Surviving College Video Calls

Photo Credit: Undrey/Shutterstock

When I think back to the days when I only used video calls for out-of-state job interviews, it’s astounding to see how quickly it's become the main form of communication for my daily interactions. In the beginning of this pandemic, I did not realize that this form of video conferencing would require etiquette and rules that are somehow, in my household, impossible to follow.

One of the rules I struggle with is having a nice background while on platforms like Zoom. While in school, my classmates always nailed this part. Some would call in while next to their pools and vibrant backyards in Argentina, while others would be neatly placed in their castle-like living rooms, spiral staircases in view. Although some students were less ostentatious about where they set up their cameras, “bedroom envy” became real for me as I realized how nice it must be to have privacy at home.

Video Call Struggles

Most of the time, my camera remained turned off, because I could never find a background in my home that would be adequate to what my classmates were showing. When I would try to find a nice setting in my bedroom that I share with my sister, the mountain of suitcases, books, and clothes were hard to get out of frame, or my mom would walk in mid-presentation, asking if I wanted fruit. I became self-conscious about what I showed on camera, because my home was crowded with my family and their things. I preferred turning my camera off, making my Zoom experience less engaging and harder to follow.

On a bright and early Monday morning a few weeks ago, I was up before the rest of my family. The house was quiet, there was no music playing in the background, no pots and pans falling, and I actually had the living room to myself. I set up my laptop on a black stool and decided to finally turn my camera on as I waited for my class to begin. “Oh, my goodness, Claribel,” my professor delightedly said. “Such beautiful blue curtains you have.”


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