During the past spring semester, I authored a blog post about how I missed the free coffee served by the BC Law cafeteria during the final exam period. During my 1L fall semester, I relied on that free coffee like a car relies on gas or a legislative body relies on annoying words like “heretofore.” I may have broken even on my tuition costs with the way I consumed that free coffee during 1L finals.
Of course, I was missing the free on-campus coffee last spring because I was not, in fact, on campus. No one was, due to the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic.
During those early months, things were strange and unfamiliar. You could feel the tension in the air. No one quite knew how the virus would spread, how disruptive it would be, and how long it would rage. Here at BC Law, classes (rightfully, in my opinion) were shifted to pass/fail grading while students and professors acclimated to the remote learning format.
In that spring blog post, in addition to my coffee-related whining, I expressed dread for the imminent and tragic loss of life that would likely result from the pandemic. I still feel that dread, as well as grief for the staggering global death count. In spite of my sorrow, I also attempted to convey hope for a world in which the virus had become manageable. I hoped for a world in which we might return to campus in the fall semester, so that I could continue permanently staining my teeth a delightful shade of yellowish-brown come finals season.
That finals season is now upon us, and any 1Ls who are reading this post might be learning for the first time that there was such a thing as free cafeteria coffee. Or, maybe the cafeteria is actually offering free coffee right now – I wouldn’t know, as I am writing this post miles away from Newton and paying for my own coffee all the while. Clearly, things have not become “manageable” in the way that I had hoped, and so we are still in a hybrid academic model. Accordingly, this is my second attempt at preparing for finals under a remote learning format, and this time it isn’t pass/fail. No pressure.
I’m writing this post to try to answer these questions: “What’s the exam process like now that you’ve gotten used to remote learning? Anything interesting you want to say?” Well, I’m not actually sure if I have gotten used to remote learning, and I’m also not sure if I’ve ever had anything interesting to say in my entire life. I will nonetheless offer the following thoughts on finals, as I am an egomaniac who likes the sound of his own (written) voice:
First, my reflection on the final exam experience, generally:
Second, looking to the final exam experience in a remote format, specifically:
There are certainly some advantages to virtual preparation. Just before I wrote this post, for example, I went to a professor’s virtual office hours. Rather than elbow and army-crawl my way through a mob of peers so that me and 80 other students could pack like sardines into the professor’s office and compete to get our questions answered, all I had to do was click on a zoom link. That was pretty convenient.
On the other hand, I’d be lying if I said remote preparation matches up to the in-person experience. More than the free coffee, I miss the silent camaraderie of grinding it out from dawn till dusk in the law library surrounded by fellow students. I miss those impromptu hallway interactions with classmates during the brief breaks between staring at our laptop screens: “Hey, do you also see 12(b)(6) motions when you close your eyes? We’re all having nightmares about the rule against perpetuities, right?” I miss finding an empty classroom and using the chalkboards to sketch out practice problems with a study group.
Still, we’re all doing the best we can. Even throughout this virtual experience, I really do feel like I belong at BC Law. The community has held closely together, despite our physical distance from one another. The professors have gone above-and-beyond to ensure that the academic experience remains exceptional. Meanwhile, the administration continues to look out for us, keeping us in-the-know on the state of the employment market, providing mental health resources, and informing us of oncoming opportunities.
But anyways, while writing this blog post has been a nice break from smashing my brain into tiny pieces and rebuilding it in the shape of a brain that knows Administrative Law backwards and forwards, it is time to get back to studying. I’ll end this post by re-expressing both my grief for those who have suffered due to the coronavirus as well as my deepest sympathies for those who have lost loved ones, and by re-expressing my hope that we will overcome this pandemic and return to campus in the not-too-distant future (knock on wood.)
Dan Riley is a second-year student at BC Law who drinks waaaay too much coffee. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.