I was supposed to be in Argentina with my classmates. We were going to enjoy site visits to top companies, conversations with government officials, and even a day trip to a gaucho ranch. Those plans were scuttled to growing concern about COVID-19. Instead, I spent my Spring Break in my hometown in Indiana, completely in denial about what the pandemic would mean for myself and my classmates, let alone the world.
It’s no secret that I love Wharton and Penn wholeheartedly. So when I was faced with the news that I couldn’t return to campus for the remainder of the semester, it was incredibly difficult for me to come to terms with that. My mind flooded with thoughts of all of the goals I had yet to meet, the projects I would be unable to finish, and the experiences I would not get to have. My heart broke for my older friends whose days in college abruptly came to an end. Anxiety about my summer internship plans set in. Concern how drastically my life would change as a result of the shift to “Remote Wharton” started to take over. I was fairly confident that the quality of my courses would not suffer. However, I was apprehensive about how different everything else that makes Wharton so unique would be.
LEARNING TO ADAPT
I just completed my first week as a “Remote Wharton” student. Thankfully, I’m glad to say that everything went smoothly. All of my classes were well-equipped to make the shift to virtual learning, likely because we utilize technology so much in the classroom anyway. Aside from minor technical difficulties or the occasional awkward moment (like when a classmate fails to realize that their webcam is on), I found that learning virtually has simulated the in-class experience pretty well (with a few minor differences). We now ask questions during lecture over a Chat feature and work on group projects over FaceTime, but the supportive and collaborative culture I have come to appreciate so deeply has persisted despite less-than-ideal circumstances.
In many ways, the current situation with COVID-19 has actually enhanced my educational experience. Overall, my professors have demonstrated amazing adaptability, recognizing that change provides us with an unprecedented learning opportunity. Namely, they have adapted their curriculum to discuss how the current pandemic relates to class topics. We have discussed everything from the economic ramifications of toilet-paper panic purchases to the disruption of trade and global supply chains.
In addition to my classes, I am now one of over 1800 students enrolled in a new Wharton course. It focuses specifically on Coronavirus and its implications for global business and financial uncertainty. The course includes distinguished faculty from various Wharton departments, including Jeremy Siegel and Zeke Emmanuel, and has truly been an unparalleled learning experience thus far. Creating something positive and proactive out of these turbulent times has seemed to be a theme at “Remote Wharton.” It is one that has inspired me to try to do the same, whenever possible, particularly in my extracurricular activities.
BEING THERE FOR OTHERS
At Wharton, so much of the learning at Wharton takes place outside of the classroom. I found that, within a couple of weeks, my extracurricular responsibilities now involved solving problems I had never seen before. In the process, they would require me to work with others in way I never had before. As an intern at a local venture capital firm, I offered to begin working remotely. As Vice President of Finance for my sorority, I coordinated efforts with our chapter advisors to address issues like housing for members, potential refunds on dues, and postponing all of our spring events until the fall. As External Chief Operating Officer for Wharton’s chapter of Smart Woman Securities, I began working with our corporate sponsors to make all of our on-campus events virtual.
As a friend, I have also done my best to be there for the people I care about from hundreds (for some, thousands) of miles away. I have pleasantly surprised by the manner in which the crisis has brought people together to solve numerous problems quickly, fairly, and effectively. The sweeping changes in the past few weeks have come as a shock to many. Still, I have found that these circumstances have led people to approach problems with a greater ability to be flexible, creative, and empathetic.
While I’m counting down the days until I can return to campus in the fall, I am certain that there will be many more lessons to come and many more challenges to address. This time away, while not at all what I wanted, is accompanied by unique opportunities to work with others, challenge myself, and focus on my priorities like never before. I’m definitely still adjusting to my new normal, but I am hopeful that this time will allow us all to grow, so that when things do go back to normal we all return to school with a renewed sense of appreciation for all of the little things that make Penn what it is.
My name is Ana Singhal and I am a sophomore at the Wharton School from Columbus, Indiana. I have yet to decide on a concentration, but have particularly enjoyed studying Statistics, Marketing, and Health Care Management so far. On campus, I am involved in Wharton Ambassadors, Wharton Women, and am a research assistant. In my free time, I enjoy running and exploring Philly.
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