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A (Virtual) Day in the Life of A Berkeley Student

June 11, 2020
by Grace Vogel

Welcome to the social distance lifestyle

Under shelter-in-place our lives have gone digital: distance learning, virtual conferences, online cocktail hours, and more. As Internet usage is up, bandwidth has been strained. According to BroadbandNow, which provides comparison data about Internet service providers, average download speeds in Berkeley dropped 15 percent between February and March. At least we have ways of staying connected while remaining physically distant—even if it means some buffering. Here we imagine a day in the life of a Berkeley student.

7:30 AM

Wake up to another morning in lockdown. Listen to an episode of Berkeley Talks, the University’s podcast featuring conversations with Cal figures like Poet Laureate Robert Hass. Allow the lyrical verses of his new poetry collection, Summer Snow, to remind me of life beyond the apartment walls.

9:00 AM

Lose track of time scrolling through my Facebook and Instagram feeds, only to realize that I’m late for my 9 o’clock meeting with fellow graduate student instructors (GSIs) on Zoom.

I apologize, but there’s no need: The other GSIs understand that nothing distinguishes the hours of the day under lockdown.

1:00 PM

As the virus progresses, it gets increasingly difficult to process the constant notifications and warnings I get on my phone. Anxiety levels are through the roof. Good thing I have a therapy session scheduled via the University Health Services’ Teladoc portal.

3:00 PM

I need to get some books from the library. These days that means logging into the HathiTrust Digital Library, which during the COVID-19 shutdown offers online access to some 17 million volumes, scanned from libraries all across the ten UCs. While I’m poking around I go to the Bancroft’s Digital Collections which now feature digitized copies of The Daily Californian going back to 1898. Fascinated, I burn a couple hours reading reports from the last time a pandemic hit campus: October 1918.

6:00 PM

Log on to the Berkeley Recreational Sports online platform to join my favorite evening Zumba class. Finally, a way for me to do Zumba without looking like a fool in front of an entire room of people. Even in quarantine, Geoffrey really knows how to help me work up a sweat.

8:30 PM

I think it’s time for some culture. I’m in the mood for an artsy film, so I’ll check out BAMPFA’s free online films. There’s Beanpole, a film about two women ex-soldiers reunited in 1945 Leningrad. Or Sorry We Missed You, a working-class epic set in Great Britain. Then there’s Sátántangó, a “SEVEN AND A HALF HOUR OPUS OF MELANCHOLIA” detailing the fall of communism in Eastern Europe. My therapist would probably recommend against it, but I’m intrigued. Let’s give it a try.
I have nothing but time.

From the Summer 2020 issue of California.

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