How are students coping in the age of coronavirus?

Olivia Jacobs

Illinois Wesleyan University students left campus on March 6 for a week of spring break. Some went on well-earned vacations, while others simply used the time to relax from all the stress of the semester. The next thing everyone knew spring break was extended for another week. Then, like other colleges across the country, IWU told students not to return to campus. They would finish the semester online, due to Covid-19.

Six weeks later, The Argus wanted to know how students were coping and sent out a survey to 100 students. Only seven students responded, and what one student wrote may explain why: “I wish the university would stop sending so many emails.”

As Arnold Health Services counselor Christina Armstrong explained, “There is a lack of motivation among students because typically they are only at home for breaks. That break has been extended, and they still have classes to finish,” she said. 

It turns out that The Argus was probably asking questions when the answers were right in front of us, and the pitiful response rate confirms how students are coping. They’re simply tired of the Covid-19 lockdown, tired of being asked about it and tired of talking about it. Covid-19 hasn’t just affected everyone’s classes. Athletes had seasons cancelled, nursing and education majors had field work cancelled, study-abroad students had trips cancelled, residential students couldn’t return to claim their belongings and international students had to choose between going home and staying at a campus that suddenly resembled ghost town. 

We get it. Everyone has been affected by Covid-19–even Argus editors and reporters. 

Olivia Jacobs ‘21

I left for spring break thinking that I was going to go to Hawaii for the first time. I was preparing to miss an extra week of school. I had done all of my work in advance and had everything for The Argus issue that week in place. Then the night before I left, my trip was cancelled, spring break was extended, and The Argus was put on hold. We couldn’t possibly produce a paper from the comfort of our own homes. I felt guilty to an extent because I wasn’t necessarily having the same experiences as everyone else. I was already living at home and didn’t have to worry about certain things as much. 

 I was also no longer able to work and my internship was cancelled. It’s difficult to work at an after-school program when there is no school and no kids. Luckily, my job is still able to pay their employees, but for most that isn’t the case. I’m still waiting to hear if my summer internship is still happening or not. The social distancing aspect also became extremely difficult when I started seeing my loved ones struggle with their mental health. But here I am trying to put something out there that isn’t going to make the IWU community roll their eyes. This is what coronavirus has done to me.

 William Brown ‘22

I had already been having a rough semester leading up to spring break, and I was hoping to both get caught up on some assignments and enter the second half of the semester in a better headspace than before. My immediate reaction when spring break was extended for an extra week was relief, but as I slowly realized that we would probably not be returning to campus I became more anxious. I work much more effectively when I am able to compartmentalize my life, and with all the distractions present at home the lines between my schoolwork and home life became blurred. 

This caused some of my mental tics and tendencies to worsen, which proved harmful to my academics as well as my life. For example, I sometimes enter thought spirals regarding how badly certain scenarios might resolve themselves, which can at times prove demoralizing and even crippling in terms of my willingness and ability to get anything accomplished. 

This became especially hard after IWU announced they were making deep cuts to music and art, as well as many other departments. That seemed to signal a developing disregard for the arts and humanities, which was a major part of why I chose to attend IWU in the first place. I also have to agree that the flood of emails from IWU regarding the coronavirus has reduced my motivation and my intellectual capabilities by thoroughly isolating me and allowing some of my mental issues to deteriorate to the point of being.

Justin Fairchild ‘22

2020 was going to be a fantastic year for me. I was finishing my sophomore year with some pretty solid academics and looking forward to my summer internships, as well as some freelance broadcasting gigs across the country I had planned. When I first saw Covid-19 exploding in Washington State, it felt inevitable that it would spread to the rest of America and that our classes would go online.

As soon as I saw the email from the school about extending spring break and switching to online classes, I would’ve never expected how it would change my world. For starters, online classes just aren’t the same. It’s challenging to stay up to date in all of my classes and to continue to find the motivation to work on assignments or to even keep a decent sleep schedule. Waking up one morning to a message from my boss saying “We can’t run these events any more due to Covid-19, and we are gonna have to let you go for the time being” had to be one of the most disheartening text’s I’ve received in a long time. All the planning and time I had put in was gone.

But mentally and physically, the biggest challenge has been losing my time in the gym, hanging out with friends and socializing or just seeing different people around campus on a daily basis. I’m stuck at home and only leave every once in a while, and most of my motivation to do anything is just gone.

Nikki Rogers ‘20

When I left campus on March 6, I was stoked for my upcoming trip to San Antonio. I had no idea this was going to be my last shift at my on-campus job of four years, my last time seeing my friends and my last day on campus as a Titan. 

My senior year was coming to an end and I was ready to start my transition into the real world. With that transition period cut short, I’m feeling lost as to what I should do next. I’ve had a difficult enough time during the past six weeks back in my hometown. Both of my parents are essential workers, so I’m home by myself all day. It’s lonely. 

Added to that is the pressure of finishing the last assignments of my college career at home, where I’ve never done homework before. As someone who thrives on routine, I found that my productivity has dwindled down to writing my papers one paragraph at a time and finishing assignments minutes before they’re due. 

Then pile on the pressure of job hunting in a Covid-19 world. After sending in my resume for a summer job, filling out the application, getting recommendations and having a Zoom interview, I got an email that there was a hiring freeze for the time being. This was so discouraging that I haven’t continued my search. 

Mason McCauley ‘22

As we all know, times are getting tough and being ordered to stay inside your home for months on end can be challenging. I have been feeling this as I waste the days away watching the “Next Episode” autoplay on Netflix scroll by, waking up a few hours later each day while still not feeling any more rested, and making an unsatisfying breakfast at noon of eggs and hashbrowns which can’t even come close to what’s made at SAGA. My long walks across our beautiful campus to class have been shortened to the distance between my bed and the living room. With the world beginning to feel like a ghost town, myself a wandering spirit with no purpose or motivation, I start to wonder, am I the only one feeling this?

When I got the email about helping to write a story for The Argus about how students are coping with their new lives during the Covid-19 crisis, I thought that this would be a great chance to get out in the world and speak to some of my fellow students, learn about how they are dealing with the situation and possibly use this to help myself deal with it all. IWU has an online database of student emails, but it is deceptively impossible to navigate. This is where the first problem occurred. 

Getting together a list of random students from across the school is difficult. There is an online database of student emails but it is deceptively impossible to navigate. Getting access to a clean and current list of students was difficult and we lacked the time it would take to get clearance for access to a full list from the admissions department. We ended up working from a list that included only the names of juniors and seniors. I looked forward to hearing about how students were feeling and possibly even set up interviews for those who wished to share their stories with the rest of the university.

We looked through the answers to the survey hoping for one piece of information that might lead to a story, until we saw that “stop sending me emails” response that told us all we needed to know. 

John Barrett ‘20

It seems like in an attempt to help the students of Illinois Wesleyan cope with the virus,  we became part of the issue. As journalists, it is part of our duty to spread news of what is going on in the world, but sometimes that isn’t what everyone needs. The truth is everyone in the IWU community misses the things Covid-19 has taken away.  The Argus knows now that the impact is much greater than zoom meetings and google hangouts. One of the students working on this story even found himself suddenly needing to be the caregiver for a family member who had contracted Covid-19.

But at times like this it’s helpful to focus on the positives. IWU counselor Christina Armstrong explains one of the positive impacts of the pandemic is that the world has slowed down. “We have more time and more self awareness of the importance of self care and growth,” she said. There are worse things than being housebound, wrapped in a blanket and binge-watching shows like Tiger King