Finding opportunity in uncertainty: A graduating student’s reflections on the impact of COVID-19

Guest post by Lauren Frost

Who could have predicted that 2020 would turn out like this?

On News Year’s Eve 2019, I was sitting at a restaurant with a group of friends imagining what the next year would have in store for us. For me, it was going to be a year of celebration.

I thought of how it would feel when I handed in the last assignment of my degree and said my thanks and goodbyes to my favourite professors. I debated what colour my convocation dress should be. I perused job boards months in advance, dreaming of the possibilities my future career could hold.

COVID-19 seemed like a world away. Until, all of a sudden, it didn’t.

I’ve read a lot of blogs and social media posts from folks expressing how they can never decide whether they’re overreacting or underreacting to the threat of COVID-19.

It seems we are all in a sort of limbo state of not knowing exactly what to do or how to go about doing it. The situation evolved slowly and then all at once, like a snowstorm that settles in overnight, forcing everyone to slow down as they trudge and shovel their way through a world that was so easy to traverse just hours ago.

That’s how it felt for me. One day the sun was shining on my future, and the next, everything was obscured by a thick fog of uncertainty.

While I would love this post to be something that gives you all the advice you need to navigate the new landscape created by COVID-19, I’m not sure even the most qualified of experts could write something that succeeds at that. The truth is, there are a lot of questions that nobody has the answers to yet.

What I hope this post can do for you is act as inspiration to help you cope with some of the rapid change and unanswered questions. Here are some of the unique opportunities for growth, connection, and mindfulness that I’ve found as I’ve slowly adapted to my own new normal.

Working from home, playing from home

I am so incredibly privileged to be able to work from home. Not everyone has this luxury, but for many co-op students and students who work in any capacity, this has become a new reality. When my employer first announced the possibility of remote work, I was certain that I would hate it. The concept of being isolated from my coworkers and forced to collapse the gap between “work” and “life” seemed very overwhelming.

I’ve been working from home now for about three weeks and, while there are definitely some negative aspects, there’s actually a lot I enjoy about it!

With my daily commute cut out of my day, I gain back over an hour of time to spend on other things. I can cook myself fresh lunches, and my budget is definitely liking the reduced temptation of buying fancy coffee drinks every day.

A major shift has been how much time I have been able to spend with my partner, whom I live with. A month ago, I was working Monday to Friday and he was working Thursday to Monday, and we were both taking courses as well.

Since he has been temporarily laid off and I have been working at home, we’ve been able to spend a lot more time together. It’s amazing how much the everyday hustle and bustle of life can prevent us from connecting with the ones we love—even when they live with us!

If you’ve recently shifted to working from home for a co-op or other job, my number one tip (and you’ve probably heard it before) would be to try and keep up with the same routine as when you had to physically go to work.

For me, this means waking up early, getting dressed, and starting on time. I also try to take my breaks in the same way I would at work. If you’re like me and would normally go to the gym at lunch, consider trying out a video workout—there’s a ton on YouTube PLUS Vikes Recreation recently announced a virtual membership you can try out!

Located in a small basement suite, my new gym has everything from two sets of dusty dumbbells to a single mat!

Online learning

The hardest part of the new normal that COVID-19 has established for me has been completing my final courses online. My motivation and productivity have gone way down in terms of studying, partly because my usual homework space has now become my work space and my social space (hello, family video chats!) as well.

Luckily, my professors have all been amazing and flexible with their deadlines and expectations. Although nothing can replace an in-person lecture with your favourite prof, there is something nice about being able to watch a video lecture at home in your pajamas whenever you want. If you’re looking for tips on how to succeed in your online courses, check out UVic vlogger Marissa’s video on how to study from home!

From 8:30-4:30 Monday to Friday, this is my break room. After 4:30 and on weekends, you might call it a living room.

Slowing it down

Above all, I feel that the current situation has encouraged us all to slow down a bit. When you’re uncertain of the future, there’s not much you can do but live in the present. I’ve been able to find mindfulness and peace amidst the ever-changing world, which is something that I usually struggle to do.

Remember that what we are going through is not easy. It can even be traumatic. Don’t expect yourself to operate at the same level as you were two months ago, because today is not two months ago. Be kind to yourself.

Set realistic goals and try to think about what you can do today to progress towards the place you want to be. I realized pretty quickly that I was simply not going to get as much homework done under these new circumstances as I normally do.

I stopped setting goals like finish three chapters or write three pages and started setting goals like work on my essay for two hours. This helps me to feel productive while honouring that, given these circumstances, I might need more time than usual to relax and care for myself.

Need help?

If, like me, you’re graduating this term, not thinking about the future can be difficult, especially if it feels like your travel or work ­­plans were derailed. That’s ok.

If you’re concerned about how to find work, you can reach out to your personal career educator and make a virtual appointment. You can also check out UVic’s Shift into Summer webpage for work search resources to support you during these extraordinary times.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, UVic Counselling Services is offering phone appointments. Remember, social distancing doesn’t have to mean loneliness and isolation doesn’t mean you’re alone.

You can do this! Remember, we’re in this together and we’ll get through it.

Me in my work/social/study space at home


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