My name is Rachell Pena. I am a sophomore at Arizona State University where I am majoring in Graphic Design and double minoring in animation and game development.

Often there is a misperception that graphic design students spend all their time behind a computer, but that’s not the case. Students participate in 3 to 5 hour-long studio classes multiple days a week. And, unlike most majors, students are required to do a capstone and milestone projects in the middle of second semester of Freshman year.

It’s a rigorous and competitive program with a limited number of seats. The purpose of the first-year capstone project is to help design directors choose those students with more promise. We do have midterms but we don’t test, we present. We present the progress of our projects and get real-time feedback. We never know what our actual grade is until the end of the semester.

Being in quarantine and not being able to attend classes due to the coronavirus has taken a big toll on me and other graphic design students. Some of our projects are really complex and in-person instruction is ideal. Real-time feedback and input from our professors is so important to us and we’re missing that right now. In some cases, it has been difficult to schedule time to meet virtually with professors. Others have experienced virtual reviews that have gone 20 or 30 minutes over the scheduled time. While unintended, all of this creates inconsistency in the amount of time some students have with professors compared to others.

In addition, while our work is done on a computer, working from home on our own equipment, often in a small workspace is very different than working in the studio at ASU. Internet access is another challenge. Not everyone has a stable connection at home.

It is also harder to get feedback from our classmates and collaborate together. We are used to being around our friends who are not just good company, but also a sounding board. Many of us are feeling isolated, anxious and stressed and wishing we had classmates and friends to connect with during this time.

While there have been a number of challenges, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention some of the positives. One is that graphic design students are saving a lot of money on printing costs. On average, each student spends $300 per semester to print various iterations of our project. Being online has helped us save on that added cost of printing.

Another benefit has been the addition of interim due dates and checkpoints, which has helped me stay on task. In addition, it’s been nice not to have to carry materials back and forth from our apartment to the studio.

Going through this transition has not been very easy because it messes with my routine. My major as a design student requires me to be in person and now that we have to be online, it just takes a bit of adapting, like finding quiet but spacious spots in my house to get work done

Being quarantined and far from every one of my 47 classmates has not been easy, but we’re doing our best to find ways to stay connected. For instance, thanks to technology we have made a discord platform for our class and we can do voice chats or even video chats.

If we have questions or just feel like posting random stuff, we put it in the appropriate chat and everyone can see it. We can also connect via online video games like Minecraft and animal crossing when we just need a break from the school work.

When it comes to communicating with our professors, we use Zoom to video chat during class hours and communicate any updates. We use Slack and message our instructors our work and they review it with us through the chat feature of the app. We are all definitely doing our best to adapt.

This has also been good practice for life after ASU. For the time we are in the graphic design program, we spend so much time with our classmates, but the time will come when we graduate, get our degree and “go out on our own.” This is giving us a taste of what that might be like.

And finally, I’ve thought about what a great answer we’ll have when, down the road, we’re interviewing for a job and the interviewer ask us to detail a time when we had to “adapt to a different environment.” We’ll be able to speak to the resilience, determination and persistence we showed during this time. We didn’t give up, we continued to attend classes and we found a way to stay connected. All ASU students are in this together and we will support our classmates in whatever way we can.