On March 11, 2020 the World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic. It has been over a year since Albion College students, and students all over the nation, were abruptly sent home in line with social isolation efforts to help flatten the curve.
The world was at a standstill and many people, including myself, believed that the curve would be flattened and life would go back to normal in time for summer.
As summer was ending and the COVID-19 pandemic was still alive and present, there was anxiety surrounding the return to Albion, especially for seniors.
When the Together Safely guidelines were introduced, many Albion students were anything but excited to return. After a long period of isolation at home, students were informed that they would still be isolated, but in a different way. News sources, including MLive and The Detroit News, wrote articles about how Albion students were being tracked and forbidden to go off campus.
According to the Department of Psychiatry at Michigan University, college students are especially prone to feelings of loneliness.They also experience higher rates of anxiety and depression in comparison to the general population.
Together Safely and the consequences of breaking the rules, a new administration, the module system and a different registration process are just some abrupt changes that didn’t help the feelings of loneliness, anxiety or depression.
At the end of last semester, there was tension around campus. COVID-19 cases were rising in Michigan and on campus, the election was in full swing and the weather was getting colder.
During one of my classes near the end of the semester, we talked. We didn’t talk about the subject we were learning or about the book we had to read for that day. Instead, we talked about our feelings—for two hours. There were only six of us in that class, and around half were seniors. Our professor made a point to tell us that she was proud of us.
I didn’t understand why she was proud—until now.
As seniors, we expected normalcy because we watched previous classes go through special events like senior nights with a packed gym and commencement with more than two family members. We didn’t get to experience a last Briton Bash or normal Euphonics concert. There are no bowling nights, and some seniors probably even miss sitting in Baldwin for hours with their friends.
For the seniors who stayed on campus, they created their own normal. They learned how to relieve stress and hangout with their friends in a pandemic-safe way. Student leaders created ways to host events outside or virtually. Greek Life found a way to hold recruitment and Albion sports continued to play with very minimal cancellations due to positive cases.
All seniors found their way through a new extended registration process and made it through the module system when we were used to full semesters and the one day registration process.
We didn’t get normal, but we are more resilient because of it.
In the Columbia University study about college students and the impact of COVID-19, Christina Hoven, a professor of epidemiology and psychiatry, says that the pandemic has caught college students in the most pivotal moment in their personal, interpersonal, educational and pre professional development.
“For most, it has disrupted the well-worn and expected trajectories from adolescence to adulthood, from dependence to social responsibility and leadership. Therefore, it is critically important to understand the impact and consequences of the pandemic on U.S. college students, because the pandemic’s impacts will not only affect the students personally but the future of our nation,” said Hoven in an interview about the study.
Not only will the world be more prepared for another untimely pandemic, but graduating seniors now have the tools and experience to deal with abrupt changes and unexpected events in their own lives because of the COVID-19 pandemic.