By VERONICA SMITH
Heading off to college is an exciting time in one’s life, but how is that experience affected when one’s college years are happening during a pandemic?
College students have faced numerous challenges due to COVID-19. These three students shared the troubles they have faced academically and socially, and how they have turned to various outlets to cope.
During this unusual time in our world, adjusting to school work has been difficult for these students.
“School feels a lot more optional,” said Lindy Wierda, a Butler University freshman majoring in health sciences. “Like going to class feels so optional when it‘s just joining a thing on your computer.” Although having online classes is very beneficial for students’ safety, the transition has been challenging.
When asked if he enjoys online classes, Cole Bertsche, a sophomore at Gonzaga University majoring in business, said “Yeah ‚cause I can crawl out of bed and go.”
Bertsche even explained how on days where he feels more lazy, he will join Zoom class from the comfort of his soft and cozy bed. This is what most “classroom settings” have become in 2020 — joining Zoom from one’s bed or walking five feet to one’s desk to join class online. Many students have also found it difficult to stay focused in class.
“It is just easier to pay attention when you‘re around other people and a teacher, listening or talking in front of you,” Wierda said. Since students are not physically in classrooms, distractions are bound to pop up. The buzz from one’s phone notification, the bottle of nail polish sitting on one’s desk or being able to online shop during class — the distractions are endless and hard to resist.
Being distracted also impairs students ability to be accountable. College is a time where students are on their own and must be responsible for managing their school work.
“Keeping track of everything is difficult because sometimes I feel like I‘m missing something when I‘m not, and sometimes I don‘t think I‘m missing something but I am,” Bertsche said. “It’s kind of me on my own schedule, which is tough.”
Being accountable is a hardship that many students are facing during this time.
“If teachers don‘t specifically mention, ‘Oh you have this due later this week’ it would be easy for me to forget about it,” Wierda said. This online school world has shown the importance of self accountability and finding motivation to stay on top of assignments and deadlines.
Trying to navigate a social life during this time has also created new hardships. Being around large social settings is definitely something that students are avoiding, but what if you live in a house with 70 other girls? Stephanie Smith, a junior at Butler University, lives in the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority house on campus.
She joined a sorority her freshman year as a way to be involved on campus, meet new people and continue her social interactions. She lived in the house half of her sophomore year, as she spent the other half of the year abroad. Returning to the fun atmosphere in the house, constant chatter looming in the air and continuing to build friendships and mingle with her fellow housemates was exciting for her.
But as the world knows, COVID-19 came and changed everything, including the sorority house rules.
“We are required to wear a mask around the house,” Smith said. “And we are only allowed to take them off in our personal room.” Smith further explained the house rules of no outside guests, even if they are in the sorority.
These new guidelines have definitely affected her socially. She feels as though she has grown distant from some of her friends that don’t live in the house. But, this has brought on some positives, as well.
“Honestly, my best friends are now in the house and I‘ve gotten really close with them since we‘ve all kind of sheltered here together,” Smith said. She was able to form new friendships that may not have developed if the pandemic and the house rules were not here.
“I feel like it‘s allowed me to be a lot more creative with different gatherings in the sense of we don‘t always need to go get food to have fun,” she added.
Smith has explored new social hangouts, like studying on the lawn under a shady tree or visiting local Indianapolis parks, that allow her to continue having social interactions, while also following the rules and keeping herself safe.
Since people are unable to connect face to face during this time, social media has been an outlet used to maintain relationships. But Smith has been using it in a different way.
“I‘ve noticed I need to check different social media more to see who‘s being safe,” she said.
Smith views people’s profiles and if they are posting at parties or large gatherings that look unsafe, she avoids encountering those people.
Being in a college environment and around so many people, it can be easy for people to stop being safe. But Smith has created her own techniques that allow her to continue to be social and safe simultaneously.
College in itself is a very stressful and transitional time in one‘s life — balancing academics and a social life. Then, you add a pandemic on top of it and it can take an additional toll on one’s mental health. The CDC found that in June, 40% of people were struggling with their mental health.
The added stress due to the virus has made focusing on one’s mental health an important priority throughout the pandemic. College students have taken on new hobbies and mental health checks that are helping them cope and preserve through these times.
A common trend was making an extra effort to go outdoors. Rather than being cooped up in a stuffy dorm room all day, people have turned to going on walks outdoors where they can watch the changing colors of the leaves and feel the crisp breeze on their mask covered faces.
“I never thought that I would go for a walk around a lake,” Bertsche said. “There are too many bugs and stuff, but now I am like ‘This is kind of nice.’”
Bertsche, like many people during this past year, has realized how beneficial going outside, enjoying the trees, listening to the birds and feeling the wind can be.
“I‘ve been going to the gym like 5-6 times a week,” Bertsche said. Getting in a good sweat not only is healthy for your physical body, but also clears your mind and benefits your mental health.
Being a psychology major, Smith knows the importance of taking care of one’s mental health.
“After a long day of classes, I have a little mental health checker and calendar where I just kind of mark to see how my day went, how I am doing and it is a good way to focus on my well being during Covid,” she said.
This system has allowed Smith to track how her mental state is and know when to allot more time to take care of herself or take a break. Along with the calendar, Smith, like Bertsche, goes outdoors more often.
“We go on nature walks or just go outside and enjoy it,” Smith said. Enjoying nature is a great way to relieve stress and focus on yourself, but not all people go about it this route.
“I talk to my friends and my parents,” Wierda said. Talking about your feelings and moods with others is beneficial, too. It can help you process your emotions and also receive an outside opinion that can help you.
Living in a pandemic has become our new normal, and although it has brought about many hardships, it has proved the importance of being flexible and working through the situations you are handed.
“You can‘t live your life in total fear and anxiety,” Smith said. “You have to grow accustomed to this new world we‘re living in and adjust your actions accordingly.”
— Veronica Smith is a 2020 graduate of Patrick Henry High School and is currently freshman at Butler University studying Sports Media.