Apr 16, 2021 | LIFE | By Frances Thyer | Illustration by Bibi Powers
It’s a Friday morning, and I’m standing across the room talking with my roommate as he sits in a Zoom meeting. I’ve just gotten out of class and we’re both exhausted from the week. A friend of mine has just called to complain of the nausea he’s developed from the second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Still reeling from my own recent infection with the virus, I empathize with his discomfort.
As more and more Colorado College students become vaccinated, it’s clear that the effects of COVID-19 are deeper than immune responses or late assignments.
One student with chronic health issues has been told by a doctor that her exacerbating symptoms in the past year could be linked to her worsening mental health during the pandemic.
Another talks of how her anxiety around staying engaged prevents her from feeling connected with roommates taking the semester off.
A student who opted for getting a job this spring, after struggling since the onset of online learning, remarks that not being in classes has unquestionably improved his mental health.
Yet, there are students who have found silver linings in Zoom classes. Some believe that there are advantages to the online program, including the modified class offerings and freedom of mobility. Students with high-risk family members who have been able to live with peers are simply relieved to be in an environment in which they can see friends.
“Having to come to terms with my own isolation at home for the needs of my family was completely necessary but absolutely exhausting,” one CC student said. “I’m really happy to be in school with my friends.”
However, the majority of students I spoke with are disillusioned after a year of independent living and learning. With no spring break, two consecutive semesters of online learning have led to widespread burnout among the CC community. Multiple students report getting worse grades, taking more classes Pass/Fail, or utilizing Accessibility Resources more often in the past year.
Similar to sentiments heard from other students, a friend admitted, “I find myself just trying to pass my classes instead of learning anything from them.”
Speaking about their experiences with depression during this time, some students say that their worsened mental health has manifested primarily in lack of motivation and self-care. Some recount the onset of these feelings by the first block after being sent home last year, while others say that the final stretch of online classes will be the most emotionally demanding.
“It’s almost funny to think about now,” a classmate explained about her experience in quarantine. “I was by no means taking care of myself.”
Students are encountering anxiety during COVID-19 in a variety of forms. After quarantining in Bijou West, students recall feeling stressed throughout the experience and fearful of having to return due to another exposure.
Returning students describe anxiety around keeping old friends they aren’t able to see. New students feel anxious about making friends and broadening their community.
One student said that her increased anxiety this year about finishing work, coupled with learning disabilities incompatible with online learning, causes her difficulty beginning some assignments. “It’s one terrible spiral,” she said.
As our expectations of everyday life break down, many struggle with their own sense of self-assurance. Multiple students describe a pressure to hide mental illness. Others fear that they are feeling worse than the majority of the CC community. As more students are vaccinated, excitement about the transition toward normal life is tainted with apprehension.
“I’m in a constant worry about whether I am or will be the same person, psychologically, post-pandemic,” a friend said. “That uncertainty only makes the situation worse, even though there are many others like me out there.”