Student Success Story: Robin Gaitan

Learning during a pandemic hasn’t been the easiest thing for students across campus. The move from sitting in a classroom with twenty-five other students to being at home learning through a computer has been difficult for many students. Robin Gaitan, an English  graduate student, has made some big changes to make the most of her experience learning online.

Navigating online courses has been an interesting experience for Robin, who took an academic leave in Spring 2020 in order to finish classes from the semester before. When she returned in Fall 2020, she didn’t experience a huge change in terms of learning style. However, Robin is legally blind and a BMAC student, so there were different challenges she had to work through. “There have been a few more hurdles that I’ve had to deal with  learning Zoom, figuring that out, how does it work with the computer technology that I use on my computer,” she says. She has been able to get accommodations that have helped her learn, but it doesn’t replace being on campus, which she misses the most.

“2020 was the year I wanted to make friends in my program and really take advantage of all the opportunities on campus and that didn’t happen,” Robin explains. Without the ability to be on campus and make friends, Robin struggled with social isolation. But she figured out ways to make friends and try new experiences despite the move to remote learning: clubs!

Robin has gotten involved with clubs within the English Department, most notably the English Graduate Student Association (EGSA) and the Medieval and Renaissance Student Association (MaRSA). By making new connections and getting involved with clubs, the social isolation Robin felt has been easier to combat. “It’s nice to have so many people around you who share so many of your interests,” Robin explains. “We get that in class, but there’s more time to talk more one-on-one in a club or get to know people.”

What helped Robin was going to a time management course and learning how to use her time the most effectively. She learned to focus on quality over quantity. “There comes a point where you’re working on something so long, but you’re not working on your best,” Robin says. “So, focusing on how you work is important.” It’s not easy to learn time management, especially when juggling classes and clubs, but Robin has learned to change her perspective. “I didn’t do any clubs when I was in undergrad because I was focusing on, ‘I need to get all this work done, I don’t have time,’” she explains. “And now I say, ‘I better do it now because I won’t be able to [later]. So, I take advantage of it.’”

But it’s not just time management that has helped Robin get adjusted to the move to remote learning. She’s also gotten help from professors, family, and her pet parrot named Kiwi. “Pets have been really helpful,” Robin happily explains. Not only has Robin been able to spend more time with Kiwi, which makes him very happy, but he also makes appearances in her classes from time to time and perches himself on her shoulder.

By building new relationships, leaning on family (and pets), and getting involved with her department clubs, Robin has noticed something really important. “In some ways, the pandemic has brought out kindness in some people,” she says. “It’s brought out kindness and understanding and support.”