Yet Another Student’s COVID-19 Log

Location: 
Finland
FI

COVID-19. The name of a virus that sounds almost like a swear word these days. Currently I’m sitting in my car, writing this, at the seashore. Which is what I have to do if I want to go outside and get out of the house for a bit. Nowadays, libraries aren’t open, cafés aren’t open, nowhere is open. You have your house and the outdoors – which in Finland doesn’t help much, as most of the year you can’t really go out and spend time there without freezing to death. 

So, I ended up sitting in my car. Honestly, it’s quite great, as it’s also a good way to social distance. 

Earlier today my mum and I went to a store, just a regular old big department store. I looked around and instantly got wary of my surroundings, seeing dirt and bacteria everywhere I looked. I mentioned it to my mum: how wild it is to even think about life before this, when I never thought about these things, and happily put my hands everywhere, bumping into people as I went.

Now? I’m constantly on edge, worried, exhausted, and keeping my distance. If I’m outside and someone comes too close or isn’t wearing a mask, my face immediately frowns. When I go on my balcony without a mask and inhale fresh air into my lungs freely, I feel weird. I text most of my friends I miss them every day as that’s the most interaction we can have. Some of them I haven’t seen in a year, even the ones that live in the same city. I’m constantly on edge, worried, exhausted, and keeping my distance, even from my loved ones.

I am also on edge, worried, and exhausted over my studies.

COVID-19 is affecting all areas of my life and making me feel like every single day is the same. I wake up in the same space I’ve spent the last days, weeks, months in. I do the same routine, maybe depending on if I have a lecture in the morning or not. And then I sit on my laptop for the rest of the day, on Zoom lectures, then doing online coursework or readings. Then I consume some online media through the same screen, until I feel like going to sleep.

This is the template for most of my days now. Of course there might be some variation, for example when I go to the shops or to my boyfriend’s, but that’s about it.

And, honestly, I’m tired. I’m so tired. But I also understand. This is a tough situation, and it has affected us all, not just us students. I’ve understood that some people are in more dire need of support and help from our government, and it’s only fair they’ve gotten their aid. I’ve been able to hang on for a little while longer, even though I’m greatly suffering, because I’ve also been sure us students wouldn't be fully forgotten about. When our government announced they would be holding a special COVID-19 related info for students, I felt hopeful again. Like, jeez, finally someone is going to acknowledge us and give us a hand too.

Then, the info came. And all we got were some pats on the back and empty words about how special this situation is, and how it will be a generational experience for us.

Cool.

That was my first though after the info.

Cool.

Being completely honest, at first, I felt like crying from pure frustration. I had so much hope piled up on the info, only to get what felt like patronising pandering. But once I got over the tears of frustration, the slowly budding ember of anger started to kick in.

Is this really it? Is this really all we are gonna get?

I immediately took to my Instagram (@emma.emilova), and started ranting about the situation, and all the facts and points that made me so disappointed. Then a friend of mine replied to me, saying they felt the same way. Followed by another friend. And another. Then my friends’ friends chimed in, followed by friendly mutual follows who I never usually talk to. Followed by that one girl I met at a club toilet two years ago. And the replies would not stop.

This was the moment when I realised I really wasn’t alone in how I was feeling, both about the social distancing and about the info. And if I wasn’t alone, someone must have some kind of solutions, right?

Very quickly I found a lot of statistics and information about how higher level students in Finland are currently doing. Truth is, not that well. There are many studies that indicate university level students in Finland have never been as tired, exhausted and stressed as they are now. I also found resources on possible solutions to help us out. The National Union of University Students in Finland, or SYL for short, had compiled a lot of information on their Twitter account (@SYL_FIN) and website (www.syl.fi), and outlined some great solutions to our problems. I also ended up compiling some of that information to a post on my Instagram account, and even did a full about 40 minute episode on the topic for my podcast on Supla, called opiskelijadilemmat. Though both of those are in Finnish, I would suggest you check them out, and if you can’t understand Finnish, to check out SYL, as they have a lot of great information in English as well.

It’s now been a month and a half since the info, and I feel like I’ve been talking about it nonstop everywhere, trying to raise awareness. Truthfully, I am so tired of talking about the logistics of this issue and its possible solutions now, that I can’t bring myself to put it to words here. Though I was approached to write this article with brining awareness and a voice to students in mind, I’m finding it really hard to deliver on that. I am really trying – I’m staring at this Word document, drinking water and really trying. I have the information in my head, but when I try get my fingers typing, I get an immediate headache. The headache seems to be chronic anyway, due to the amount of work I have to do on my laptop staring at a screen these days. But genuinely… I can’t. I’m so tired of the situation that anything to do with it instantly exhausts me, even doing something that could be beneficial and possibly help.

It makes me feel like a failure. Much like this year and all the hurdles it has brought with it and distance learning have as well. I feel like I’m an underperforming failure.

I am a tired failure. I procrastinate all my school work as I just can’t bring myself to do it anymore. I have extended my studies with yet another year. My responsibilities make me so tired I seem to be barely getting by. I’m still constantly on edge, worried, exhausted, and keeping my distance, maybe even more so than before. And I don’t really know what to do, as nothing really seems to help. So, currently, I’m just existing, while hoping someone will do something to make the situation easier for students. Hoping to be seen.

I do however hope that maybe even if this article couldn’t provide you with the cold hard facts and stats that I was going to initially deliver (sorry), it might offer you something else. Maybe some peer support, some food for thought, some resources to get started on your own research. At least it has made me feel a bit less alone, and being able to so openly admit to feeling tired and worn out has been quite freeing. It’s somewhat cathartic to complain so openly.

Well. I guess I just have to keep on hoping and waiting. That’s probably all I can really do now. Though currently the thought of normal life seems very distant and strange, it will happen again someday. It will take me a while to get used to it, to get over being so on edge, worried, exhausted. To realise it’s OK not to keep my distance. But it will happen again someday. And I just have to keep on hoping things will get easier.

One thing I do know for sure though, and that is that it can’t really get much worse than this. Not to jinx it.