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Starting law school amid a global pandemic | Amanda Johl

Thursday, June 03, 2021 @ 2:10 PM | By Amanda Johl

Amanda Johl %>
Amanda Johl
Years from now, when people mention the global pandemic that was first reported in 2019 and impacted so many lives since, I’ll forever associate it with being the time that I embarked on my law school journey. I, along with the other 1L’s of the past academic year, will be able to say that during a time of global uncertainty and chaos, we survived (arguably) the toughest year of law school.

So, what exactly does starting law school during a pandemic look like?

Law school looked quite different this year. For the vast majority of us, it looks like countless hours spent staring at screens, attending virtual lectures, tutorials and office hours via Zoom or Google Meet. It looks like awkward breakout rooms as our only opportunity to chat with other classmates and attempt to bond.

While we may have had a few opportunities to get to know one another via virtual club and social events hosted by other students and/or online group chats, I think it is fair to say that it could never measure up to the experience of being able to meet one another in person, on campus and in class together.

Starting law school during a pandemic looks like hours spent alone in most likely the same room you attended your lectures in, completed assignments, then did hours of readings in. For the majority of students, it is unfortunately quite isolating. With various health restrictions and social distancing measures implemented, many did not have the opportunity to socialize with friends or others outside their household at all.

For students who live alone or moved out to be near or on campus, it was even more challenging to stay connected to others. Students this year were deprived of the community experience and ability to form bonds with professors, faculty members and other students.

The pandemic was tough on everyone, not just law students, and that goes without saying. However, adding law school to the mix definitely does not make things easier. Law school is well known to be highly stressful and demanding even without a global pandemic.

A few tips I’d recommend to those who may be returning to remote classes this fall include: learning to manage time and stress; scheduling time to socialize with friends and family virtually; and taking time away from screens and getting outdoors when you can. Be proactive, and make it a priority to stay connected with professors, classmates and friends in a safe manner.

Try to attend any virtual social events hosted by other classmates or your school, and attend office hours and get to know your professors. In a time of uncertainty, it is vital to maintain a routine. In addition, become open to innovation and change while everyone, including your professors and faculty, attempts to adapt to and accommodate these challenging times.

In conclusion, starting law school completely remotely during a global pandemic is truly an unforgettable experience. However, it can also be an experience that is engaging, challenging and fulfilling. I believe this experience will shape a lot of us for years to come as we become resilient and adaptable. And if not, at least we can all use starting law school during a pandemic as a conversation starter or opener in job interviews and networking events for years to come!

The law graduates of 2023 will always have the shared experience of starting law school amid a global pandemic uniting them. Congratulations to all of us and good luck to all incoming law students.

Amanda Johl is a first-year law student at Ryerson University Faculty of Law, who has over three years of legal experience in the Greater Vancouver Area. Prior to law school, Johl completed a bachelor degree in criminology and sociology (joint major) from Simon Fraser University.

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