Incoming first-year college students usually hear about how college will be the best four years of your life, but for many of us, they have now become a struggle with the onset of COVID-19. We are rapidly approaching the two year anniversary of the closure of the University of Maine, along with most schools and businesses all around the world, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet the side effects of COVID-19 physically, mentally and emotionally, still retain a strong grasp on us all.
When the pandemic began, I was a sophomore, barely 20-years-old and looking forward to the remaining years of my carefree college career. COVID-19 hit and now suddenly, I’m a senior, almost 22 and looking ahead to graduating in May. That’s a lot for anyone to come to terms with, but college students especially are struggling with this acceptance, along with the daily pressures that being a university student offers.
UMaine students remember that gut-wrenching email, indicating that the severity of the pandemic had increased and that we would all be forced to go home and continue our education online. This online education continued for the majority of students in their fall 2020 and spring 2021 semesters, but with the increase in accessibility to vaccines, UMaine students excitedly returned to campus for their fall 2021 semester. However, this transition back to in-person learning has been anything but easy.
This transition was not as simple as opening up the classroom doors and everything going back to normal. Our idea of experiencing a normal pre-COVID-19 education will never exist again. That’s a very difficult thing to come to terms with, but it’s essential to understand in order for universities and colleges across the country to better help assist their students in their transition back to in-person education.
We have to remember that students are not only trying to adjust to being back in-person and learn how to be in group environments again. Students are also dealing with their own mental health struggles, dealing with COVID-19 exposure and infection, trying to regain their social lives and simply trying to enjoy being a college student again. With this pandemic comes anxiety, stress, sickness and grief. When classes get out, students are still human beings that are dealing with all the loss and trauma that this pandemic has resulted in.
The grace that was provided during the last year and a half needs to continue as students go through this difficult transition and try to regain the lives they had before COVID-19. There should be no penalties of any sort when it comes to students missing class due to illness. We are still very much in this pandemic and resources should be provided to ensure that no student is left behind due to something that is out of their control. The last thing a student suffering from COVID-19 should be worrying about is if they’re going to lose points for not being able to go to class or do their work.