Like many students, my life changed abruptly in March with the spread of Covid-19. Classes became virtual and most places on campus closed. My catering job at school no longer needed me. It was not long before I joined my friends in the mass exodus of bewildered students moving back home with their families. I enjoy being with my family, and looked forward to some home-cooked meals and time spent with my siblings. But it was not long before I realized that “sheltering in place” was not a short-term experience. At school I was in constant motion, going to the coffee shop, gym, and club meetings. Now I was trying to adjust to new feelings of anxiety and uncertainty but also overwhelming gratitude.
I keep hearing that this is the “New Normal” but wearing a mask, social distancing, and bathing in hand sanitizer is not normal. Virtual learning became difficult while dealing with other COVID-19 stresses like daunting world news, panic-buying, and fear of losing family and friends to the virus. Home technology brought new challenges as I battled for a piece of the Wi-Fi while keeping other family members from being heard in my unmuted background. Life as I knew it had been suddenly disrupted, and the unforeseen future did not look very promising.
Financial insecurity added to scholastic stresses as I dealt with the loss of my part-time job. Rent on my empty apartment was still owed each month, along with my car payment and credit card bill. The money I had saved was dwindling fast, and I welcomed the reopening of the restaurant I worked for when summer came. At fifty percent capacity, hours were not guaranteed, and the tips did not make up for wearing a mask while serving customers outside in the intense heat.
Focusing on Gratitude
If I have learned anything this past year, it is that I am profoundly thankful for the safety nets under me: secure housing, family and friends. I am grateful for the opportunity to continue my classes in an on-line setting, and for the virtual internship that has taught me to connect and collaborate remotely. I have learned to create a realistic schedule that allows for mental health breaks and time with family. Most importantly, I have learned to practice empathy for myself and others as we navigate through this transformation of the student experience.
For information on coping skills and tips for college students during COVID-19 click on the links below!
Guest Author Hannah Parker is a social work student intern at Jenerations Health Education, Inc. for the 2020-2021 academic year. She will graduate from Salisbury University this spring and plans to attend graduate school.
FUN FACT: Hannah played basketball from the time she was five years old until her freshman year of college as a point guard. For the last several years she has coached boy’s and girl’s recreational basketball at the elementary and middle school level.