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Virtual: almost or nearly as described, but not completely or according to strict definition.

The five of us were waiting in the “Simple Charity Chapter Meeting” Zoom room and no one else was showing up. It would only be our club’s leadership team that day. Through “virtual classes,” “virtual clubs,” and “virtual life” this past year, I’ve learned to not hold the same expectations for something on a computer screen as I do for real meetings with people. 

In our DukeEngage program, we of course do not have issues with people showing up—our students have to show-up, as long as they’re not skipping school. However, we sometimes stare back at blacked out screens when the WiFi jumps around and try to play fun games that end up disrupting the other Zoom calls happening in the same classroom. I’m thankful that we are able to connect with the students even though we cannot be there with them, but our virtual program is limited to being almost, but never completely, the real thing. We must recognize this to avoid unneeded disappointment from unrealistic expectations, but instead, make the most of our reality.


Reality: the world or the state of things as they actually exist, as opposed to an idealistic or notional idea of them.

Our Simple Charity club lost a lot of momentum that we had gained right before the Spring Break when COVID-19 hit. Duke clubs were also restricted to online gatherings with tight protocols on any in-person events. Our club even received a warning after forgetting to register one of our fundraisers under the new rules. We are a young club and wanted to grow, but the truth was that simply maintaining connections with people in our organization would be the best goal given the circumstances. 

For our DukeEngage program, the ideal might be for us to develop close relationships with our students and teammates through creative online lessons that perfectly meet their English levels. However, the reality is that 40-minute classes don’t foster deep relationships and that the students may not understand our teaching styles. However, our team has recognized our reality and has been intentionally adapting to it. We are finding ways to create more comfortable environments by starting WeChat group chats. Within our team, we are researching how to deal with connectivity issues, demonstrating how to use physical props in class, and presenting English songs that energize and excite our students. The reality is that our team is resiliently determined to encourage our students to find joy in learning English and realize that we care for them even from the U.S. Our virtual reality is not all that bad.