Unforeseen Transformations and Openness during Unprecedented Times
Samantha Bodamer (Russian Literature & Film Studies, Hunter College ‘23)
On the cusp of the COVID-19 crisis, I received acceptance as a transfer student to Hunter College. As a married, first-generation student, this letter held the key to my dreams of higher education. I had spent one year prior as a part-time student at BMCC, taking courses on evenings and weekends while working full-time, maintaining a 4.0 GPA, and turning 30 somewhere in between. My only path to university was to transfer from a community college.
I entered Hunter in Fall 2020 as a dual major in Comparative Literature and Film. After my first full academic year of Zoom courses, without stepping foot on Hunter’s campus, I can confidently assert that this is not how I envisioned my hard-earned university experience to unfold.
As disappointing as it was to be remote for my first university experience, I found myself aware of the privilege I had to be able to work remotely and to focus on my studies simultaneously, while other students were on the front lines of the pandemic in ways that I could not imagine. This motivated me to remain positive.
My remote year presented a treasure trove of small increments of found time, allowing me to nearly double my course load and immerse myself in school, even while working full-time. I was able to fit in a full-time class schedule while I worked remotely. Some days I spend more than 10 hours in front of screens and books between work and school. While my screen time has been excessive, to say the least, the ability to focus and to cut out the commuting time allowed me to enroll in more classes, to have more freedom to explore offerings for scholarships and interdisciplinary programs such as CUNY Baccalaureate and to have face-to-face time with colleagues. Had I been running between campus and the subway station to make it to my next meeting in the office, my path would look entirely different.
I am starting the Fall 2021 semester at Hunter in the CUNY BA program where I have designed a dual area of concentration in Russian Literature and Film Studies that will allow me to work collaboratively with CUNY faculty in each area. I spent the summer pondering my academic goals and learning the Cyrillic alphabet. Additionally, I have been drafting my application for the Critical Language Scholarship for 2022. I am seeking acceptance to a Russian-speaking language immersion program abroad. This is a crucial step towards my eventual goal of conducting Ph.D. research on pre-and post-Soviet transformations in film and literature and reading native Russian texts. The immersive structure of the Critical Language Scholarship will prepare me for another dream of mine – to conduct film research as a Fulbright scholar in Latvia after I graduate.
To my peers reading this I would suggest that as you navigate your education you take time to also learn about campus resources and take time to let your own unique process of self-realization unfold. Slowing down between a class or a workday to reflect on personal academic goals and to pencil in virtual meetings with academic advisors or peers can make all the difference in the path forward. Both the Critical Language Scholarship and Fulbright have been put on my radar by simply taking the time to discuss my ideas and goals for a second career in academia with my professors and campus advisors, who have been assisting me at every step of the application process. As I prepare to take courses on campus for the first time at Hunter and navigate these scholarship applications, I intend to keep my own advice in mind.
The adaptability and resilience that students have adopted in the last year and a half can continue to propel us individually towards realizing our academic goals, no matter how off-course things may veer as we navigate the simultaneous uncertainties of undergraduate and real-world life. Coupled with the versatility of the CUNY BA program, the new reality of the digital landscape makes resources, mentors, and workshops more accessible than ever before. It’s a safe assumption that most of us have made it to this unique interdisciplinary program through a series of Zoom calls and digital communication in the last year, which is a testament to the transformations that have occurred in our formative college years. We can, and will, climb out of our digital boxes and into the immersive campus environment again someday soon.