We spoke to six recent university and high school graduates about their experiences of studying during the global pandemic. Their answers hold lessons for us all.
Khadija Haveliwala, Law School Graduate
Khadija Haveliwala graduated from Seattle University School of Law.
Throughout the last three years, I have learned to support others in a meaningful way and to advocate for those in need in a variety of different ways, whether it be virtually or in-person. So much of learning to be a lawyer comes from discussion and engaging with other students. At times, I felt quite isolated studying alone from home for so many months. But it was rewarding to be able to connect with faculty and students virtually and focus on learning about the important legal issues that impact all of us.
The pandemic gave rise to so many important policy issues that we were able to raise during class and discuss. It provided a unique lens to learn about the law as it adapts to an ever-changing and advancing society. Now I’m interested in policy issues impacting civil rights and immigration.
Hussain Miyaziwala, Computer Engineering Graduate
Hussain Miyaziwala graduated with Highest Honors from Georgia Tech with a Bachelor of Science in Computer Engineering.
Going to school through COVID was a mixed experience. It allowed me to spend more quality time with my friends and focus more on my life outside of academics, while at the same time adding a lot of mental strain when it came to completing assignments and studying for exams. Not having the physical separation of where I work versus where I relax added new challenges in maintaining balance in my life.
My senior design project (the capstone for my degree) was to design a neonatal incubator for use and fabrication in Ghana. I was part of an 18-person engineering team that reported to the hospital system in Accra. Organizing such a large project with many people across several time zones to build a physical machine proved difficult over Zoom and required a lot of communication and structure. Ultimately, we managed to create a viable design that we believe will greatly improve neonatal mortality. And it won first place at the school-wide senior design competition.
Next year I will be continuing my education at Georgia Tech pursuing a Masters in Computer Engineering. I look forward to attending classes again in person and continuing to work on improving the incubator we built for Ghana.
Mustafa Miyaziwala, High School Graduate and Aspiring Engineer
Mustafa Miyaziwala graduated from Skyline High School in Sammamish as an IB diploma candidate and a recipient of the engineering department award.
Zoom learning was difficult. The long hours in front of my laptop with little social connection made the once enjoyable classes tedious and monotonous. In previous years, my classmates and I were able to support and motivate one another through challenging projects and assignments, but the distance created between us due to COVID made even that difficult. Nevertheless, remote learning has had its benefits. It has given me more time to work on personal goals and projects and, most importantly, it has allowed me to spend time with my parents.
A large project I undertook during the pandemic was to train members in my school’s robotics team on object-oriented programming, electronics, motor mechanics, and control algorithms. My trainings took the form of over a dozen YouTube presentations, recorded demonstrations, and bi-weekly synchronous lessons. My hope is that these trainings will give members the knowledge they need to take the team to new heights in future years.
Next year I will be joining the electrical and computer engineering department at the University of Michigan – Ann Arbor. I can’t wait to meet and learn from the amazing faculty and students at the university.
Umme-Kulsum Jamali, High School Graduate and Aspiring Technology Student
Umme-Kulsum Jamali graduated from Inglemoor High School.
Completing my senior year amidst a global pandemic was challenging in many ways but also beneficial. It was challenging to stay focused and motivated. However, it also pushed me to become more independent and forced me to learn to manage my time more effectively.
Switching to online learning allowed me to explore different ways that technology can be implemented in learning. It also enabled me to have more one-on-one interaction with my teachers.
In the fall, I plan to study Informatics at the University of Washington. I am passionate about technology and particularly how to leverage technology for the betterment of humanity.
Jamila Ujjainwala, High School Graduate and Rising Freshman at Bellevue College
Jamila Ujjainwala graduated from Redmond High School.
The 2020-21 school year was challenging to collaborate on school projects, as I did not get a chance to interact with class mates and teachers. Trying to stay focused in online meetings was a definite challenge. On the other hand, this will be a true test of our resilience as we have to adapt to onsite schooling after a year and half long of online schooling. The big plus of online schooling was that I got to work hard and get some much-needed rest too, as the rush to get to school didn’t add to my time.
The new online learning platform made it too lax and the teacher was unable to account for all the activities and the attendance of the kids. COVID allowed the schools to adapt and, with the new online learning platform, schools are now better equipped to deal with any future problems like snow days.
I am currently exploring courses at Bellevue college to understand where my interest lies.
Hassan Habib, High School Graduate and Aspiring Biochemistry Student
Hassan Habib graduated from Issaquah High School.
The challenges of online learning were mostly in the lack of connection with teachers and disconnection from the competitive environment of the classroom. The isolation from peers made it hard to collaborate with peers and form effective study groups. Searching for colleges was also made harder due to the lack of in-person visits as colleges adjusted for the pandemic. But I learned how to maintain a healthy lifestyle and learned a lot more about what kind of learning environments work best for me. I would like to pursue Biochemistry as I hope to contribute to the curing of Alzheimer’s Disease using stem cells to regenerate and program nervous cells to replace damaged tissue in the brain.