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Covid-19 has been with us for two years now. As our lives constantly change with the different measures and rules, we have slowly adapted to the new pandemic normal.
For young adults like me, while we’ve become acclimated to the back and forth of the pandemic, it is undeniable that many of us feel as if we have been robbed of a part of our life.
As tertiary students, these years in school were supposed to be the period where we experienced new things, explored more about ourselves, discovered the bonds of friendships and created meaningful memories.
However, all those possibilities were cut short when Covid-19 appeared. Because of that, we can’t help but feel that our youth is being squandered, and we’re starting to miss out on what we could and should have had.
The Ministry of Education recently announced that poly and ITE students will be getting more chances for industry immersion before graduation, and have more flexible course structures and offerings, including spreading their studies over more than three years.
Yet it is cold comfort to those who have already spent two years attending Zoom classes and socialising in groups of no more than five — sometimes not even that!
Expectation vs Reality
I’m a final-year poly student and I was lucky to at least be able to experience my first year before Covid hit.
As someone who has experienced firsthand the changes in the curriculum and activities in school, I feel bad for those who started their tertiary education amidst the pandemic, and for those who are about to.
A fellow third-year mass communication student, Nabil, told me: “The whole concept of starting new semesters during the pandemic was very odd. We entered Year 2 completely from home. and we had to continue to stay at home for the majority of 2020 and 2021, going back to campus only when needed. We were not able to be at school to learn.”
It’s even worse for those students who started poly during the pandemic. They had home-based learning from the get go which definitely affects their learning environment and social interaction.
Just like that, they were not able to forge close friendships with classmates — imagine not being able to treat each other to a meal after meeting project deadlines or go out for dinner together on a whim. Even such “spontaneous” social activities had to be planned carefully in advance and a headcount made thanks to safe distancing measures.
Sharaizat, a first-year Electrical and Electronic engineering student told me: “Home-based learning makes me feel unmotivated to study as the environment at home and in school is different.
“It’s harder to bond as a class as there aren’t many activities to do together, such as doing sports, going out for a class outing, or planning overseas trips together.”
He also shared that he couldn’t wait to go back to school, when Covid-19 restrictions are more relaxed.
“I expect that there will be sports and wellness in our post secondary schedules. Going to school physically would also allow more opportunities to meet new people. In addition, it will be much easier to understand lessons face-to-face rather than with home-based learning.”
Coping with it
The pandemic has changed many things. People have lost their lives; others, their livelihoods. Many, especially those working on the frontline in the fight against Covid, are struggling with stress and mental wellness.
As for youths, these two formative years are something we will never get back.
But instead of dwelling on the unfairness of life, let’s make the most of what we have.
Understand that while these two years have not panned out the way we want it to be, they are still formative years — albeit in different ways.
What are the silver linings of dealing with Covid? Have we become more sensitive to our friends’ needs? Have we become more aware of our own internal challenges?
It is normal to feel upset at the unfairness of life, especially when we think about being robbed of our youth, but dwelling on that fact would bring no benefit.
Time waits for no one — complaining about it doesn’t bring it back. We have no choice but to bring out the best of what we have.
Finding new ways of socialising
For most of us, school isn’t just about studies; it’s also about social relationships.
Many friendships blossom when students sit next to one another in class. Best friends forged a common complaint over a homework assignment. Or buddies made over a similar taste in fashion or a favourite song.
Everyday minor interactions that we take for granted often have a larger than expected effect on our lives. For example, walking along the hallway between lectures could be the highlight of a student’s day because that’s when they hope to see that person they have a crush on!
Every day, we are exposed to a range of cultures, perspectives, and ways of life that may differ from their own in the hallways and classrooms of our schools.
These factors help to shape what school life is supposed to be.
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So without it, how do we grow under the current circumstances?
The need for social connection is fundamental for humans. In times of stress, we need support and interaction with friends and family.
Use technology: We are already familiar with so many forms of communication so make a point to reach out to others if you feel isolated. Any interaction is good — texting, messaging, e-mail, social media. Play online games with your school friends or have late-night video call conversations.
“I spent time with friends and family. I stayed online a lot so that I could interact with people.” shared Nabil.
Curate your feed: Pay close attention to how certain social interactions affect you. Limit your interactions with those who make you feel nervous, angry, worried, or upset about yourself.
It is important to actively look out for positivity every day. Identify and appreciate the things — online and off — that you enjoy or find heartwarming.
It’s easy to feel worn down when we focus on what we’re missing out instead of what we have going for us.
While we ponder upon the missed opportunities and events due to the pandemic, it is important to understand that the days of our youth are limited.
Sometimes waiting for a change to happen is more draining than the problem itself. Make full use of what you have now to live your life the way you want to.
Can’t socialise in big groups due to Covid restrictions? Learn to make closer connections with smaller groups of friends! Tired of being cooped up at home? Grab some friends and go to the beach! Home-based learning is draining you? Meet up with a classmate at a cafe to do together!
There are so many ways to make the best we have with what we’ve got.
As the old adage goes, “we cannot direct the wind, but we can adjust our sails”.