University of California San Diego sophomore Aleeah Brunsmann used to wake up at 8 a.m. everyday in her beautiful apartment and take the bus to attend classes. Now, she rolls over in her bed, opens her laptop, and struggles to keep her eyes open “in class” at her parent’s house in Santa Clarita.
Brunsmann is just one of thousands of college students who decided to tackle the challenge of moving away from their hometown to attend a four year university, but has ended up back where they started in their childhood bedroom due to COVID-19, the worldwide pandemic that has upended the plans of schools everywhere.
COVID-19 is an infectious virus that rapidly spreads from person to person with close contact. As the number of cases rose and death tolls mounted, universities and junior colleges responded by moving in-person classrooms to online learning, and the decision has taken a toll on teachers and students alike. What’s more, there is no definitive solution for next semester.
“One student described her brain as feeling “scrambled,” others are describing their sense of loss and sadness, while others are feeling lonely or anxious about what is going on in our world and the unpredictability of it all,” says LCSW Assistant Director of the Student Health & Wellness/Mental Health Program Larry Schallert.
The simple task of attending school gives attendees the feeling of being productive and boosts their mental health, and those benefits are more difficult to come by in an online-only environment, experts say. The rapid change and uncertainty going forward has left students bewildered.
“I think it’s starting to cause people to get a little cabin fever because they have been stuck inside and not being able to do anything. I think people get really antsy about it and it causes them a bit of anxiety,” says COC student Alyssa Hovey.
The mass majority of students interviewed agreed with Hovey, and some say that efforts made my teachers to lessen the workload — in some cases by canceling final exams — haven’t helped.
The self quarantine orders affect so much more to a student’s daily life than people realize. An escape from family, seeing friends, exerting energy into something beneficial, and doing what makes them feel as a productive being in society.
The normality they once had in their life has now been ripped away which only leads to the student body having a whirlwind of emotions and no way to deal with them all on top of this sudden change in their schooling.
“In general, students are feeling a whole spectrum of feelings that they are “pin wheeling” through as one person described it, spinning through depression, loneliness, anxiety, anger, stress and frustration. When students are stuck at home, watching the media, have school stress and are dealing with any [preexisitng conditions] it can be very difficult to manage and students can feel hopeless, helpless, scrambled and even think about suicide,” says Schallert.
As of now, COC has announced they will remain online for the next summer and fall semesters, with hopes that this could possibly be changed in the future.
This announcement leaves serious concerns with the faculty at COC that the student body will not gain the same learning experience as they did before via in-person.
“My concerns for online (distance) learning, which probably echos many professors’ sentiments, is that there is a quality of learning that is lost when you can’t be in the same room. There is an isolation inherent in online learning and some students require community for learning,” says Adjunct Professor of Theatre Maureen Huskey.
Many students plan on returning, but others feel they will not benefit from this type of learning and will not be enrolling in the upcoming semesters, their mental health being a large part of the reasoning.
“Social distancing is not good for anyone’s mental health. Even though it is good for their physical health, there is a reason solitary confinement is a punishment in prison,” says COC student Emily Moss.