The pandemic took the entire country by storm, and while schools and colleges were quick to reopen online, many of us don’t really feel like we’re back in class.
Don’t get me wrong, the massive workload does bring back a sense of normalcy, but I miss awkward eye contact in the library, having to walk too far too early in the morning, and hanging out in the Student Union.
School routines are important coping mechanisms for young people. Highline students say they miss being on campus and feel that this new normal is getting old.
Reduced social interactions, a lack of social support, and newly arising stressors associated with the COVID-19 crisis could affect students’ mental health negatively.
“Not being on campus is a bit sad and is something that I thought I could always do. I never saw Covid coming,” said Highline student Dyvhon Fonoti. “This is my third quarter taking full online classes and I miss going to in person classes. Some classes I would very much prefer in person just because I can’t learn through a screen.”
“I feel as though I learn better being in face-to-face classes. I am used to online classes by now and I might feel a bit more comfortable doing work at home but I do miss being on campus and interacting with students and teachers,” said another student, Anisa Dahir.
It’s not all bad. I personally thought I was going to hate online classes; I’ve always been the student that has questions all through class and then a few more after. Learning online has given me a sense of accountability and agency over my education.
I never thought that I would/ cared to find a system that worked for me (utilizing a planner and finishing work early), until I felt like I might flunk out if I didn’t. Now I’m ready to return to class; not only because I miss interacting with people my age, but also because I have found the best way of approaching my workload.
During this time of social and economic uncertainty, we’ve been told to self-reflect and the financial backlash of COVID-19 has made some students question continuing their educations right now.
“Sometimes I wonder if I should put school on pause and wait for the pandemic to be over because I really don’t like being online,” Fonoti said. “With everything going on I feel so stressed and exhausted. When I was on campus and going to classes the only thing I had to worry about was myself; now I have a whole list of things to do and honestly doing homework is not my first priority.”
“During this pandemic I have not questioned attending college. I accepted that I will be doing work mostly at home early on and have continued to do work as I would if we weren’t in this pandemic,” said Dahir.
While social distancing measures may successfully slow down the spread of the virus and relieve the public health systems, they may eventually increase the social isolation of students and affect their psychological well-being.
Many students have regrets about missed opportunities on campus.
“When I use to be on campus, I would keep to myself a lot, I would just go to class and then back home. I do wish I joined any clubs or anything so that I would have been a more social person,” said Dahir.
“Something I wish I could’ve done before was look for a club to join or a group,” Fonoti said.
For some students, the reopening of the campus could mean another chance to get out there. For others, their health and wellbeing are their main concerns.
Being under a lot of pressure to perform academically doesn’t help anyone, which is magnified by the isolation of the pandemic. The social networks of students have been argued to be an important factor in buffering stress and helping them to be more effective.
Some students say they will try to expand those networks at school, when it is safe to do so.
“When I do go back to campus, I will join clubs and interact with my classmates more often,” Dahir said.
Obviously, we need to be cautious – COVID isn’t going away overnight. But when I do get back to school, I’m going to be more present. Not just sitting in a seat in a classroom, but more engaged with others whenever that’s possible.