I vividly remember talking to my father back in the early spring about a virus spreading overseas. “Stuff like that doesn’t happen to us”, I kept telling myself. Weeks later, our lives started changing drastically. I’ll never forget my friends not being able to walk the stage for graduation, losing my job in the food-service industry, and having to completely change plans for my big move from Florida to West Virginia to begin my DPT program at Marshall University. It felt like my plan of action for the next few years was being turned completely upside down.
Moving 16 hours away from where I’ve spent my entire life was already intimidating, but now I had to face other things that I was not entirely prepared for. I tried to go into things with a positive mindset, appreciating the fact that we could continue taking classes at all. Although there have definitely been hiccups along the way, I wouldn’t trade the experience I have had starting my program this year for anything. I’ve been able to connect with my peers and professors in a special way, knowing we are navigating uncharted territory together.
If there are a few things that this year has taught me, it’s to always use your resources, always practice self-discipline, and always make time for yourself. Rather than wishing for things to be back to normal, I’ve found growth in facing our current reality for what it is. The unprecedented challenges and barriers that have been tossed toward my program’s way have had something to teach all of us and have made for some great stories to tell in the future.
Exploring the virtual learning environment has had its ups and downs. I’ve had to rely more on myself to find what learning methods work best and most efficiently for me. Often, this means scouring the web for videos or articles that explain the topic I’m struggling with. Many times throughout this year I have found myself wondering how people even pursued higher education without the assistance of the internet.
Being a student in the times of COVID-19, I have found myself being my own biggest parental figure. I am no stranger to being glued to my bed on a day to day basis and constantly telling myself to get up and do something. I’ve had to force myself out of my room to a different spot in the house just to rack up the motivation to complete an assignment. When it comes to hours of studying, I have had to be creative by using social-media or self-timers to restrain myself from being distracted. With the strain that social distancing puts on public areas, it’s been hard to have access to places like the library where I often work best and am able to collaborate with my classmates. I’m confined to my house, constantly feet away from distractions like my Xbox and TV. Like I mentioned, this year has been full of moments of self-discipline.
If there is one thing I have found to be the most important realization of 2020, it’s to make time for yourself. Take that walk outside you are putting off, take a break and treat yourself to a short episode of your favorite show, or Facetime an old friend or family member you haven’t talked to in a while. There is a fine line between wasting time and carving out minutes for crucial self-care. With the learning environment we are faced with today, we must learn to recognize and be friends with this line.
I find myself often thinking how there is an odd feeling of comfort knowing we are all going through this together. The human factor of this experience is not something to forget. Make time for those around you and make sure you check on others. Being inside for hours on end, staring into the blue light, and facing a lack of human connection can take a real toll on people. Academics aside, we must not forget why we came into this profession, to help others. Reach your hand out for those that need it, don’t be afraid to ask for help, and keep pushing on.