The trouble started in mid-March, 2020. Stella, a sophomore at NYU, was doggedly assembling a ‘Shakespeare-101’ study guide when she got the news: The COVID-19 bomb had officially detonated in New York. In the blink of an eye, her student life—which was previously friend-filled and creatively charged—had been utterly stolen from her. And it wasn’t coming back any time soon. Sure, she was back in the dorms and away from her parents (hallelujah) by November of 2021. But the city, and her academic experience, had become undeniably impaired. For Stella, virtual learning was difficult and she struggled to immerse herself in coursework and engage with professors. Plus, most of New York had become ‘Doordash only,’ and she could no longer study at her favorite cafes or grab coffee with peers after class. On most days, she felt sequestered to her room like a prisoner (which was anything but a ‘quiet study spot’).
And then she saw it on TikTok: #SilentStudy. The live stream video, which featured a single student working silently at her dorm-room desk, had hundreds of thousands of viewers. In the comments section, fellow students chimed in with nuances from their day like “my chemistry mock is tomorrow…I remember nothing” and “you just reminded me I have French homework.” Could this be the solution to my post-pandemic education? She marveled.