by Kendall Bistretzan

I was born on May 8th, 1999. Eight months before Y2K: before the world was supposed to end. Sometimes I think it may as well have. 

On September 11th, 2001, I was two years old. I had no real stream of consciousness. I do not remember the act of terror that changed a country, but I’ve never known the world before. 

My first concept of war was not of our history, but of our present. Every conversation about war in my elementary school years was linked back to Afghanistan. We are making Christmas cards to send to the troops to Afghanistan. His dad was deployed to Afghanistan. No one ever told me how the conflict began, but it still rages on today. 

I was 10 years old when a magnitude 4.5 earthquake hit Haiti, half a lifetime ago. I understood that it was a disaster and that people died. I understood that the billions of dollars in damage would never be truly paid. But I was a child, and I lived in Canada, so there was nothing I could do but listen to that Waving Flag song and pray that the people who were more powerful than I would help.

image2

When the Earthquake happened, I felt like I understood its severity. I didn’t feel like a child. Then I found a picture of me when I was 10 and realized that being 10 years old is so much younger than it feels. 

On the morning of December 14th, 2012, I was sitting at the desk of my eighth-grade classroom. It was in the front right-hand corner of the room, half a foot away from my teacher’s desk. Her face fell the moment she read the news, and I knew it would be bad before she told us. “There has been a school shooting in the States,” she said, and I thought oh no that is terrible. Then she said “It was an elementary school. Kindergarten to grade four” and any semblance I had of a decent world was shattered. My parents remember where they were for 9/11, but I remember where I was when I found out that 20 children and 6 adults were shot to death just weeks before Christmas. I remember their names and their faces. 2012 was the year I stopped praying. 

image1

At age 13 it felt as though I had lost my innocence. I was lucky to have made it so far. 

But it never ends. I was 15 when I was standing in a hotel lobby, waiting for the rest of my fellow choirmates to leave for supper at the Old Spaghetti Factory when I saw on the lobby’s television that a 50-year-old man named Walter Scott was shot in the back by a police officer. Of course, he was black, and of course, he was unarmed, and I could only stare in disappointment, the same thought ringing through my head: Not again. A year later, age 16, I woke up for school, rolled over to check my phone, and found out that 49 people were killed at a gay nightclub in Orlando and still I thought, Not again.

Seventeen people were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School when I was 18. Eleven people were killed at a Synagogue when I was 19. Twenty-three people were killed at a Walmart in El Paso when I was 20. I remember these tragedies, but I can’t quite keep track of them because they just keep happening, again and again. 

Now I am 21 years old, and I only leave the house to buy groceries. I am unemployed. I saw a friend for the last time and didn’t even know it. 

It is a silent loss. One I know I cannot take personally because it could be so much worse. It is so much worse. 

But I am 21 years old and I am so tired of “worse.” Every day bad news is rammed down my throat. The Earth is dying and so are its humans. 

The older generations like to tell us it could be worse. 

They think they had it harder. 

And maybe they did, but bad news wasn’t accessible the way it is today. 

We are the cursed generation.

And I am so tired of “worse.”

 

As a graduating senior at UC Santa Barbara, my graduation has been indefinitely canceled. I say indefinitely because nobody is sure if it is still happening at a later date or if the in-person ceremony will cease to exist. There will be a virtual ceremony on June 14, the same day as the former in-person ceremony, but many students will argue that this is not the same as a real celebration. However, all hope is not lost for recognition for those students who are graduating from high school or college this year.

A few weeks ago, my grandmother sent a text to my father and stepmother. The text talked about a “senior spotlight” that KGO, a local news station, was putting on for seniors affected by the pandemic. Anyone could (and still can) apply, and they will be featured on the station. My grandmother suggested that my parents submit both me and my sister, who is also a graduating sociology student at UCSB, to the event. I don’t know if she was submitted, but I know I was.

Technically, it was supposed to be a surprise for both my mom and I, but my mom “cheated” and looked up the website. At 6:00 pm, my mom, brother and I sat in the living room and watched the news. We assumed it might come on at the end of the hour-long show. Half an hour passed before we saw anything. Around 6:40 my brother got up to go pee and, wouldn’t you know, my name got shown on the TV.

(the picture featured on the TV program)

I’ll be honest that I had no idea what to expect and it was a bit shocking. I am a very shy person and don’t love this type of attention. You can imagine my surprise when I saw myself on the news and compliments started flowing in through my social media. Something about it was really nice. I never would have expected to be featured. 

A few days have passed and I have continued to get compliments on my mom’s Facebook post, my Snapchat post that my brother convinced me to make, and even Twitter. I’ve told two of my good friends to apply, and I haven’t found their pictures on the website yet, but I’m excited to see someone I know get featured. It’s a really nice thing that KGO is doing for those seniors whose accomplishments feel forgotten, and I hope many more people take advantage of it. There are about 130 people so far, and I’m excited to see those numbers rise.

Overall, it’s just really nice to get this recognition we deserve, even if it’s small and a lot of people might not watch the news. It shows that students, business, and news groups like this are all in this together. We all have individual struggles and losses that we have to deal with. We are one in the same and can get through this pandemic together. 

by Olivia Garcia

As the number of COVID-19 cases are rapidly rising in the USA with over 5,000 new cases as of recently, the presence of anti-lockdown protesters is concerning but more so confusing. 

As an American citizen myself, I understand the sacrifices we are all making that comes from losing our jobs, closing our schools and blocking us from travel. What people do not realize, though, is that we do this because we are trying to prevent the spread of COVID and keep people safe. 

Being that this pandemic is only the second time a mass influenza like this has occurred, the decision to halt the lives of all Americans was not a decision the federal government took lightly. It’s naive of me to say that President Trump didn’t understand the severity of the situation, or even that he was naive to the fact that he was effectively closing our economy. Everyone was aware of what could happen with such a drastic shift to the way we live our lives. But it was necessary.

So why are people risking not only their own lives but the lives of others to protest these orders that are in place just to keep them alive?

Let’s start with the facts.

I think it is important to state the symptoms of Coronavirus and these people are potentially risking. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), symptoms include but are not limited to cough, fever, difficulty breathing, and chills. The most severe cases may end up hospitalized. There is currently no cure for the coronavirus. Those patients who die in the hospital are alone.

So why across the USA have protesters gathered in large masses (sometimes in the hundreds and thousands) to demand the reopening of the country?

We must first know why people protest. Movements like the Women’s March, Pro-Choice, and Black Lives Matter all are movements that are founded on bringing awareness to these minority groups who have faced oppression continuously since the founding of the United States. Using their legal right to do so under that first amendment in the constitution, groups of minorities have the chance to publicly vocalize their demands peacefully.

With this being said, where do these anti-lockdown protesters fit in? 

They don’t. As the majority are white Americans, they are not a minority group. These are not peaceful protests. These protesters are found screaming in the faces of police and bringing semi-automatic weapons into courthouses to “try to prove a point.”

image2

(Protestors gather in a group, obeying social distancing rules by standing closer than six feet and not wearing masks)

On my journey to understand, I started on Facebook. That’s where these protesters were organized so I tried to see if I could get intel from here. Having to first apply to get into these groups, I started with “Michiganders Against Excessive Quarantine”, “Reopen South Carolina 100%”, “Reopen California”, and “Reopen USA”. Each group asked a question along the lines of “are you against the lockdown and demanding that the country reopen?” Even though I do not agree, I had to answer yes to gain admittance. 

Once I joined each group, I surprisingly stumbled upon several welcoming communities. For new members, every week one of the administrators of the group would tag them all in a personalized post to the page. This action was oddly comforting, serving as an introduction to the space they’ve created. 

I stumbled upon the Michiganders page first and watched a livestream one of the administrators was doing. They were asking the followers of that account to call into their local capital’s office and demand the reopening of their county. They even knew where the capital was, the number of their county’s representatives, a time they knew they had to call and the exact number of phone calls that were necessary in order to show support for their cause. It was VERY organized. They had links on the stream, people asked questions and knew almost every answer. In all honesty, I was surprised.

After this, I needed to see if anyone would talk to me. Being completely transparent, I introduced myself as a student journalist and hoped to get numerous responses. I messaged over 50 people and only 8 responded and showed interest. When asked for a comment only 3 said yes, and all 3 wished to remain anonymous.

I wanted to know the impacts the virus has had on their communities. All three expressed that effectively everything in their communities had been closed and events had been cancelled. One PhD student in Southern Carolina stated that they had not had “in-person interaction since March” and described their community as being in “critical condition”.

Fortunately, none had lost their jobs and had to file for unemployment. However, one member said that their income was reduced and they could, therefore, no longer apply for “jumbo loans.” When I asked each respondent to elaborate on how the either loss of/reduction of payment had affected them, one protester suggested that they had to start cooking and are unable to make regular food purchases.

When I asked each person if they agreed with the $2 trillion in federal government spending allocated during the pandemic, only one said yes. Their justification was that if states had not enforced lockdown or social distancing, the spending would not have been as severe. 

Each respondent showed concern when they learned about the current U.S. debt. All 3 understood very clearly that the only way to repair said debt was to get as many people back to work to start funneling money back into our country. 

The final question I asked was regarding the possible second wave of cases these protesters could potentially cause. I brought up the fact that mass media has depicted these protesters as careless to the community and could very well possible be the cause of an increase in cases. 

The first respondent simply answered “no.” Their reasoning was that, even with the lockdown, the virus could and would still spread. They said, “There will be no summer respite from the virus. The rate of speed is likely to drop to that of flu outbreaks.” 

The second respondent showed more concern regarding feeling silenced or discredited by the media. This respondent does not concern themselves with listening to “experts.” They also stated that “people have antibodies to the virus.” Their final statement was that “even 100,000 protesters is a fraction of the U.S. population and only a small group of them will contract COVID-19 as a result of protesting.” 

Finally, the third individual simply responded, “Honestly I don’t think it matters.” They offered no explanation. 

When I asked if they were worried for their own safety or the safety of their fellow protesters, the main concern was of arrests, doxxing/employment retaliation, and police brutality. 

image4

(protesters stand outside a building holding signs such as those stating “Heil Witmer” with a swastika, as well as a Trump/Pence sign)

Within the USA, we hold our own individual rights and liberties as citizens closer to our hearts than the rights of others. The selfish nature of Americans, such as individual prosperity and unalienable rights, has allowed these racist and harmful protests to occur. The platform that the U.S. has built for the white majority has resulted in a double standard of how a person can act. Let’s be honest, if these protesters were black and not waving large “TRUMP 2020” flags around, the protests would not have happened. We would be seeing graphic images and videos of arrests and tear gas being used on these protesters. We would be mourning over the unnecessary loss of life because police “felt they might have been carrying a weapon.” This situation proves that there is a double standard in this country. This double standard has been present the whole time, especially with the pandemic. 

image3

((A comic depicting the difference between white and black persons protesting)

Some links for more info:

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/04/anti-lockdown-protests-200420180415064.html

https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/#countries

https://www.facebook.com/groups/4035375409821058/photos/

https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/pro-trump-group-plans-dozens-anti-lockdown-protests/story?id=70395717

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/21/us/politics/coronavirus-protests-trump.html

https://rallylist.com/browse-protest-and-rallies/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/1164291657251953/photos/

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/symptoms-testing/symptoms.html

 

 

 

 

 

By Sophia Tran

“You know what I got out of that internship? Terror. Absolute fear of spending the rest of my life looking like the people at the company.” I sat shocked at this admission as I listened to my friend share their working experience with me. 

  In the past year I have started to take notice of the relationships in the workplace. As an intern myself, I am incredibly appreciative of the opportunity to develop my professional experience while still in school. As I listened to my peers share their own experiences as interns, I realized that there seems to be a strong disconnect of corporate engagement and culture between interns and working professionals. Many seemed to be disillusioned by their experiences and often it brings a sense of despair and fear of the reality after leaving school. 

The result? Many are rejecting incredible job offers at these companies and are either choosing to continue pursuing graduate degrees or taking job positions that have fewer financial benefits but bring more sense of purpose and joy. In the U.S the number of graduate students have tripled since the 1970s and according to some estimates, 27% of employers now require master’s degrees for roles in which historically undergraduate degrees sufficed (HBR). 

The problem is that it might not be at no fault of each generation but of the situational circumstances that each era experiences in their own lifetime. Likewise, it seemed that many of the older working professionals  (baby boomers and Gen X) that I speak with are struggling to adapt and understand the millennial generation who are slowly growing in numbers in their company. 

I believe that companies have the principles and values that the millennial workforce are looking for yet fall short of recognizing and presenting the importance of the purpose in their work as well as the company’s care to continue to cultivate their employee’s success in a way that would energize and engage them.  Similarly, the millennial generation is incredibly sharp with the potential to persevere and add value to these companies, yet again fall short of displaying it. What can we do? How can we learn to find the excitement and joy in our working experiences while putting our best foot forward in these companies, showing them our fullest potential without feeling that our shortcomings are due to the lack of a graduate degree?

“Seek first to understand, then to be understood” – Stephen Covey

What we can do as the millennial generation  is to take that step forward and learn to understand ourselves better as a person in order to better communicate between generations in a way for others to see our potential and overall enhance our experience with others. In my next posts over the following weeks, I’ll be going through Harvard Business Review’s 10 Must Reads On Managing Yourself, which compiles articles focused on providing you the resources to tap into yourself to develop the habits of success and navigate your own personal life and avoiding decisions that undermine your goals in life. Learning how to self-manage yourself is an incredible tool to use (especially in this pandemic) to advance your growth and learn about the business environment. The book will cover how you can create positive influences on others, overcoming tough obstacles, leading a balanced life and much more.

 Sometimes one of the most difficult things about life is finding our purpose and the things that make us happy in our career, sometimes it just takes a little nudge to get us started on the right path. Everyone wants to lead a happy and fulfilling life, yet many do not reach that point in their career or cannot seem to maintain that balance. How will YOU fill out in your “Happiness is when…”? 

When you’re a kid, you probably don’t realize the value of a dollar. My parents weren’t rich, but they were comfortable enough so that I didn’t have to work to get most of what I wanted. Even when my mom lost her job, she was able to bounce back into another completely different field. She ended up quitting that and now works in sales and makes more than we ever have before. I watched her struggle but didn’t really have to experience it. I felt bad at times when I’d watch my stepsisters juggle school and work because their mom is a teacher and couldn’t afford to give them a lot of money. If they wanted money, they earned it. I never realized that my life wasn’t like that when I was younger. 

When I got to college, things changed a bit. I finally decided I wanted to work because I had my schedule and I felt like I was ready for the next step. I had wanted to work in high school but hadn’t had a lot of luck, which ironically was a trend for my older brother and I. We were both interested in working but it just didn’t work out due to a lack of time, and my brother never heard back from the job he applied to. 

I applied for a job at a grocery store and got it. I didn’t really know how to start; I wasn’t used to working, or constant discipline. I was horrible back then and sometimes I hated myself for not getting work right away. There was pressure to be good at the job, and even though I tried to give myself credit for being new, it was difficult for a while. However, I got better over time and eventually decided to work for my friends’ parents’ yogurt shop in the same plaza. This is where I feel like I started learning the value of a dollar. I saw my money slipping away because I didn’t know how to manage my money. After I left the grocery job, I stayed with the yogurt shop for a few more months. I was able to keep my routine of trying to save money, and though it wasn’t perfect, I stopped wasting a lot of money on stuff I didn’t need. I was able to save my money and prepare for an emergency.

When I had planned to start at UCSB, thyroid cancer caused me to go into treatment and defer a quarter. I didn’t work during that time or during my first UCSB quarter. To be honest, I hated it. I was bored and hated asking my parents for money. When I got a new job as a cashier I became happier; I craved the independence of working, as making my own money is so rewarding to me. I worked two jobs again for a while until I left the cashier job to focus on school and other commitments. Recently, I found out they were laying off my department at my job at the mall because the mall closed. I was already home but fully expecting to go back and it threw a wrench in my plans, making coming back to UCSB almost unnecessary. 

I didn’t know what to do. I was back home and had no money coming in. I only had school to look forward to. I’m glad I don’t work now because I wouldn’t have the time, but a few weeks ago it was a hard adjustment. I was used to working. I filed for unemployment and was luckily approved, and although I was grateful for the government help, I miss the independence that comes with leaving the house and going to work, talking with people, making friends you wouldn’t know otherwise, and being able to learn new things about the workforce. For me, the ability to work equals the ability to have independence. You can make new friends and people rely on you for something, but you can decide what sort of job you do. Also, when you make your own money, people can’t tell you how to spend it.

One thing I noticed is that I’ve actually been pretty good with my money. Ironically, I’m trying to be careful because I don’t get a stimulus check and I want to prepare for an emergency. I have a lot saved and am trying to not spend too much, save what I spent for my laptop which was a necessity. I’m shocked at how well I’m doing. When I least expect it, I’m dealing with money pretty well and I’m as ready as I can be if an emergency arises. I hope I can keep going when this is all over. 

By Colleen Boken

Throughout my time in college history and art history courses, I wondered after reading diaries, newspaper articles and other primary source materials, how would our current system of information gathering, with a massive amount of social media, a political climate unlike what has been seen before, and a radical changing of faith, would cope with an event of such significant magnitude.  

One might argue that we already know, given that in 2001, an event that rattled the United States as a whole changed the very fabric of how we travel. Yet, 9/11 was now almost 19 years ago, in an age when Macs looked like this (and they STILL HAD A CD PLAYER)!

image1

(Image via Wikipedia by Marcin Wichary)

Also, Facebook was still 3 years before launch, in a time before MySpace was even created. 9/11 was also a distinctly American event. Sure, security around the world changed, but no other country remembers 9/11 in the same way. Even people outside of New York, Pennsylvania, or DC remember it best because of the news coverage. Lastly, let’s not forget that kids right out of college now, born in 1996, barely remember, if at all, the event as a whole. Our entire student body is full of individuals who will now remember the COVID-19 quarantine as the defining historical event of their youth. It’s sufficient to say that the world this generation is entering into is not necessarily one of war, but one of health and politics.  

One must ask then; how will the historians of the future remember the events of the present? Admittedly, it is difficult to determine as history is not about predicting the future but instead making sense of the past. However, by applying a lens to our current situation, perhaps we can make some sense as to our present. 

Information is key to understanding any situation. The main issue of the past is that few people left remarks behind, and photo evidence can often leave us wanting more. Many people existed without leaving more than a passing note in a census of their very existence. We can only determine how things were by what was left by those individuals. In many of these cases, only the very wealthy were able to leave records that we could look back upon. 

Yet with the rise of social media, and sites such as the Wayback Machine, archives are becoming flooded with the digital realm. Take, for example, my Instagram. Over the course of the five years I’ve had my Instagram, I’ve posted at least 1,654 photos. Many of the places I’ve taken pictures of likely had never been preserved in such a way, such as this view of a nearly empty toilet paper aisle at the start of quarantine. Before the age of rapid digital photography and social media, images such as these would have no real purpose to exist. Now people can share images like this with the world. 

image2

(Photo by author in New London, CT)

It is not just in our Instagram posts either. Take this blog as a whole for example. In a way, it will serve as a sort of archive for future readers. What are seen as current thoughts and perspectives now will become primary/secondary sources in years to come. With a wide variety of authors and locations represented, Beyond the Pandemic will become a resource for future generations.  

Now, some argue that you cannot cite blog posts as “source material,” and that is true to an extent. A blog by anyone on the civil war may not carry much validity, but a blog written about the current situation by a witness? One has to make the argument that a blog in the latter case will serve to break the boundary, as it is not someone reading Wikipedia and writing about what they learned, but it is a witness describing their thoughts, sights, and overall notes on the situation as a whole.  

Lastly, this is a worldwide event. Unlike 9/11, which was largely focused on America, COVID-19 has spread, both literally and figuratively, across the globe, affecting nearly every country in different ways (some have not “reported” any cases). We all share in this lockdown, and the artists/writers are hard at work making sure we remember this event in every country. Archives are already starting to gather materials from this event, our digital memories preserved.  

So how will we remember COVID-19 after all of this? Will we remember the quarantine most or the political discussions more? What kind of world will exist after this, and how might it affect the way we live our daily lives? These are questions that nobody has the answers to, and will not for some time to come. As I sit here with the cat wondering why I have not left the apartment in a while, I can only speculate as we enter another week of quarantine. 

 

 

I am a childcare worker with children in kindergarten to grade seven. During the school year, we provide before and after school care – a morning shift of two hours and an afternoon shift of four – with day-long programs running in the summer months. Our program provides group games, creative arts, time outdoors, and self-directed play for the children while emphasising three rules; my work is safe, my body is safe, and my feelings are safe.

When the pandemic hit, we made changes to when we work and whom we work with. Currently, our program is open 8-5, but we are only open to the children of other essential workers, and all staff were given the option to discontinue their work for the program until they felt safe to return, without the risk of losing their jobs. I decided to continue my work, because I wanted to feel like I was contributing to the crisis the world is currently facing. Due to the temporary loss of staff, I have shifts every day the program is open. I’m grateful to be able continue my work, especially since I live alone. The comradery between our staff full of college students has never been stronger.

We split the remaining children into two locations (we used to operate from three schools) with the staff and children never rotating locations to limit exposure. At my current location we have eight children, even though we are licensed for almost ten times as many.

We keep them in separate spaces or outside as much as possible. It’s hot enough to wear a t-shirt on the Canadian West Coast now, and it’s easier to keep the children spread out from one another outside. It’s difficult to explain to five-year-olds why they can’t stand too close to their friends while they’re trying to build a house for bugs, or that they can’t play dress-up anymore because the fabric is too hard to sanitize without on-site washing machines. One day, three of the children drew circles in the sand pit to ensure me they were going to social distance while they played together. Afterwards we had to split up the trio for lunch due to our small tables. 

Although there are far fewer children than ever before, the job has evolved to have much more responsibility. We must wash high touch surfaces with soap, water, and bleach multiple times throughout the day. After children touch toys, art supplies, books, and board games they must leave them in a bin to wait to be coated in a layer of diluted bleach. For a great deal of the day, one or more of us is ensuring the centre is clean enough to hopefully prevent the spread of COVID-19. 

We have been trying to educate the children; with a combination of online material from their teachers, workbooks their parents have purchased, and free online printouts. As a science major I have been conducting experiments with the kids – building volcanoes and making crystals – and providing them with facts about the ‘animal of the day.’ Once I brought in the planters I purchased for my apartment and taught them how to garden. While none of our staff are teachers, we are trying our best to make up for the childrens lost time in the classroom.

Image: Prexel

I’m aware that I should be fearful of my new work conditions. Instead, I feel a sense of security. During the most stressful days as a student; worrying about papers or a dispute I got into with my friends, I always had my job to brighten up my day. 

I went through a domestic airport to visit my family in late March, and as a result, had to self isolate for over two weeks. I live alone, and during my self-isolation, I counted down the days until I was able to see the kids again. Whether we’re spending ten minutes trying to learn how to use a coffee grinder, or playing a made up version of hide-and-seek with far too many rules, they never fail to bring a smile to my face.

 I’m thankful to feel like I’m combatting COVID-19 even though I play such a minuscule role. More than anything I’m grateful to see the kids keep their happiness during all of this uncertainty.

By Amy Boyle

Spring break is a time when students put a pause on academics and remind themselves to live. To college student Jennalynn Cisna, it meant a week-long trip touring Europe, but what she saw instead was a crisis beginning to unfold. 

“We left for Austria March 6… came back, and everything had gone to hell,” she explains. 

For her, there would be no return to normalcy after arriving home. Instead, two weeks of self-quarantine and a lack of closure, confronted with the reality of a crisis and no time for goodbyes, only preparation for the unexpected.

In Dec. 2019, the first case of coronavirus was identified in Wuhan, China. In the months that would follow: school closings, trip cancellations, social distancing and economic devastation at a global level. What began as a few sporadic cases in East Asia rapidly escalated into a pandemic sweeping nations across the world and costing the lives of over 100,000 people. And as death tolls increase, so too does its impact on the living as people struggle to make sense of the physical, emotional and economic damage it has wrought.

Until recently, “immunocompromised” was a term unfamiliar to most, it has now become a word people use to describe the likes of their grandparents, coworkers, friends, acquaintances, those more susceptible to contracting the virus. High school senior, Jenny Rodriguez is among those feeling particularly worried about this public health risk as someone with a compromising chronic condition. 

“I’ve been quite anxious…” she explains, “I have asthma and wouldn’t handle it well.”

But for Rodriguez, the challenges of this outbreak extend beyond threats to her health. They threaten hopes she holds for her future as well. Hers is an experience many students identify with–the challenges of completing schoolwork during an unprecedented online transition as well as grieving the absence of friends and missing hallmark high school experiences. The uncertainty of having a graduation ceremony has been especially difficult she goes on to reveal, as “the first in my immediate family to graduate, walking the stage is a big thing for me.”

For many, grief has become the new normal–losing loved ones, losing employment, even losing motivation to get up. “My room is a mess, and I feel the same way about my life right now” said Pike junior Malachi Morris. High school senior, Emma Wilson shares, “it’s hard for me to even get out of bed, I am dealing with loads of negative emotions…I often feel like there is nothing to look forward to”.

For others asked to describe their COVID experience: “Surreal. Upsetting. Frustrating. Disappointing. Stifling. Depressing. Worrying. Exhausting. Lonely. Reflective.” were a few among the varying responses offered. But, regardless of the generation, social class, politics or ethnicity, one common thread was undeniably evident–feelings of loss and pain, yet an equally powerful commitment to resilience. 

Exhausting is the word that captures how this experience has been for many medical workers, health professionals and others working endlessly to meet the needs of those around them. School social worker Tammy Coe is a chief example of an individual determined to help however she can, laboring tirelessly to ensure that the students and parents she serves have access to the resources they need during this stressful season. She is emblematic of how some have taken these circumstances and transformed them into opportunities of selflessness.

Being thrust into a global crisis has ushered in unprecedented loss and adjustment, feelings of powerlessness, stagnation and lack of motivation have become trademarks of the corona experience as people confront what this pandemic has meant for them. And acknowledging these circumstances and accepting the pain they inflict is essential.

“COVID 19 is REAL” Tammy Coe assures, “and we are all going through this at different levels… what I do know is that we will get through this.” And during this time when “people are experiencing a great deal of isolation and loneliness… listening is the most important skill anyone can have” Coe continues, “people just need someone to listen… being more mindful and encouraging of others” is how people can affect some positive change during this otherwise out-of-control season.

A season that has brought undeniable suffering, but also a spirit of resilience, revitalized hope, and the urgency to love one another earnestly. “This sudden and drastic shift has caused me to re-evaluate my life…a chance to start anew, to change my life for the better”, Jennalynn Cisna affirms. 

During my first year of university, I enrolled in a beginner Spanish course at the University of Saskatchewan. I had always wanted to learn Spanish, despite my inability to roll my R’s, but I had never had the time. Throughout the class, I developed my Spanish vocabulary and grammar skills, but as the course drew to a close, I realized that my newfound knowledge would likely be pushed to the side and forgotten. And that is exactly what happened. School, work, and my social life all took precedence over learning the language and eventually I lost the knowledge I had worked so hard to obtain.

However, my “lack of time” to pursue a new language slowly became an invalid excuse when social distancing kick-started in Saskatchewan in mid-March. I found myself looking for something to occupy my mind and my large amounts of free time. Classes were still operating online but I was no longer commuting to school, working my part-time job, volunteering, or hanging out with my friends, and as a result, I was bored. I remember scanning my bookshelf in my room looking for something to read when my eyes stopped on my old Spanish textbook from two years prior. It was at that moment that I decided the best way I could make use of my time during social distancing was to start learning Spanish again.

I wasn’t entirely sure how to begin learning Spanish, especially on my own, so I decided to begin with the only method I could think of: flashcards. I pulled out my stack of unused flashcards, set aside for the finals I no longer had to write, and began writing down basic phrases, colors, and animals. From there I began to test myself on these terms and slowly I would write out more flashcards to add to the pile. This method seemed to work at the beginning and my Spanish vocabulary was increasing. However, I still felt as if I needed to do more to keep myself engaged.

Language Learning Books”. Pixabay

I downloaded Duolingo, a language learning app, and began to incorporate that into my daily routine. I enjoyed listening to Spanish from the app, as well as the practice of speaking, reading, writing, and listening that it provided me. I definitely think Duolingo is a great place to start for beginners looking to build vocabulary and pronunciation skills. There are a lot of languages to choose from, and best of all, it’s free!

I continued using Duolingo and my flashcard method, and after a few weeks of practice, I decided the final thing that needed to be added to my Spanish routine was to actually practice having conversations in Spanish. That is when I decided to reach out to my friend that I met in Peru back in February. I asked if he would be willing to practice speaking Spanish with me and he agreed. We started speaking on the phone several times a week and my Spanish began improving quite quickly. Speaking can be one of the most difficult aspects of learning a language, so I was very fortunate to know someone who could practice speaking with me. Even though I only knew a bit of basic vocabulary, I was still able to use what I knew to practice and I developed more vocabulary and language comprehension skills as time went on. Learning a language can seem intimidating and challenging but it doesn’t have to be. Just start slow and try not to be too hard on yourself. Learning a language takes practice but it is really rewarding, and a great way to spend your time. So, if you’ve always wanted to learn a language, maybe now is the time to give it a try!

COVID-19 has had disastrous impacts on college students’ mental health. Students now must figure out the next five months of their lives as colleges have forced people to return home or stay in one place. For many people, just being isolated can exacerbate anxiety and depression. For myself, I handle my anxiety by talking to and helping other people with their own mental health struggles. One of my favorite things to do to help people is, simply, to hug them. Whenever I hug someone, I imagine hugging out the negativity and self-doubt of my friends and absorbing those emotions into myself. Like kidneys filtering out blood, I like to think I can filter out my friend’s negative emotions without weighing myself down. Sadly, with COVID-19 forcing everyone to isolate, hugs are impossible. Now, whenever I see a post from a friend who is having a bad day, my heart aches for them as I want to hug the sadness out of them. All I can do is message them and let them know I am here for them. Texting them, unfortunately, only does so much. Words help, but the act of hugging goes so much further, especially when it takes days for people to answer. Without being with my friends in person, I feel powerless to help my friends, and through that my anxiety is slowly edging back to my periphery. While I feel this, I have found a new way to help other people through text.

One thing that I found to be helpful during this time is to reach out to those who are younger than us. I have reached out to people I know who are still in high school who are probably just as terrified of their future as we are. High school seniors who have worked for three and a half years and have made it to the fabled Senior Spring, only to have it ripped away from them two and a half months before they would be finished. At my high school, the seniors would perform a show during senior spring, all run and produced by the students themselves. As of now, the show is postponed until late May, but at this point, it is a major possibility that students will not go back to school this year. The implications of that are massive. No walking across the stage at graduation, no saying goodbye to your teachers, no smoking cigars with friends after graduating, nothing. To come all this way and not being able to be rewarded for your success is nothing short of heartbreaking. While we are mourning the loss of our spring semesters and time that we could be spending with our friends, seniors have lost their final hurrah of high school (I’m not forgetting college seniors either, you guys deserve everything too), and they need someone who will comfort them in their time of need.

-My friend and I during a highlight of senior spring: The Senior Cruise

By being a figure in these people’s lives, either older or younger, it provides meaning in our lives despite us not being there in person. For myself, in addition to staying in touch with my college friends, I had a long talk with a camp co-worker until five in the morning. While I did not interact with her as much in high school or at camp, it felt good to be able to talk and be hopeful towards the future. While COVID-19 has changed the dynamics of how friends can help friends, you can always get in touch with those who are younger than you. If you do, you might find yourself making a difference in their lives!