It’s no surprise that college looks a lot different this year. Masks are required across campus, of course, but it goes much deeper than that. The frequent hangouts and socialization that college brings is gone, at least for the semester. Freshmen are no longer sitting uncomfortably at general interest meetings for clubs or browsing the student union building for friends, but instead holed up in their rooms awaiting their next virtual meeting.
Making friends is encouraged in college, but how easy can it be to talk to someone when masks are up and six feet are required between each person? Instead of driving through the town and seeing bars packed with people inside and out, the streets are hauntingly bare; a few people walk by as a ghost of what used to be a Saturday night in New Paltz.
“Most of the time, it feels like I’m barely treading water,” said graduate student Flor. “Between the pandemic and everything else going on in the world, it’s hard to picture my big goal at the end of college; I’m going through the motions, but there’s very little passion in it, because what is there to look forward to on the other side? Everything feels very day-by-day.”
According to a study conducted at Texas A&M University, 44% of participants reported an increase in depressive thoughts due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Students are struggling with family health, keeping grades up and trying to keep in touch with friends who are often further away than ever before.
A huge part of the college experience is living on campus, which is suddenly not the norm as most students find their classes online for the spring semester. Many students have stayed home for the fall 2020 semester as well, and that can take a toll on mental health as well as motivation.
This is where I come into the story.
In my personal experience, this semester has been harder than most to get by. Learning from my kitchen table isn’t exactly how I envisioned my final year at New Paltz. I would do just about anything to be writing these stories in an Oracle office surrounded by the chaotic good energy that both Susanna, managing editor, and Jake, editor-in-chief, exude.
It can be hard for any student to adjust to a different lifestyle and extremely lonely, if we are being honest with ourselves. Even harder might be the idea that it is actually okay to feel grief over what we have lost.
Students, we are struggling this semester, and it is okay to feel this way. It is completely okay to be sad that instead of going to wing night you are stuck in your childhood bedroom. This is new territory. There hasn’t been a ton of research into statistics of how students are coping through this pandemic. But taking a mental health day now and again has never been so important. Don’t forget to take care of yourself.