Skye Lamarre
Staff Writer

Before the pandemic started, I looked at my future as a series of sequential moments. I was fairly certain that I knew how both I and the world were going to end up.

Once the pandemic was underway, it was the first time I truly had no idea what the future would hold. For the first time, so many things had happened that I never would have considered to be possible. People were working from home. School was now online. Restaurants and movie theaters were completely shutting down. Once this realization truly began to sink in, I was overwhelmed by a feeling that had become both familiar and unsettling during the last few months: anxiety. In that moment, I realized that the pandemic had completely shattered what I had perceived as “normal.”

These feelings of constant anxiety have become an unfortunate reality for many people during this time, particularly college students. According to an article from PBS NewsHour, “before COVID, students were already struggling with anxiety, depression, and loneliness. And that has only been exacerbated. [ . . . ] Eighty percent of students around the country say that COVID has negatively impacted their mental health, their spiritual health, their career aspirations.” This is true for a variety of reasons. Many students have struggled with their extracurricular activities being cancelled in the transition to online learning. Others have had feelings of heightened anxiety regarding COVID because they are nervous that they will infect family members. Some students have been dealing with other serious issues, such as housing insecurity.

Recently, many colleges have announced that they are cancelling spring break in favor of several intermittent “wellness days” that will take place throughout the semester. While the reasoning behind this decision is practical, it also has the unintended effect of increasing students’ day-to-day anxiety. In a recent article from Vox, three university students were asked about their thoughts regarding a cancelled spring break. In all three cases, the students seemed to have reached a state of reluctant acceptance. One student, Kate, said that it was “a very fair solution because they don’t want people leaving campus, getting sick, and bringing it back to campus, but from the standpoint of a student who actually has to sit through this, it’s pretty brutal. It’s a lot of class[es] and a pretty relentless schedule.”

The removal of spring break is just one of many ways that college students have been impacted by COVID-19. One major way student life has changed is in the transition from in-person to online learning. At Whittier College, we switched from a semester system to a module system in order to better accommodate the schedules of students and faculty. While this choice has reaped some positive results, there have still been some unfortunate gaps. In my experience, it has been even more difficult to find social outlets and make friends now that classes are online. Even though I was able to take some really interesting classes and meet some great people this year, I never felt like I was able to fully connect with my classmates. In class, we weren’t able to make eye contact with each other during discussions. While there were moments where we all agreed on something and genuinely connected, we weren’t able to maintain that sense of connection outside of class.

Now that all of us have spent a full year adjusting to all of these changes, it feels unfair and unrealistic to assume that we will be able to go back to “normal” when quarantine is over. Everything in our day-to-day lives has been irrevocably changed. Whether we like it or not, this change cannot be undone. We are now living in a world where we must wear masks, wash our hands frequently, and stay six feet apart. As we move forward, we must learn how to incorporate these changes into our lives. It is likely that social distancing and extensive hand-washing will remain until we can be certain of public safety. Schools and work spaces may adopt a hybrid system of in-person and virtual work in order to both keep people safe and allow for more social interaction. Vacations may also be very different, as travel in and of itself is risky. In the future, travel may be limited to small road trips in cars with immediate family or close friends.

We do not have to see all of this change as negative. We are living in the future. Everything we know has changed, and it has given us an opportunity to really examine how the world works and how it can be improved. Hoping that things will revert back to the way that they were undermines the progress that we have made during this time. As the pandemic continues, it would be far more reasonable and healthy to look towards the future and think about how our choices will make a positive impact. While we may never truly be back to “normal,” we can make the best of the time that we have as the world begins to rebuild.

Featured Image: Hannah Wei / Unsplash

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In collaboration by Quaker Campus staff members.
  1. Joe
    March 18, 2021

    Well done!

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