It was 5:15 PM on Wednesday, March 11, when the lives of Boston College students were enveloped in chaos. After days of questioning and confusion, students finally had an answer. They were to be moved out by Sunday at the latest, due to the Coronavirus pandemic sweeping the world.
Students were in shock, as tearful cries filled up rooms across campus. In 90 St. Thomas More, room 401 erupted in upset phone calls to parents, who were just as shocked. As a member of this eight-man suite, I recently spoke with my roommates to reflect on that day. Abigail Hoglund, MCAS ‘22, recalls feeling an overwhelming sense of, “despair and disbelief.” She goes on to add, “It just didn’t feel real.”
Saraphina Birtolo, MCAS ‘22, remembers thinking, “How am I going to survive without my second family? Boston College is my home.” Though these are just two perspectives from two individuals, they were reflected by nearly all students on campus in the days following.
Sending students home due to Coronavirus has prompted an immense amount of anxiety and fear of the unknown. For students already struggling with mental health disorders, this experience is amplified. Shortness of breath may be a symptom of Coronavirus, but what causes the same sensation? Anxiety. For those who are immunocompromised, have pre-existing mental health conditions, or face problems in the household, this time at home can be especially difficult.
Having been away from campus for a week or so, some BC students with mental health disorders have found ways to cope with the perpetual anxiety that comes from too much free time in the context of a global pandemic.
“Activities that keep you occupied help a lot! I’ve recently started knitting again and that has been a really healthy way to pass time and not look at a screen constantly,” Erin Fitzgerald, Lynch ‘22, says.
It is often the influx of information that adds to these students’ stress levels. Fitzgerald explains, “While it is important to stay informed, staring at information can be really draining and anxiety-provoking.”
This has been a common theme among students. Caroline Coburn, Lynch ‘21, says that she is, “clicking on every news article that pops up on [her] feed.”
“It’s like my brain thinks that the cure for anxiety is to become an ‘expert’ on all of this, when it really just amplifies it,” Coburn expands. She says that she finds peace in limiting her exposure and understanding that much of this is out of her control. Additionally, she has made a huge effort to connect virtually with people, which helps her know that she is not alone.
Holding open conversations about how social distancing makes one feel can be a huge source of relief. Everyone is experiencing a wide range of different emotions, and it is important to remember that all of these emotions are valid. For those struggling with existential or health-related anxiety, it can be helpful to remember that you can only control so much of what is happening right now.
One way that students are staying connected is through a website called Netflix Party. The site allows viewers to watch synchronized movies or shows on Netflix with friends, and even includes a group chat feature for discussion. While most students are used to doing this from the comfort of a common room in a suite, Netflix Party is a great way to simulate the same experience.
Another way to stay connected is through an app called House Party. House Party allows up to eight friends to chat in a come-and-go fashion. They also recently announced a partnership with Epic Games, which allows in-app games to be played among people, “in the house.” These games include virtual, off-brand versions of Pictionary and Cards Against Humanity.
The most important thing to remember through all of this is that no one is alone. While technology can cause anxiety, it can also aid in relieving it. Call a friend, learn an instrument, or read a new book. Take care of those who may be weathering the situation a little harder than others. Check on senior friends, who have been robbed of their final two months of college.
No one wants to be in this situation––that in itself demonstrates the immeasurable love that students have for Boston College. Remember that BC is still a community, even over the phone. While this “extended” summer may be unprecedented, it is also crucial to keep in mind the reason behind it all––COVID-19. Practice social distancing, wash your hands, stay home, and be kind to one another. We are all in this together.