We have all heard the phrase, “be careful what you wish for.” This is what comes to mind when I remember myself sitting in class in late March, anxiously awaiting The University of Akron to confirm the rumors and send us off on an extra-long spring break. When my professors told us the news I was excited and relieved. How fun is it going to be to have more than a week off! Months later I can tell you it was not all it was cracked up to be. I spent the first month of quarantine sick as a dog. I didn’t have COVID-19, but to be safe, I stayed on campus away from my family. At first, that seemed fine, but as the days went on, I got a little stir crazy. I had been used to such a demanding schedule that I couldn’t bring myself to be very productive. Even if I had felt productive, what would I do? It was the first time in my life I didn’t have a million things going on at once, and without that structure, I fell into a mini depression that lasted until I finally went home. Things were a lot better when I came home. My family would walk our dog every day, I stuck to a workout routine and I got to enjoy my mom’s cooking every night. I had to be away from people I cared about, and I missed them like crazy, but the comfort of being around my family made me get through it. When the time came to return to classes online, I was excited. Having responsibilities and due dates cured my boredom, and I found myself working a lot harder.
Everyone had their own unique experience with the pandemic. We have lived through something historical, and our personal experiences are our own page in that history book. My fellow Her Campus memberss were kind enough to answer some questions about what it was like for them to live through a global pandemic.
I started off by asking their initial reaction to school shutting down. Unsurprisingly, most of us felt the same. Danne Symons explains, “I went home that same day, treating it like a weekend visit back home.” Also, unsuspecting was Audrey Gercack who says, “I was ready for the ‘little’ break and then to get back into school, but I was completely unaware of what was yet to come.” Maddie Myers had been following stories about virus in Wuhan, so the news didn’t settle with her as easily; she says, “I just didn’t know how we would be moving forward because nothing like this had happened in our lifetimes or our parents’ lifetimes.”
The beginning was difficult because it was a new way of life none of us had ever experienced. We now all had ample of something we wanted so badly before: time. Symons definitely used her time to her advantage, buying a new puppy and starting a company where she makes encouraging bracelets. “They get a personalized message and bracelet from me but also have something on them to constantly remind them to fight through whatever they’re going through.” Myers used the time to connect with her roommate. She explains, “We started going out for drives together, going on hikes, [and] watching the sunset.” Unfortunately, not everyone found themselves in the best situation during the pandemic. Dorian Mayenschein had some serious tension with their parents when they came home as their mother wanted them to give up their cat due to her allergies. “I had daily panic attacks because of the stress of the entire situation because I would choose my cat over my parents every time because he gives me emotional support when all they do is give me stress.”
Another commonality I found when I interviewed the Her Campus team was that everyone struggled with the social aspect of the shutdown. Symons says she doesn’t consider herself an outgoing person, but she had a hard time staying in. “I know we have to stay safe, but not being social, even if it was running to the store really quick, really took a toll.” Gercack tried her best to stay in touch with friends with facetime calls but found herself really missing face to face interaction. Myers says “I’ve never been great at digital communication. I missed being able to be around my friends. I got lonely.”
I have yet to find a person who didn’t experience some sort of low during this time, but like anything else, there is always a silver lining. For me, it was taking some time to just slow down and relax, gaining a new appreciation for all my responsibilities. Myers got a chance to do interviews; she says she enjoyed “hearing stories of perseverance from people like essential workers and researchers.” Gercack used the time off to deepen her relationship with her boyfriend. She explains, “We both definitely became closer with each other and found some cool new places we like to go to now.” For Mayenschein, the shutdown helped with a difficult decision; they say “It gave me the excuse to part ways with my job at Olive Garden that made me more stressed out than I have ever been in my life.” They also shared that they got a new job that they are much happier with. “It honestly is the best job I’ve ever had, both in terms of pay and the way I am treated.”
After a month of spring break, online classes began again. This was a major stressor for many students who preferred in-person classes and for anyone having trouble with productivity. Myers was a victim of this, saying, “Last semester, I was juggling two jobs along with school and extracurriculars. When everything went online, including my jobs, I felt like there was no distinction between home and work. I felt like I constantly had to be productive. When I couldn’t live up to that standard, I became discouraged and overwhelmed.” Mayenschein also felt overwhelmed, specifically in a Spanish class. “I could not keep it straight in my head. It was too much.”
Now we are back to school and navigating a new normal. As the weeks go by, we are adjusting to this strange way of life and hoping for the day we can go back to the maskless in-person college experience we took for granted before.