework late into the night, a never-ending nightmare. Professors were understanding of our mental health for the most part, but the faith in online learning wasn’t there and their frustration was completely visible. What powered me through the semester was my professors’ and classmates’ patience and determination to succeed. Being able to see them and interact with them, despite being online, was crucial for me.


Of the classes I took this past year, my public relations class kept me sane and provided me with the benefits of becoming a team leader while working under pressure. I was assigned the leadership position to encourage my classmates to create two campaigns that we would pitch to the class. We created a COVID-19 vaccine campaign called “#vaccinate don’t procrastinate” to encourage vaccination in younger adults and college students. We also made a branding pitch to expand New Mexico State University (NMSU) under “#OperationRebrand” which focused on NMSU’s marketing tactics throughout New Mexico and the borderlands (Las Cruces, NM; El Paso, TX; and Ciudad Juárez, MX). It was quite fun!


Another course that challenged me was my introduction to multimedia class. It exposed me to the essential visual storytelling parts of journalism. I learned how to piece together media (photos, audio, video) to create stories of value. While it was difficult at times for technological reasons, I enjoyed the challenge of finding available subjects during the pandemic for my stories. Along the way, I met people who have given me great wisdom about his profession, which can be tough and competitive at times—but I don’t regret it!


By the end of the school year, I felt exhausted, like many of my classmates. “Zoom University” has taught me invaluable skills that I otherwise would have missed if I hadn’t had the opportunity to learn online. I’ve learned to work under pressure, meet deadlines, and manage my time wisely, which are all important for being a successful journalist. I look forward to some sort of normalcy where I can get more involved. I’m grateful for this past year, the people I’ve met, and the opportunities I’ve gained from it. Here’s to hopefully another successful semester as an incoming junior at NMSU, cheers!

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