When I transferred to the University of Southern California this past fall, I was prepared to make the most out of my education. I had just moved out of Oregon, where I had spent my first two years of undergraduate studies at the University of Oregon. I consider my time in Oregon to be one of the more difficult chapters in my life. The constant rain isolated me indoors, which led to a decline in my mental health. I felt lonely, depressed, and unmotivated. USC provided me with an opportunity to live in Los Angeles—a place I knew would be abundant with connections and opportunities. I doubted I should ever feel isolated in a city.
Unfortunately, my second semester at USC was disrupted by the current Coronavirus pandemic. Students were sent home to attend class online via Zoom conferences. Adjustment came with time and patience. I am a student that thrives on campus as I achieve the most when I can spend my time in libraries and office hours. I enjoy in-person interaction and believe I learn best that way. My first challenge was creating a work appropriate environment. Home is a small three-bedroom apartment that I share with my father and younger sister. It was difficult to attend distraction-free Zoom conferences because noise travels fairly easily through our thin walls. I learned the value of headphones, which I now use to help me focus during lectures as well as help me be respectful to the other people in the apartment.
Communicating with my professors became the key to my success online. My professors were understanding of the global situation and did their best to accommodate issues such as conflicting time zones. If I ever felt insecure about my performance online, my professors were prepared to listen and advise me as best as they could. In order to ease student anxiety, many professors decreased workload and made all class materials accessible online. These changes allowed me to breathe as I learned to navigate Zoom.
During this transition, I noticed my mental health began to take its toll. I was lonely again. My days were becoming emptier and emptier. Internship opportunities canceled due to the pandemic and it was beginning to look like I would spend my summer isolated once again. My classmates struggled with similar issues. Some students went back home to chaotic households that they had worked so hard to escape. Others feared for the continuation of their education as parents lost their jobs. I am fortunate in that my parents are still able to accumulate income to help me finance my education—an opportunity I will not take for granted. The issue then became: How do I make my time in quarantine productive?
I feel the best way to come out of this pandemic is knowledgeable. Self-improvement looks different for everyone. For me, I decided I want to come out of this pandemic a better writer. Therefore, I try to spend my time in isolation teaching myself what makes a good writer. This knowledge searching helps me find purpose in my day and makes me feel confident that I am not falling behind in my education. My loneliness eases when I write. As a college student, my future semesters remain in question as I am unsure if they will be conducted online or in-person. In the meantime, I can respect social distancing regulations to help life return to normal sooner. I encourage others to do the same. Happy Quarantine!