Socially apart but learning together: Four students share their experiences

Laptop and coffee
Posted 2020-12-22

Classes at UBC Sauder look and feel very different this year as a result of COVID-19. We asked Bachelor of Commerce students Anthony Dy Ning, Archana Garg, Candy Ye and Kelly Wong to  describe their new lives as online students – both the challenges and the pleasant surprises.


Candy Ye is a fourth-year student from Huzhou, China who’s specializing in Marketing. Based in Vancouver, her typical day involves attending online classes followed by Zoom meetings, where she and her teammates work on assignments. Most of the time, she cooks her own meals then spends her evenings doing homework and prepping for the next day’s classes. It’s a solitary life, but Ye is philosophical about her situation.

“I miss seeing my friends on campus and I miss the beautiful views and all the club activities, but I think going through the challenge of having school online has made me grow a lot in terms of time management and self-control,” says Ye. “I build resilience through meditation and being in nature, and I share my feelings with my friends, which really helps me release my stress.”

Anthony Dy Ning is in his second year and plans on specializing in Accounting. He’s currently taking part-time studies while completing an internship as a business analyst for the Salvation Army. Four days a week he works in the Vancouver office, then heads home to Richmond and has a quick dinner before class begins at 5:30pm. Like Ye, he misses the social side of student life, but he also appreciates the flexibility of online university.

“I no longer have to transit to school, which saves me time and money to do things that I enjoy instead. Also, if school was in-person, I would never have been able to attend class while doing an internship.” 

Dy Ning, who is also Vice President, Internal, with the Commerce Undergraduate Society, says the key to surviving virtual learning is to take screen breaks. 

“One of my healthy habits is to go penny boarding with friends. It’s such a great sport to take my mind off school. I like to ride over to Steveston to get some of my favourite gelato.”

Fifth-year student Kelly Wong is completing her program in Finance and OBHR and plans on pursuing corporate strategy and consulting positions upon graduation. She believes closing the campus was a necessary step to mitigate the transmission of COVID-19, but says studying remotely is no substitute for in-person learning and collaboration.

“It’s much easier to sit beside someone in class and spark a conversation rather than direct messaging people on Zoom or Canvas,” notes Wong. “Because messaging students online feels more forced, it’s much harder to build these connections. I’ve found it difficult to strengthen or maintain existing relationships online as well. I took for granted bumping into friends in the hallway.”

But studying at home has given Wong one cherished gift – more time for exercise. 

“This is something that I’ll always prioritize for myself. It doesn’t have to be anything intense, even just a 30-minute walk will make me feel refreshed from the long day. One positive thing that came out of this is the extra time I have in my day to allocate towards my mental and physical health.”

Archana Garg is spending her third year of the Commerce program studying at home in New Delhi, India. The time difference has been challenging, but she’s determined to find a silver lining in her circumstances. 

“It’s been fun celebrating festivals and staying for the winter in India, while also attending my classes from home. Additionally, I’ve found it much easier to connect with people from different companies, countries and schools when requesting virtual coffee chats. But Zoom fatigue has become a real feeling as these online calling platforms become the norm to connect to the world.”

The Marketing major has some sage advice for students worrying that by being at home, they are missing out on school traditions.

“Being a business student is not so much about long essays or readings. It is about constantly developing through being aware of the business world, upcoming innovation and emerging market trends. I’m furthering my understanding of business by working on things that I enjoy, such as learning data visualisation software.”

Tips for first-year students

The four students, who between them have 14 years of UBC Sauder experience, shared some pearls of wisdom to help students build resilience and get the most out of school.


My piece of advice to pass on to younger students is: Be confident and courageous. If you want to do something, go ahead and do it!


When we get back onto campus, my advice is get involved in the business community, join clubs, participate in case competitions, and get out of your comfort zone. We are almost there, guys!


In these times, lots of people feel pressured to stay online in efforts to connect with others or show they are still being productive. I think it adds unnecessary pressure onto people and is extremely tiring trying to stay digitally connected 24/7. That’s definitely something I had to remind myself this semester – that it’s okay to unplug.


Develop holistically at university by splitting your time across academics, extracurricular activities and exploring the beautiful city of Vancouver. Do not be afraid to fail and fall right now. Cultivate relationships with your professors, classmates, and do achieve more than grades. Start a podcast, travel to other provinces, or even develop your own startup.