As the end of our fall semester inches closer, I, and thousands of other students, feel overwhelmed, burned out and exhausted, to say the least.
Since the release of the spring academic calendar, opinions about the changes have varied. But for most, the loss of spring break will take a toll on all students academically, mentally, emotionally and physically.
To gain some insight into a student and teacher’s perspective, I decided to interview Meagan Pittman, a graduate student instructor in NC State’s sociology department. Pittman is also currently a Ph.D. student in sociology with a concentration in crime, law and social control.
According to Pittman, this semester has been tough on everyone, including her.
“It’s been a lot, as far as being a teacher; it breaks my heart for my students,” Pittman said. “Having no breaks has been draining, mentally, emotionally and physically for me, and I’m sure many of my students. I know they are worried, just as I am, about school, relationships. They’re burned out and tired.”
According to the National College Health Assessment, feeling burned out is not something new for college students. In fact, in 2018, only 1.6% of undergraduates reported that they felt no stress in the last 12 months. Piling on the fact that we are all living through a pandemic and dealing with the current political climate, these feelings are only exacerbated.
MercerCluster.com tells us that the racism in America has caused a new type of trauma for students, especially Black students living in the U.S. Similarly, Anxiety.org points out that, through the use of national surveys and polls, research indicates 88% of Black Americans experience racism in the U.S., 87% of Black Americans characterize racism as a “very serious” or “serious” problem and 78% of Black Americans see racism as widespread in the U.S.
Pittman said the lack of breaks was what she disliked the most about the setup of the fall semester.
“No breaks at all took a toll on everyone,” Pittman said. “I know that no university could have won in this scenario, but we can always do better. If they stayed open, a lot of pushback would have opened, and with all online, they also received harsh criticism.”
While NC State is offering many online delivery-style courses, in-person classes are still being pushed for. This is not only an ignorant choice, but it’s as if they’ve learned nothing, something a Technician editorial pointed out recently.
“Not having spring break will affect many students and teachers, period,” Pittman said. “While it is great that we are receiving wellness days, I am a firm believer that the University should have already had these in place, as in before COVID-19.”
While many adults have left comments on Technician's Facebook account, saying things like “It’s not that hard,” “It’s life, get used to it!” and various other dehumanizing statements, it is a proven fact that college is difficult for every student that attends. Putting on the front that life should only be a depressive and meaningless journey really shows a lack of care and decency.
While it is a great experience and we as students get to experience an abundance of freedom, this comes with a price. Having to juggle classes means: struggling with coursework, being social and finding friends, figuring out who you are and what you want and worrying about how you will have to pay for tuition. According to Mashable, there is an increasing number of college students who are already experiencing panic and anxiety attacks.
One last message from Pittman is some advice for the rest of this semester and the upcoming spring one.
“Don’t be afraid to prioritize your mental health,” Pittman said. “Take some breaks from your work because all of this is so draining. Productivity isn’t consistent and that’s OK. Know what to prioritize when you do it.”
As for the professors here at NC State, she had some words as well.
“You are human too,” Pittman said. “This pandemic may be affecting you as well, more than you imagine. Don’t be afraid to put your mental health first too. You should also remember that your students are not real adults like you are yet. You’ve had stressful experiences before that may have prepared you before this pandemic. Your students have not, and they will not be motivated and creative all the time. It is unfair to ask that of them.”