U.S. colleges switching to online learning is sending those who choose to continue their studies to some very dark places.
“I’ve never been more depressed,” laughed Gisele Martin, 18, an New York University sophomore studying remotely from her home. “I have never been so directly challenged as I have by this pandemic…it’s crazy that I can’t bring myself to get out of bed”.
A lack of community support has bred a feeling of alienation for both students and staff members.
“This has been one of the worst times in a very long time for me,” said James Lansby, a 23 year old resident assistant at NYU DC. “I mean, I’m very social and very extraverted, it’s very core to me to wanna be around people”.
With academic institution’s attention being fully focused on physical safety, cracks in social planning have begun to appear.
“I don’t even think (NYU DC) has hired a new wellness coordinator since our old one left,” said Lansby. “I think that probably shows the priority, or lack thereof, that they’re putting on (mental health)”.
The switch to online is not just disruptive to student’s emotions, but some classes cannot be seamlessly transitioned.
“I literally had to drop two of my classes I was so excited for, because I just couldn’t do
them online,” said Allie Hughs, a 20 year old sophomore attending Santa Barbara City College, on her film studies course and marine biology lab.
Certain schools have implemented live zoom classes, while others have resorted to asynchronous learning, where students watch a pre recorded lecture on their own time.
“Not going to a class has made it really easy to forget stuff,” Hughs said. “Reading instructions doesnt do anything for me… you can’t raise your hand to ask a question, it’s really hard”.
The lack of real time conversations translates to more effort required by students.
“I’m a pretty discussion based person, in class I will raise my hand, but participation is now writing 500 words in a discussion post,” said Aidan Turner, a 19 year old sophomore at SBCC. “It takes so much more time than just explaining your thoughts vocally”.
Students already struggling to keep up with school work now bear full responsibility to remain present.
“With my learning disabilities it’s a huge extra step for my brain to process my thoughts into writing as opposed to in class where it flows from my brain to words” Hughs said
With the little social contact that students do experience, outside stressors strain existing relationships.
“It’s changed relationships a lot, it’s tense, it’s all more tense,” said Hughs. “There’s a lot more fights, and arguments all the time. People have different views and it’s hard, (the pandemic) is bringing out people’s opinions a lot more.
Students living in Santa Barbara (previously known for its nightlife) grapple balancing their civic duty and their drive to socialise.
“I think not playing (beer) die for a weekend is more important than not putting people at risk,” said Turner. “At the same time we have been getting really restless, hanging out with the neighbors and stuff, because there’s nothing else to do, you know?”.
Turner said that friend groups/housemates are trying to contain their social lives to their small bubbles to keep them as safe as possible while also keeping their sanity.
“Some people understand (these bubbles) some people think: well you’re hanging out with other people so why not with me?” said Turner. “We’re being stupid but also, not being stupid, I don’t know”.