Struggling through pandemic work and school

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how many are using their table as an office? pikist

The changes, the setbacks, and how to laugh through it all

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, students have been concerned about what their work and school lives will look like. As the 2020 summer quickly approached, many students faced the reality that there just was not any work for them. Companies and businesses were not hiring any more due to the financial effects of the pandemic or other misfortunes. 

This lack of financial stability, in turn, put a major stress on students – even with the Canada Emergency Student Benefit (CESB) or Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB). For many, it was not enough, and did not replace reliable employment. Uncertainty left many students questioning whether or not they were even able to return to university for the Fall 2020 and Winter 2021 terms.

Many students rely on working full-time in the summer, so without the ability to get out of the house, gain experience, and connect with others, these people were left feeling more isolated than ever – an isolation on top of the one that comes with the lengthy quarantine. The disruption takes a toll on both physical and mental health.

For students that were able to work over the summer, though, things were no easier, as there has not been a free moment to process what is really going on in the world. The days have run together since March, and it feels as though each day is only thirty seconds long. There has not been much of a break, therefore, since the lockdown went into effect, and considering all of the things students enjoy doing have been taken away or are unsafe to do, all the stress is just building up inside, damaging our well-being.

Personally, I have a job that I absolutely love and is in my field. Once the pandemic hit, though, our projects were put on hold and I was out of work for months. When I had the opportunity to return to work, I was unable to do the job because my internet connection at my parents’ house was not strong enough to support the programs I need to run – I am still dealing with this struggle and am barely able to work, which has impacted me financially and mentally as well. Working remotely and being away from my coworkers and office has made it impossible to get in the headspace to get the work done when I have the opportunity. 

The changes that COVID has brought upon my professional life have greatly impacted my ability to do the work, and do it to the best of my abilities – I fear that I, alongside my fellow students, am going to be feeling similarly about my ability to complete the Fall 2020 and Winter 2021 terms. 

The Fall 2020 term has begun, and I still do not feel ready to begin the year-long distance learning “adventure.” As my mental health has plummeted, I spend all my days walking across the room from my bed to my desk and back to my bed, and I am concerned that I will not be able to stay on top of a full term, the many volunteer projects I am working on, and my job responsibilities. The biggest challenge that I have faced is gaining any ounce of motivation to do anything, besides watch endless hours of Netflix and TikToks. 

As the majority of my classes are asynchronous and without Zoom lectures, I feel as though there is nothing reminding me or holding me accountable to actually getting the work done – or even remembering that I am currently enrolled in classes or have a job. I am a person who craves structure but am very scattered, so I surround myself with spaces (like classrooms) and people (like peers) to provide me with a sense of structure and accountability I can’t create alone. This means online classes and independent learning have been quite the challenge for me, and I am sure I am not the only person feeling this way. 

Many students have raised the objection that online classes should not cost the same as in-person classes, and although I very much agree in terms of quality of education, I have also realized that we are essentially paying for the credits. Three credits is three credits, regardless of how you get them – but given the current situation and struggles that students are facing, I think that we should at least be getting Zoom lectures in each class so we have the opportunity to connect with our professors and classmates. Many need the face-to-face connections to truly learn and grasp concepts. 

Zoom can be a burden due to internet connection, distractions, profs not knowing the program and wasting twenty minutes going, “how do I share my screen?” But it is important to take those opportunities to laugh with your professor and peers, because you are all going through the same tough time and the mood needs lightening. I’ve experienced this shared humor myself: in one of my classes, our prof was trying to figure out screen sharing and one of my classmates, not knowing their microphone was on, began singing/scatting to a beat. The class all began laughing and expressed how much we loved their song – we spent the last hour of that class all typing in the chat about how our five-minute breaks from now on are karaoke time, and we are making a class album. We could have been annoyed by the chat popping up and distracting from the lecture, but instead, we all just laughed and bonded through that experience. 

Both work and school are very difficult situations to navigate in the new pandemic world, but remember to laugh and connect with people wherever you can get it, because we are all going through this together.

Reese Estwick

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