All-Bahamas Merit Scholar (ABMS) Paloma Cartwright has absolutely no qualms about being safe and warm on Long Island, rather than on lockdown, cold and in the midst of a COVID-19 outbreak for her final semester at McGill University. Montreal, Quebec, Canada, is a red alert zone, the highest level, with COVID-19 infections. McGill instituted remote teaching with a few exceptions, with in-person teaching allowed only where the in-person teaching is essential.
“I was not upset about McGill’s decision to be online for this semester or next, and I really appreciate that they are putting the health and safety of the administration and students as number one priority,” said Cartwright from Long Island.
“So far, online learning has been going pretty well, and I would rather be safe and warm in Long Island than on lockdown, cold and in the midst of a COVID outbreak as winter starts in Montreal, especially with the largest number of cases in their second wave being college-aged students. I recognize that I am incredibly fortunate to be able to be in Long Island with my family where I am safe and healthy.”
Cartwright’s one disappointment about remote learning for her final year, is that she is missing the senior events that she and her friends would usually do together.
“I miss hanging out with friends the most. We still have phone calls all the time and Zoom chats with everyone – but it’s not the same as going to the cafeteria to grab lunch together or going to a coffee shop to study for various quizzes.
“But, again, I am so grateful that I am healthy and have had the option to be at home for these months. This is not an opportunity that many college students get, spending time with their families while also doing university.”
McGill has not yet made any announcements regarding the June commencement ceremony and whether the Class of 2021 will get to walk during a graduation ceremony, but Cartwright is not getting her hopes up for an in-person ceremony.
“I would still much rather an online ceremony than to risk the health of family members and friends – even if it loses some of the magic,” she says.
McGill made the announcement in June that classes would be online for the fall semester. Cartwright said she would be lying if she said this was how she expected her university career to end.
Cartwright returned home on March 14 after McGill University canceled classes on Friday, March 13, and told students school would be closed for two weeks so they could make the switch to an online platform and begin remote learning.
Cartwright finished classes online to end last semester and completed three summer courses online.
She finished the last semester with a 3.85 grade point average (GPA).
“My grades turned out really well and I’m hoping that it’s the same for my last year as well,” said the 2017 ABMS who says remote learning was definitely an adjustment.
To ensure that she is able to engage fully, she now has BTC and Aliv Wi-Fi networks at home so she has at least one connection that is working.
“I’ve made it work,” she said.
“I think the hardest part with online learning and this new era of education has been the lack of structure. Right now, everything is up to the students to keep track of – midterms, papers, quizzes and any other deadlines. I am fortunate enough to have friends in all of my classes, so we all keep each other on top of things to ensure that nothing is missed – and my calendar is full of colors and reminders just so I don’t forget anything.”
As she finishes her final semester, Cartwright is also trying to decide her future, which she says is still not set in stone.
She is in the process of looking into graduate schools to pursue a master’s degree in environmental data science, and is looking into online and in-person graduate school programs to keep her options open.
“This would allow me to combine my computer science degree with my love for the environment, so that I can help with climate change studies.”
She hopes to use her degree to help The Bahamas plan for the future.
Cartwright is considering making applications to the University of California, Santa Barbara, for the Master of Environmental Data Science program; University of Miami, which offers a Master of Data Science with focus in marine and atmospheric science; University of California, Riverside, for their Master of Science in Engineering, with a focus on data science (online); and Ryerson University, Toronto, which offers a Master of Science in Data Science and Analytics.
Cartwright’s advice to her peers during this difficult time, is to not be too hard on themselves.
“Do your best to try to find methods that will keep you organized, focused and motivated, but also recognize that this is not an easy period that we are going through. Your mental health is just as important as academic success and you should find a way to balance things so that you can still feel motivated to succeed.”
She has found that setting small daily goals has helped, even if it is simply watching two lecture recordings and completing one reading. She said when she has done those things, she feels a small sense of accomplishment, and it helps her to stay motivated to continue to succeed.
Cartwright also has her sights set on an Olympic campaign on the Nacra 17 with Paul de Souza, and as such, is keeping up with her fitness. Working out, she said, also clears her head.
“When I was in Montreal, I would go to the gym every morning to do some running before classes, but I can tell you that running Dean’s Blue Hole Beach in the morning is so much nicer than running in a gym. I also take study breaks and go to the beach or sometimes take my iPad with me so I can do a reading for class while I’m there. In the midst of a global pandemic, living on Long Island has been a privilege.”
Cartwright and de Souza have had a difficult time getting in training together due to the constraints of COVID-19, but she said they are hopeful that their campaign can continue when the world is less chaotic.
“We are both keeping up with our fitness goals so that when we do get back to training, we are as ready as ever,” says Cartwright.