Day of days: Navigating higher education during the COVID-19 pandemic

By Grace M.

March 30, 2020

I am here. I am to leave. All cleared to stay. Oh! I am really leaving this time. Okay. Farewell, New Zealand. Missouri, USA, here I come.

Such were the circumstances surrounding my last week and a half at Lincoln University, Lincoln, New Zealand. Like many other students across Mizzou’s campus and the United States (the world, included), for my own well-being and that of my host country I asked to return to native soil. The scramble of trying to figure out all I needed to do was stressful, but the worst was the fear I would not be able to continue on with my courses. That was the whole point of coming to New Zealand! I wanted to gain a better grasp of agriculture on a global scale, and learn from my instructors how sheep production, forestry, wine growing, etc., was done in different parts of the world. Thankfully, my host university and instructors were extremely helpful and considerate with all the changes happening and assured me I would be able to continue all my courses online from the U.S.

Whew! What a relief. My instructors each displayed a great deal of grace with my transition from being in class to online back home. Dr. Chris Logan, the instructor for my “Introduction to Sheep Production” course, made it especially so. He scheduled a meeting on campus before I left so we could discuss the future of my studies, answer any questions I had and reassure me of my position in the class. His amount of care to take time to sit down with me and make sure I was prepared to continue on with the class was wonderfully considerate. Discussing my soon departure, one of the things we talked about was the strain that this time was having on educators across the world; and since I am an agricultural education major, I was especially curious about the changes to his agriculturally centered, hands-on education approach.

man sheering a sheep on a wooden floor
One of the practical lab instructions I received in my sheep production course: how sheep handlers shear hundreds of ewes in a relatively short amount of time.

“It (the COVID-19 pandemic situation) changes day-by-day, hour-by-hour really,” was his comment. Thus, he and his fellow educators were changing with it. Educators (and their students) are having to reinvent their methods of instruction and implementation of course material; learning and adjusting to be more mindful and intentional with coursework. We both agreed a great change to education would come from these times; particularly in his courses, with heavy importance put in field trips and farm tours and on-farm lab instruction. Better substitutes for practical aspects will need to be thought of for the future of education.

It would be an understatement to say these past few weeks have been ones of great change for me; learning how to approach totally online coursework; navigating the trouble with time change between my courses and my current time zone; adjusting to being back home months before I intended to be. ‘Day of days’, indeed, we find ourselves in: a time of confusion and frustration and worry for the world; a time for human ingenuity and adaptability; a pivot-point for the future of healthcare, hygiene, transportation, education. All is changing. Let us navigate it with grace and a positive outlook for the good we can do after the wake settles.

Learn more about this blogger’s study abroad program: CAFNR: Lincoln University