Three College Students’ Takes on the Impact of the Rona
My name is Ethan, and I’m an incoming senior at DePaul University double majoring in Communication and Media and Psychology. I was curious how some queer young adults are coping with the COVID-19 pandemic and wanted to better understand how it’s impacting their lives. Additionally, I wanted to hear their opinions on how the pandemic is affecting diverse communities, specifically LGBTQIA people. I interviewed three Chicago college students who are each incoming undergraduate seniors. Jack Golden studies biology and Spanish at Loyola University Chicago, Kendall Palmer is double majoring in communication studies and psychology and is getting a minor in performance communication at DePaul University, and Fernando Chapa is studying music performance with a concentration in French horn and a minor in communication and media at DePaul University.
How has COVID-19 affected your educational experience?
Jack: Like many other university students, my education at Loyola University Chicago completely transitioned to remote learning. The transition itself was pretty tough, especially for the Biology lab courses I was taking this semester, but thankfully I found that I relaxed into online learning a few weeks after. The most challenging aspect of remote learning for me was trying to maintain my educational motivation. Without having a rigid schedule to follow, I found myself frequently wearing sweatpants during lecture (how professional!), as well as dozing off on occasion and sometimes sleeping through the lecture in its entirety.
Kendall: COVID has been a major ‘roadblock’ in my college experience. With that being said, I am very grateful that I don’t have to overly worry about expenses and my health. I am very engaged on campus through work, school, and extracurricular activities and volunteer opportunities which makes it hard to leave. I have moments that I miss school, but I just try my best to stay positive and focus on what I can control. Online classes are fairly difficult for many reasons, but I am hanging in there and constantly communicating with my professors.
Fernando: I have felt very restricted because we cannot be in big groups. As a student who is going to school for music, the biggest part about my learning is the face to face experience that we get. Being unable to make music in ensembles with my colleagues and conductors has been really hard. I am able to have lessons with my professor on FaceTime but being in the same room and playing together is something that you can’t replace.
What is your favorite part about quarantine?
Jack: My favorite part about quarantine is that it has caused me to completely slow down in ways that I haven’t before. I am the type of person who thrives on doing a million things in a single day, so being forced to actually cherish each moment of every day has been refreshing. For example, as a result of quarantine, I’ve started taking care of my grandma three days a week, which has been wonderful. I cannot remember the last time I got to spend so much time with her watching Hallmark movies, playing cards, and chit-chatting about old times.
Kendall: I have really enjoyed hanging out with my parents in the suburbs of Chicago. This has been an opportunity to have fun with them and feel more connected. Also, I have a golden retriever that I LOVE being with all the time. Most importantly, I am enjoying being with supportive, happy, and fantastic humans.
Fernando: My favorite part about quarantine is my schedule! Nothing is set in stone except for 3 of my classes which means I can be as flexible as I want with what I do, day to day. I can prioritize goals and tasks during the day for longer periods of time and be more productive.
What do you do to stay positive during these stressful times?
Jack: Something that I have found incredibly helpful during these stressful times is finding any opportunity to mentally escape from everything that’s happening, particularly by way of books, movies, and television. Normally, I’d try to do something more “productive” with my days, but given the circumstances, getting lost in another world is so needed. It feels wonderful to immerse myself in a different world, if even just for a moment.
Kendall: I have been reminding myself each day of things that make me happy. College and merely everything it entails brings me joy, so I try to stay connected with people from University. In part, I love calling family and friends because people are my absolute favorite. I am trying my best to stay mindful and open with this experience because it has its setbacks.
Are there any groups of people that you think we should, as a nation, be paying more attention to during this pandemic?
Jack: Something surprising that I’ve noticed in the news is that African Americans are much more likely to die from the Coronavirus than other racial groups in the United States. While this disproportionate lethality rate may just be due to a physiological phenomenon, I’m fearful that this discrepancy may be due to maltreatment of African American Coronavirus patients in hospitals. I wish that more research would be done to determine if we as a society could mitigate this higher death rate for Americans of color.
Kendall: I think that there are many people suffering in varying ways. From economic struggles to finding food for the family and then having to worry about a deathly virus on top of all that? Goodness, it truly is a very hard and sad time. It is important that, as a nation, we support families and individuals that are unable to stay healthy, safe, and comfortable. Unfortunately, this is the case for many people, and it is crucial that we are advocates for those that cannot fully advocate for themselves.
Do you think LGBTQIA folks are affected by the pandemic in ways that non-LGBTQIA people are not affected?
Jack: Thankfully, I haven’t heard anything yet in the news or media that describes disproportionate Coronavirus contraction rate or fatality rate for the LGBTQIA community. However, something that I think many LGBTQIA Americans are struggling with during this time is the awful uprooting from their universities and safe spaces to potentially unsafe and/or unaccepting home environments. For example, before quarantine occurred, I decided to bleach and dye my hair (a silly, silly decision, of course), partly because I knew I wouldn’t have to endure my less-accepting family members’ scrutiny. Now, being home, I find myself regressing to a previous period of my life where I was less confident in myself as a gay man simply due to these harsh, watching eyes. It’s made me almost retreat into my shell a bit more, which is something that I think some of my straight counterparts don’t have to endure as they return to their family homes for quarantine.
Kendall: Many families are moving in together and quarantining with one another. Therefore, many families are under more stress than usual. With this being said, for those that are a part of the LGBTQIA community it can be hard moving in with family members that don’t support your identity. This has been a struggle for many college students because of the sheer nature of being kicked off of on-campus housing.
The Rona clearly affects individuals’ lives differently. Many college students have been faced with the challenge of staying engaged with their education despite a lack of face-to-face contact with their peers and professors. At the same time, some have discovered a newfound ability to spend more time focusing on tasks and relationships of which they would not normally dedicate as much energy. As these students describe, some communities, such as people of color and LGBTQIA individuals, are facing significant challenges during these unprecedented times. If you’re reading this, I urge you to do what you can to support members of marginalized communities in any way that you can. Above all else, take the time that you need to care for yourself.