by Joi Bass
On January 13, 2020 I started the spring semester of my junior year. Before I went back I told myself that since this is the decade that will shape my future, I will go into this upcoming semester with a better mindset and work even harder to achieve my goals.
Since I am a Mass Communications major, it is my responsibility to stay on top of current events. Starting in February, I noticed reports of a rapidly spreading virus in China killing people by the thousands each day. I was one of many people who didn’t realize the severity of the virus and just thought that it was solely affecting China.
As the weeks passed, I started noticing that news notifications on my phone reported one thing: coronavirus. One day the virus was in China, then Italy, Spain, the United Kingdom and then it finally reached the United States. Many of us were still in denial about how dangerous this virus was. However, March 6, 2020 was the day that everything changed.
I was working my shift at a local grocery store when I looked down and saw on my phone that there were two confirmed cases of the Coronavirus where I live. In the days that followed, the number of cases grew higher and higher. While the number of cases grew I was still going to school and all I could talk about with my friends and professors was the virus. In spite of the cases rising near me and across the United States, I continued to go to class and work like everything was normal. Deep down I knew that things were going to drastically change.
Like most college students, I looked forward to spring break. Even though I decided to stay home and work extra hours, I was excited for the break from school and being able to have a mental reset before I went back to finish the rest of the semester. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case this year.
Over 1,000 colleges and universities decided to close their doors in order to follow social distancing guidelines. Meaning millions of college students had to make life-altering changes. Many of us went from living on campus to moving back home with our parents and siblings and having classes virtually.
I think all college students can agree that we didn’t think the virus would turn into a pandemic. We lived through H1N1, Swine Flu, Affluenza and Ebola and we thought Covid-19 would be like the rest. This disease was life altering, especially for us college students.
I recently had a conversation with a few of my college friends. We discussed how our lives have changed since the pandemic, what we’ve struggled with, how we are staying positive and what the coronavirus has taught us.
My life did a complete 180. I went from taking my classes in person and going to work to making my own schedule for my classes and then being classified as an essential worker. One of my classmates Matthew Curry told me that his life also completely changed since schools shut down. “I truly struggled. I’m originally from New York and I couldn’t even go home to be with my family.” Matthew also said that he had to stay on campus and picked up a job as an essential worker in order to bring in some extra cash.
I believe all college students can agree that one thing we struggled with during this pandemic is our mental health. According to Diverse Education, many students have been experiencing loneliness, anxiety, trouble sleeping and difficulty concentrating.
Emily Carter is another student I spoke with. We discussed our struggles during this time and how they have impacted us. Emily said she has struggled with anxiety since high school and when schools moved to online learning, her anxiety got worse. “I felt unmotivated. For years I’ve gotten into the routine of going to class, going to the library, hanging out with friends and doing extracurricular activities, but that’s not the case anymore.”
Just like Matthew and Emily, I had a difficult time adjusting to this new normal. I experienced a spike in my anxiety and I struggled concentrating on my schoolwork with the fear that I was going to fail.
I’ll admit, it has been hard to stay positive in these past few months. Fortunately I have found ways to stay in good spirits during a time where millions of people are living in fear. For example, I recently decided to limit my news intake. Constantly seeing reports about the pandemic on our phones, TVs and social media can be overwhelming. That’s why I decided to turn off my news notifications on my phone and watch the news only twice a day.
Another way I stay positive is spending time with my family. Before Covid-19, my family and I didn’t get to spend as much time together because of our busy schedules. But now that we are in quarantine, we make it vital to make time for each other and to be present with one another.
The coronavirus, while scary, has taught us important lessons. As college students, we are very busy and we are always on the move. This pandemic has truly given us time to pause and reflect. Yes, this was supposed to be a special time for us whether it was graduating, taking part in an internship or even beginning your college journey, but this pandemic has shown us that we aren’t invincible. Life is unpredictable. Right now, many of us should be celebrating graduating, getting that job offer, starting that internship and getting ready for the next semester ahead. However, the next steps for us are unknown right now.
We can all agree that we don’t know when this pandemic is going to be over and we truly can’t wait for life to go back to normal, but I challenge you to take this time to reset. Take this time to do things that you truly enjoy. Take this time to learn a new skill, or do that thing you have put off for several months. I understand that a lot of people have been experiencing anxiety over this and it is perfectly ok to not do all of these things. As college students it is important to make our mental health a priority, so it is ok to have days or weeks of a mental rest.
As I stated earlier, I promised myself that I was going to use this semester to start building the foundation for the person that I want to become. Yes, the circumstances are very different now, but that doesn’t mean the aspiration and dreams have changed. I also want to challenge you to take this time to become your best self. For example, practicing self care. The stresses of college combined with the current uncertainty of the coronavirus can have a negative impact on our mental health. Don’t be afraid to take the time to treat yourself. Go out for a morning walk, put on a face mask or binge your favorite show on Netflix.
First Lady Michelle Obama once said, “Even when it is not pretty or perfect. Even when it’s more real than you want it to be. Your story is what you have, what you will always have. It is something to be owned.”
Yes, Covid-19 has had detrimental effects on our college experience. However, current events have taught us that life is spontaneous. We love to think that we have our lives figured out but Covid-19 has shown us to stay optimistic. Yes, it is a scary time and right now the outcome is unknown, but as long as we stay positive we will get through this on the other side.