*This article was originally published in the Fall 2020 Lennon Wall Magazine print issue.
When we first got the email announcing the university’s closure due to Covid-19 in March, most of us thought it was going to only be for a couple of weeks max a month. We soon realized our assumptions were very wrong when the Fall semester got cancelled just a couple of days before its awaited beginning.
It meant we would be stuck at home for almost a year forced to adapt for this new reality. The internet was full of tips on how to organize our study space, create a schedule to stay on track and remain productive during online learning, however, what was not discussed as much is mental health and how to stay sane even in times of uncertainty.
Many people’s mental health was greatly affected by the measures put in place during the pandemic. Studies indicate that college student’s mental health was especially vulnerable due to already increased stress levels related to school performance. University students reported increased anxiety, stress and depressive thoughts caused by disrupted sleeping schedules, difficulty concentrating and decreased social interactions.
Despite the school’s effort to accommodate its students, many people from the AAU community reported experiencing the above-mentioned anxiety and stress. “I feel very overwhelmed. I don’t have time to rest at all as it feels like I’m doing school work 24/7 especially with the Friday classes put in place.”, a Humanities student said.
Another student from The University of New York where they have the same restrictions as AAU said this: “My mental health has been affected a lot. This whole year feels to be so long I have a hard time imagining going back to school in February. It gives me anxiety.”
The start of the Spring semester may be still very distant as many of us currently focus on preparing for the upcoming finals, however we should start thinking about how we feel with regards to going back to on-campus learning. After such a long time it might feel almost surreal to walk into a classroom and give an in-person presentation, therefore we should prepare ourselves so the transition will not be as stressful.
The notions towards going back to campus differ within the AAU community as a journalism student Kate Šíblová said: “I’d honestly love to go back and see everyone and finally be social.”, however another student who wished to remain anonymous expressed slight concerns: “I’m happy to go back and be with my friends again, but it also gives me a lot of stress, maybe because we’ve been at home for so long.”
If the virus gets under control and AAU reopens for the Spring semester, the school should take into account that some students may need time to adjust to in-person learning. In addition to that AAU should promote mental health consciousness and provide students with resources which would ensure that the comeback to campus will be as pleasant as possible.
Photography by Jack Weitman with Michelle Macias Mendez