In our first Coping in Quarantine blog series iteration, University of Denver student Emily Martinez shares how she’s adapted this past year as a hands-on learner. Our hope is that this series will not only highlight the resilience our students have demonstrated in the transition to virtual learning but also create a connection between students experiencing similar challenges.
Days before the lockdown became official, around the first two weeks of March 2020, I was told that students living on campus would have to move out immediately. As an out-of-state student attending school in Colorado, I had to deal with packing up all of my belongings on my own with just a few day’s notice. My school goes by a quarter system, which meant after Spring Break we would begin the Spring Quarter, so we were about to begin a new set of classes. Because of the lockdown, I was forced to return home to Texas and begin the Spring Quarter there virtually.
At the beginning of lockdown, I really struggled with paying attention in my classes, which were all facilitated through Zoom. There were easy distractions in my room and my house that made it hard to pay attention to someone talking on a screen. I also found it really hard to manage my time at home. Oftentimes, I would wake up late, go to class, and procrastinate a lot in finishing my homework assignments. I had no real place to study or concentrate that allowed me to focus. Additionally, my siblings were also at home participating in online school, so the internet speed would be choppy sometimes. As the day would transition into the evening, the house would get super loud, making it hard for me to find a quiet place to work on my assignments. The at-home learning experience was a drastic contrast to my experience on campus where I have access to the library, study rooms, and many quiet places.
As a visual/hands-on learner, having class over Zoom/online has been very difficult for me. Even though I have been able to adapt and better manage my time, I still struggle and dislike having to take classes online. Since the start of the 2020-2021 school year, I have had classes that are fully online, asynchronous or hybrid. I will attend any class in person when I am given the opportunity because I feel more engaged when I am in class in person. Before lockdown I had not previously taken any online classes, so the switch to online school was a very hard transition for me. Even though I do not like taking classes through Zoom, I have come to like some parts of it, including the usage of breakout rooms and easier accessibility to meet with someone so quickly.
After learning from my mistakes and the challenges I faced when lockdown first started, I am now able to apply better learning strategies. I started keeping a physical calendar where I would write down everything I had to do during the days of the week. This helped me better manage my time and make sure I was turning in assignments on time. I also learned how to manage the distractions around me in order to better pay attention in class. I practiced putting my phone away so I did not become distracted by it. I also turned on my camera in class on Zoom so I wouldn’t have the urge to put my head down in front of everyone.
Beyond the Classroom
I think it is always hard to manage your work/life/play schedule, whether you are in a pandemic or not. However, I find it even harder to balance my schedule now because opportunities to play have been taken away due to the pandemic. Students find themselves locked inside their rooms/dorms all day everyday either in class or doing assignments. There is little to no opportunities to go out and study with friends or even hang out with them outside of academics. For me, school always comes first and I try my very best to finish all my assignments with my best effort; but I do try to take breaks for self care. Even making time to wake up an hour early to do something in the morning can be beneficial for the rest of your day. You can also take breaks during school/work to do something that is going to help you relieve stress. Self-care now, more than ever, is very important for our physical and mental health. I usually make time in the mornings to just go outside or go to the gym to play basketball. I also enjoy making art, coloring in coloring books, painting on canvases. I also spend a lot of time on Netflix or watching shows just as a stress reliever. But I know people who also like doing “mini-spa breaks” which includes taking a bubble bath, face masks, and meditation.
My mental/emotional health was heavily negatively impacted by the pandemic. Before the pandemic I had suffered with anxiety but once the pandemic started I saw my anxiety rise. I was faced with fear and confusion which brought panic attacks. Although I had returned to campus during the 2020 fall quarter I returned with fewer students living on campus. At times I felt lonely as an out-of-state student that does not have the option to return home on weekends. With less opportunities to socialize on campus it was hard to have fun. I saw myself needing help with my mental health, however, I was afraid to seek that help. I know my university has various resources on campus for mental health that I have used previously, but they were not able to prescribe me with medication. I had been taking medication previously but stopped for some reasons and at the time I wanted to return to taking them. I had to wait till I returned to Texas in order for me to be prescribed with medication again. My anxiety was due to the pandemic and for other personal reasons. One of the personal reasons for my high anxiety was trying to navigate a predominately white institution as a person of color. I continue to wish that the university recognizes our differences and continues to help all students navigate college during a pandemic.
Hope for Tomorrow
Although the pandemic has brought us much loss and heartbreak, there were some positive things that came out of it. Some of us were given time to self-reflect and learn strategies to take care of ourselves. Others were able to spend time with their family and realize how valuable that time is. I have learned over the past several months that not all hope is lost. I saw the ways people all over the world have come together to help one another in any way they can. First responders, health care workers, and essential workers all still went to work and tried to help those who needed it. The love, care, and devotion that the workers showed the general public shows that “we” are not giving up. They give me hope that the future will turn out positive