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Covid-19 though College Eyes

This blog is the third of a three-part series on college caregiving. This series was written by students from Pittsburg State University. Each student wrote about their experience with caregiving and how it has impacted them.

Blog by Emily Herman

I remember the first time I heard about Coronavirus like it was yesterday. I was working, and I didn’t have any customers, but I saw something that caught my eye on the television. There was breaking news about a mysterious virus in China. From that day, there was talk of nothing but the virus day in and day out from my customers.

They gossiped in hushed tones about what this virus could mean for North America. I was naive and convinced that this mysterious virus would never make it to this country. I thought it was something that would be handled quickly. However, it wasn’t long before the virus was in North America, and I was shocked.

A couple weeks later, my customers started asking me what the university was going to do about the virus, and I really didn’t know what to tell them. The school hadn’t broken its silence on the issue yet. A few short days later, I received the email from Pittsburg State University that our spring break would be extended.

My friends and I were ecstatic about having time off! The first few days of our extended “vacation” were great, but our joy was short-lived when we realized that we wouldn’t be going back to school anytime soon. I began to wear a mask and gloves at work, and then everything in town started to shut down. My friends moved back to their hometowns as dorms and jobs closed, and my customers stopped showing up at the restaurant.

Eventually, my restaurant closed too, and I was out of a job. One by one, businesses began closing their doors. Pittsburg looked like a ghost town as all the college students started doing their classes online. With no job and no social interaction but having classwork and bills to pay, I fell into a state of depression.

When Summer began, all the internships I applied for shut down their programs. Getting an internship the summer before my senior year had always been my plan, and I felt incredibly lost. I began to realize that all my friends were struggling with their mental health, so we made plans to go on walks at least once a day and used Facetime, so we could feel somehow connected. That time felt like the longest and loneliest summer of my life.

Pittsburg State decided to have students come back to campus for the 2020-2021 academic school year. Unfortunately, I caught Covid my very first week back. I was absolutely miserable, with a fever of 103.5, chills, and body aches. I had to quarantine for fourteen days, which made me feel even more alone than ever.

After I recovered, it seemed like the world was coming back to life a little bit. Masks became the norm, my restaurant opened back up, and businesses began to reopen. A couple months later, vaccines were approved, and distribution began. This gave me a sense of hope, but I realized I wasn’t sure how to go about being back in the “normal” world after so much isolation.

Being a college student, coming out of a pandemic is something many people will never understand, so here is my message to college students going through this time.

I know you probably feel like you don’t know how to act in social situations anymore, but that’s okay because everyone else feels the same way. It’s okay if you feel a little bit anxious when you’re in crowded spaces now. If we’re honest, that feeling probably isn’t going away anytime soon after everything we have experienced. It’s okay to feel upset if you see someone not practicing social distancing or wearing masks, and it’s normal to want everything to go back to the way it used to be.

All your feelings about the pandemic are valid, and chances are that someone else feels the same way you do. Nobody has ever been through something like this before. College is an important part of your life, and it has been altered tremendously.

I know you probably didn’t sign up for online classes, and I know you probably missed out on important internships and Greek formals. I know it feels like you’ve been robbed, and I know your graduation doesn’t look or feel like it has been in the past.

All these things feel incredibly unfair. I know your transition into the world after college is going to be difficult. However, you’re not alone. College students all over the world are sharing the same feelings.

Job hunting will be difficult, but keep in mind that the businesses you’re applying to also went through the pandemic. If you’re honest about not doing well in class because it was abruptly moved online and you didn’t get an internship because everything closed, they will understand.

It’s also important to consider that your future job or internship may look a little different now that we’ve been through a pandemic. You may want to complete school online, or you may have to wear a mask into the office. My advice is, to be honest with yourself and the people you’re working with and have patience. Things will get better with time.

Blog by Austin Hicks

I believe that when it comes to taking care of a loved one, you don’t necessarily need to get paid. I feel like you get paid differently. You get paid in the memories you gain and the sense of knowing you were there for your loved ones when they needed you the most. 

I want to tell you about my prior experience in-home care. When I was in high school, I received my CNA license and worked in a nursing home throughout my senior year. Through that year, I acquired many valuable caregiving skills.

Once I graduated high school, I moved on to college, where I started studying business, and my healthcare skills were no longer needed, or so I thought.

Soon after I started college, my grandma began to have difficulties with dementia and had trouble getting around or completing everyday tasks independently. My CNA skills that I thought I would never use again ended up becoming useful.

Throughout my time in college, I would make trips to her home in Grove, Oklahoma, to care for her.  I ensured she had groceries and everyday living necessities, took her medicine on time, cooked her daily meals, and got her out of the house so she wouldn’t be isolated in her home every day.

I really enjoyed doing this because it allowed me to give back to her what she gave me while growing up. I was able to take care of a family member that I loved rather than have a random nurse stay in her home and take care of her.

I never received a paycheck throughout this time, nor did I ask for any compensation for the work I did. When it comes to family, I can’t justify taking any payment to do my personal duty and take care of her when she needed it the most.

During this time, I have been enrolled in college. I am grandma’s companion, keeping her company. I updated her on how college was going and anything new in my life.

I shared this story because I want to express that anyone who has experience in healthcare can relate to my experience. Many people who work in healthcare do this because they enjoy helping people, but it makes it even more special when it comes to family.

It takes an exceptional person to work in caregiving. Even though I pursued business throughout my college career, I am grateful for the skills I gained. Earning my CNA license and practicing it by working in a nursing home allowed me to bring those skills home.

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