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Zoom University

Despite spending freshman year at home, one graduating senior remembers finding a community at Howard, online.

by N'dia Webb
Howard mask

I’ve always been an early bird, so it would make sense that in my freshman year, I took the 8 a.m. classes that my peers dreaded. The upside to that, though, was that I could end most school days at about 3 p.m., with a 6 p.m. class sprinkled in just to add some variety.

Variety was difficult for me during that year. I spent the entirety of those school days at my desk, working until I got hungry, finding something in my kitchen to eat, and sitting back down. Every Monday through Friday.

Unfortunately, there was no walking around the Yard, talking to my roommate, or even physically going to class. However, I could walk around my Tampa neighborhood, talk to my mom, and open Zoom on my Macbook.

“Zoom University” is the name that caught on in our Howard University class of 2024 GroupMe. Like me, my fellow

N'dia Webb in cap and gown holding The Hilltop newspaper
N’dia Webb (BA ’24), a journalism major from Tampa, Florida, served as managing editor of The Hilltop.

classmates’ dreams of being baby Bison roaming campus in Washington, D.C., which only intensified after we were given our housing assignments, were swiftly put on hold when the University sent the email that we would be online for the entirety of the 2020-21 school year.

It was disappointing, but expected. Many of us had already had our proms and high school graduations canceled as a result of COVID. We understood the gravity of what needed to be done on our end, however, it just felt like another important moment in our young lives was taken away from us by the virus. The irony of it all was that the only way to help our situation was to stay home.

Through our classes, GroupMe, iMessage, Instagram, Twitter, FaceTime study sessions, and any other virtual tool we could get our hands on, we connected.”

The solace I had then, and that I carry with me now through graduation, is in the community I built with my classmates. Through our classes, GroupMe, iMessage, Instagram, Twitter, FaceTime study sessions, and any other virtual tool we could get our hands on, we connected. While it didn’t feel like we were actually on campus, it definitely made it feel like we were in our own little world. It didn’t matter that we were in different time zones. Zoom University was an escape from isolation.

I joined two organizations that year, on the recommendation of my mom, in an effort to gain some sense of normalcy: the Howard University Chess Club and The Hilltop. Both were run as one would expect from students conducting all of their responsibilities from their homes, but they held significance for those involved. For chess, we played virtual matches and tournaments, and for The Hilltop, we conducted our virtual reporting and meetings in the best way we could.

When I arrive on campus in my sophomore year, I admittedly became more attached to one of those organizations over the other. Now, as the incumbent managing editor of the newspaper that shaped my Howard experience, who only occasionally plays chess, I reflect on my time at Zoom University, fully grateful for my in-person graduation, and for the Howard experience that, despite all odds, was all that I hoped it would be.


This story appears in the Spring/ Summer 2024 issue.
Article ID: 2011

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