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Mental Health

An Open Letter To the School System About Burnout

If you’re only going to read this first line, let it be this: Students are suffering from burnout, and no one seems to be vouching for us. 

Dear whoever it is that’s in charge of this system,

Although it has already been a year of this “pandemic life,” we are still learning how to navigate it every day. I am 20 years old, in my second semester of my senior year of college. I’ve been in school for the last 15 years of my life, and this is the first time that I’ve been forced to attend school for this long without a single break.

News flash — two “recharge days” are not enough to suffice for a spring break that was taken away or pushed back. I get it — you don’t want us to go travel, get sick, come back and get everyone else sick. Well, figure it out. Make negative COVID tests mandatory. Go fully virtual sooner. Do something else, because this system is killing us.

Since the beginning of 2021, I’ve put all of my passions on hold. “After graduation, I can’t wait to…,” “I can get to that after graduation…,” and “Let me look up how many days until graduation…” are all phrases that have been circulating my mind and coming out of my mouth. There aren’t enough hours in the day to do something unrelated to school. The mental clock is always ticking, reminding me that deadlines will creep up if I don’t overwork myself.

You think there’s a simple solution? “Take a break!” “Do something you love!” “Disconnect and take a walk!” Excuse my french, but bullshit. I’m trying. The second I start doing something else, I’m reminded that I’m going to fall behind. I have group members relying on me. Deadlines threatening graduation if I miss them. Grades that can take my scholarship away.

Did you know that we work? Have mandatory internships? Some of us are financially independent. We need to make money to live. That computer we have? That apartment we live in? Those textbooks we’re required to have? They all cost money.

And yet another surprise…we have personal lives. All my close friends ended their relationships with me this year — I feel like I’m going through three breakups at once. I miss my family every day, but I can never find the time to visit them because I have to bargain falling behind in school. As a content creator, the quality of my content is going down every day because I feel like I’m on autopilot instead of creating from my heart. But that’s never a good enough excuse to ask for an extension. “People have it worse,” “you’re being overdramatic,” “just get your sh*t together,” I tell myself on the daily. 

To my professors: 

I know this isn’t up to you. Thank you for always hearing me out and being lenient with our due dates. I’ve been blessed with an incredible group of professors who lead correctly, but unfortunately, several of my peers don’t have that privilege. I truly apologize for the quality of work I have been submitting — while I constantly tell myself “I’m better than this,” I don’t have the energy to show you that. And we hear you, too — having to plan, grade, and answer all of our questions without breaks is draining. I hope we have done our part to validate you as well.

I lost touch with what college is really about since I’ve been stuck at my desk in front of my computer for a whole year. I’m a first-generation college graduate, and all I wanted was to be proud of myself. It feels impossible when I’m literally counting down the minutes until my last assignment. I wish nothing but the best to the students and professors suffering right now.

Sincerely,

The burnt-out version of me

 

On social media, I asked if anyone had their own personal experience they’d like to share. I want everyone’s voice to be heard, so here’s what was said: 

“The pandemic has caused me a lot of anxiety and stress. It’s unfortunate that our spring break was taken away because that is an important time for us to recharge in order to finish the semester as best as we can.” – Maria B.

“I’m finding burnout to be so much more severe this semester. Most of my classes have decreased the number of assignments and quizzes, but that means every single thing I do is worth at least 15-20% of my mark. Everything matters so much more, but gathering the strength to do that one thing is ten times harder! Also, a few of my classes are just powerpoints that I have to go through on my own, which I think is absolutely ridiculous  my university is also doing continual 4% tuition increases each year but the quality has decreased so much. I don’t even know what most of my profs look like.” – Olivia C.

“Having to work remotely on top of virtual classes has taken away time from other passions and hobbies. Not having a break right now to switch gears has been really hard.” – Kailey N.

“As an influencer, I feel like I’m getting more experience and knowledge on my own rather than what I’m learning in school. It sucks because getting a college degree is something that has always been important to me but it sucks that I have to put what I love and essentially a source of income to the side to complete hours of homework. Most college students also have jobs and the stress of homework, discussion posts, projects and more shouldn’t cause us to feel burnt out in our 20s.” – Kassandra V.

“I wish colleges understood the amount of stress students are going through right now. It feels like I’m living in the movie ‘Groundhog Day’ and no one understands me.” -Rimyal A.

“Burnout is a real thing that isn’t discussed enough. I always thought I was in the wrong for complaining about school and the stress it brings so I want people to know that it’s okay to complain. It‘s normal to not feel yourself, it’s normal to feel stressed and overwhelmed but it all goes away and it’s going to be alright. Remember why you’re doing what you’re doing and know that you’re onto bigger and better things. My coping mechanism is turning on some music, laying in my bed and crying for a little — find out what makes you feel better and then remember that you’re a bad b-tch.” -Yaymelí M

“I am recently graduated after being highly involved at my university and taking 15-18 hours each semester, finishing my degree early in 3 1/2 years while working (2-3 jobs at some points). It was really fast-paced and graduating during a pandemic makes it all seem less real? I still find myself anxious like I missed an assignment, I even woke up the other day in a panic thinking I forgot about a zoom class for half a semester. Basically, graduating and working full time in my field was and is great, but the stress and anxiety of being a full-time student and working still lingers afterward.” -Haley G.

Mollie Guerrero is currently a Senior at UCF majoring in Advertising/Public Relations. She is a concert addict (mainly Harry Styles, of course), frequent Disney goer, and social media connoisseur. To keep up with her life and her newfound love for creating content, follow Mollie’s Instagram as well as her graphic design journey (http://www.instagram.com/magicbymollie).
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