By Karen Stokes
Back to school shouldn’t have to be complicated even in midst of a pandemic. College students heading back to school are attending either in-person, online or a hybrid schedule. All three options bring a certain level of stress to students; however, there are techniques to help alleviate stress.
In a Morning Brew survey, 64% of students said their schools are implementing a hybrid model of both in-person and online learning this fall. The survey reported that 32% are going fully remote.
Jayla Thompson, a sophomore at the University of Wisconsin-Madison spoke on the situation.
“My university is handling the pandemic by holding a hybrid of in-person classes and online classes. I am lucky enough to have all my classes online during this upcoming fall semester.” Thompson said. “However, this hybrid of classes makes it a little difficult for students like me to get a grasp on how to handle this new form of schoolwork while still practicing social distancing on campus.”
“There’s a tremendous amount of uncertainty in leaving home at that age anyway and now these other layers of uncertainty specific to Covid-19 makes the situation more complex and stressful,” Dr. Steven Dykstra, director of Children’s Mobile Crisis Team and a licensed psychologist, with the Milwaukee County Behavioral Health Division, said.
Colleges and universities that brought students back to campus are expressing alarm about emerging coronavirus infections even though classes have barely started, raising the possibility that everyone could be sent home.
For example, there’ve been more than 500 cases of coronavirus at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa and nearly 160 at the University of Missouri in Columbia, according to the Washington Post.
Many outbreaks are tied to large group gatherings like parties, leading some schools to suspend students and organizations for breaking social distancing rules on and off campus, CNN reported.
“When I first heard that we would be coming back to campus this fall and possibly will have to go to in-person classes, I was very nervous,” said Thompson. “I am familiar with how crowded our lecture halls, streets, libraries, restaurants, busses and dining halls can get. This reality has made the process of starting school back up very stressful and intimidating.”
Dykstra explained that a student may not be the only one around them with the same thoughts and worries, about life, their courses and coronavirus. Their fears are completely appropriate, he said.
“Talk to your peers about it,” Dykstra said. “Talk to someone if it’s really starting to wear you down. If stress is starting to affect your functioning, all universities have student help centers where students can get some basic help from counseling and tips for handling stress and if necessary, resources for additional services. You may feel very alone, but you’re not.”
Students away from home, may not have friends on campus and feel alone. When moving, getting a new job or attending college it will take an effort to be social.
“During COVID where we are encouraged to social distance and not engage in large group gatherings. You can still get to know people. It will be in smaller groups and outside. It’s easier to spread out and be safer. Go outside, the fresh air and breeze reduces transmission,” Dykstra said.
Alexys Schultz, a second-year student at Milwaukee Area Technical College enrolled in the Dental Hygiene program said, “I feel like online will be very challenging for me. I also feel like I will be distracted from doing my class work because I’ll be at home all the time, but there’s benefits as well. I’ll be able to have more time to work so that’ll be nice. I wouldn’t feel anxious going to school in-person because I’ve been working as an essential employee during this entire pandemic.”
“If your school is online only, you’re going to be more limited,” said Dykstra. “The best way to get to know people would be through online study groups with people taking the same courses. I think universities and professors will be trying to make that happen. The rules have all changed on how we connect and how we socialize.”
Parents should check up on their students as they know their children, they may be able to tell if something is off or if they need help. Students are likewise encouraged to make the effort to contact your friends and family.
“If you are more depressed than you’ve ever been, more anxious, you’re missing classes and you feel trapped, let someone know,” Dykstra said.
Dykstra said that this system rewards mentally adaptive people that practice resilience. He encourages students to take yoga classes, mindfulness classes or meditation classes.
Just to see if it is better for their centering and mindfulness.
“Make the effort for connections, look out for yourself and others. If you’re worried about someone, tell them you’re worried about them and why you’re worried,” Dykstra said.
“Whatever conversation comes out of that will be good for both of you.”