Carleton students cope with COVID

Belle Thompson, a Winnipeg native and third-year student at Carleton, misses the one-on-one interaction with her professors.
Mariam Abdel-Akher, in fourth year, struggles with motivation during the pandemic.

By Rachel Fiset

Before COVID-19 turned into a pandemic, university students were still able to have a full education with little worry about whether their futures would be affected by the new virus. Now with self-isolation and learning from home, students have many new worries and challenges – among the biggest are lack of personal learning and motivation.

“The one-on-one or the in-person aspect, which is so integral to an education, is really lacking,” said Belle Thompson, who will be a fourth-year student at Carleton in the fall.

“The biggest challenge for me is that I really value my professors and the communication I foster with them, so I guess I would say not having the luxury of having any office hours, where I could discuss certain things or questions I had, is the hardest.”

Fourth-year student Mariam Abdel-Akher, who will be graduating after completing her fifth year in December 2020, agrees about how much the lack of personal connections has affected her peers.

“Connections are especially important for fourth-years because if you want references for your Masters or other things that you want to do for the rest of your life, and hadn’t built that connection before and wanted to do it now, it would be very difficult,” noted Abdel-Akher.

While many students are having difficulty without those connections, there are other complications affecting their final assignments.

“Specifically for me, what I worry about the most is the lack of motivation that I have being at home,” said Abdel-Akher. “It almost feels like I’m on vacation and that I’m done studying and the semester is over.”

Health concerns are another added stress for students, as they struggle with whether to stay in their present living spaces or move back home. Thompson, for example, would like to go back home to Winnipeg to be with her family, but worries she could potentially bring the virus home and infect her parents.

“I’m not incredibly worried about myself as I have been taking precautions and taking this seriously, but I’m more worried about my parents who are a higher risk category,” she said. “My mom has cancer and doesn’t have a spleen, which basically filters out disease, so that’s most concerning.”

While the university continues to help students as much as possible with learning experiences and mental health issues, it is not able to halt the inevitable implications COVID-19 will have on students’ futures.

“At Carleton, we have also put in place emergency financial assistance and accommodations for students,” said university president Benoit-Antoine Bacon in a statement. “Notably, we have made and continue to make emergency funding available to both graduate and undergraduate students.”

With the nine billion dollars in new federal government programs for students, such as the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), revenue is one less thing they will have to worry about.

“I was lucky enough to have secured a full-time summer government job, but from now until June I’m not really working at all, so I’ve applied for CERB and that should be good until I start working again,” said Abdel-Akher. “But it’s obviously not the best. I would rather be working and earning money that way.”

The most concerning aspect of COVID-19 for students is how long it will last and how much it will affect their future. Newer students have more time to cope with the changes. But for graduating students, there are plenty of questions about when and if they will be able to find jobs during a likely recession. The future is very much uncertain, and they are trying to have an open mind during this unsettling time.

“At this point the mentality for me, and many others I have spoken to, is we get what we get, and we’ll just have to stick with it,” said Abdel-Akher. “I’m definitely worried that after graduating I won’t get the type of job that I want, but at this point I’ll take what I can get.”

Rachel Fiset is a first-year journalism student at Carleton.

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