As the coronavirus pandemic continues to affect each of our lives, I decided to source outside of my own experience and interview a fellow college student. With the uncertainty that lies ahead, it is comforting to know that there are millions of other people on this journey with you who are all experiencing the same difficulties and discomfort. Adapting to this confined way of life is for some a bigger learning curve than for others, yet we are able to lean on each other and share our stories.
I interviewed a senior from a university in Indiana, who prefers to remain anonymous, as in her own words, “I do not generally like to share my mental health with others.” During our interview, she relayed how this health crisis has affected her mentally and the consequent difficulties she has to face. She explained, “I have struggled with anxiety since I was young, and it definitely affects my day-to-day life and interactions with other people.” When the health crisis became apparent in America, she was on spring break, and her school quickly moved their learning online. Explaining her initial reaction, she says, “At first, I was very excited that I would be at home with my family, who I rarely see during school. I thought remaining at home would be a relief on my anxiety, because I have difficulties driving and going grocery shopping at school, but I soon realized how stressful this transition would be.”
She disclosed that a lot of her anxiety is stemming from the uncertainty and unfamiliarity of online learning. This semester she is taking credit overload to complete her degree on time and explains, “Many of my professors don’t use Blackboard right now, so I realized transitioning completely online would be difficult for them as well as me and my classmates.” She said the stress of understanding and functioning in a new learning environment in only a couple days has caused a lot of worry. “I am a very organized learner. At the start of a semester, I add everything on a syllabus to my calendar so that I can look at the due dates and prepare throughout the week. This helps me reduce some potential stress because I feel like I am in control of what I am doing.”
“Since we aren’t seeing each other in person anymore, all my professors have been sending lots of emails with updates, changing deadlines, and adding more assignments.” She clarifies that the fluctuating workload and rapidly changing assignments have added to her already heightened stress and anxiety levels. A couple days ago after receiving multiple emails, she said, “I just couldn’t cope. I was so stressed I couldn’t concentrate on my homework, so I laid face-down on my couch for an hour while I tried to calm myself.” While right now her schooling is uncertain, she is hopeful that in the coming weeks she will get used to her circumstances and she can reduce the anxiety she is feeling.
Despite this, she does not have concerns about her own health. Instead, she fears for her family, saying, “My Dad has had health issues with his lungs since he was a child, but he has continued going to work in the city because he has to. My siblings and I have been very intentional about quarantining because we do not want to give it to him.” She explained how her Dad’s health has caused many sleepless nights and fears for the future. Even between the anxiety she is experiencing relative to her last semester of college and her family’s health, she has managed to find some tranquility by stepping back and looking at the bigger picture. She recognizes that these drastic steps that our nation has taken are for the benefit of all, and that even though she is struggling with this transition, there are others who would suffer immeasurably more if these steps were not taken.
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