PHOTO BY MICHAEL PIRILLO, THE SPUTNIK PHOTOGRAPHY
As the leaves begin to change colour and fall to the ground, the chill in the air reminds students of the stressful part of the academic year approaching.
Autumn often includes going back to school, seeing old friends, catching up on missed time, and socializing and forming relationships. Most years, the Laurier campus is buzzing with student life and excitement as giddiness transfers from one student to the next.
What is happening this year is a completely different story.
In a new virtual world, students are finding it difficult to stay positive in this otherwise exciting time. The difference between in-person and online learning has been taking a toll on students’ mental health, causing a lack of motivation and enthusiasm.
Zoom—the online learning platform—has been causing worries for staff and students alike at Laurier.
“It’s so difficult in uncertain times not being anxious and not feeling stressed,” said the Dean of Students, Adam Lawrence,“I’m worried about zoom burnout, about making sure students have access to the supports both on campus and in their communities.”
Zoom burnout is a daunting and inevitable factor in virtual learning. Students sit at home for hours, attending lectures, doing schoolwork, involving themselves in student clubs and meetings.
At the end of each day, there is no motivation to do anything, not even to call friends who can’t be seen in person. Burnout, exhaustion and isolation are becoming more apparent in students this year.
Zoom classes are limiting students’ free time and are taking away from the social interactions they crave. Laurier students have changed their ways of living, and it is starting to put a damper on their everyday lives.
Although staff and faculty are trying their best to make classes and lessons interactive and engaging, staring at a computer all day affects the lives and quality of education for students.
“It gets really repetitive, it doesn’t seem like a real class,”said Chris Xu, a third year English major at Laurier, “it feels redundant and like I don’t even learn.”
Xu who’s stuck at home facing the lack of motivation from online school feels trapped in her home.
“Because my classes are spread out on the same day, I can’t leave the house to do things at all, there’s no time,” she said.
Isolation can take a toll on a student’s well-being, as can being in a work environment that doesn’t cater to the needs of a student. Laurier recognizes this and has resources available for all students to use if needed. There are currently counsellors and therapists available to students, all through the Wellness Centre.
The service is offering online resources for students who may need help with their mental health and places the student’s safety before anything.
“There’s a constant underlying stress about health, mental health, the future, everything,” said wellness education coordinator Sarah Syrett, “I think this ‘unknown’ is adding a lot of stress.”
While mental health may be affected by zoom burnout and isolation, staff at Laurier are doing their best to keep the students involved with school events to keep connection within the Laurier community.
The Laurier Off Campus University Student (LOCUS) has been expanded and developed to ensure that even off campus students have a community to depend on.
For first year students in particular, a new school year can seem daunting. Upper year students have been involved in a student mentor program to welcome and guide the newest Golden Hawks, and the program has been received with full hearts. These mentors are not only just for academic guidance, but also for emotional support in such an unfamiliar transition.
“A big focus for first year students is making sure they have connections to the community. This year, there has been so much engagement from students, staff, and faculty working together, it’s unprecedented,” said Lawrence, “ the coming together of the community has warmed my heart, it’s been really great.”
The Brantford campus has opened up one building for students to study in, which offers a quiet work space and comfortable seating for. In the basement of the student centre, there are socially distanced study spaces available to book a study spot for an allotted time frame.
The school understands students may not have access to everything they need in a virtual learning world and the difficulties staying at home may cause. This study space brings success, and a sense of normativity into the social lives of students.
Laurier is hoping to reopen campus as soon as possible, but the reopening is dependent on the public health board and the rise or fall of COVID cases. The use of the student centre is encouraged, in hopes to gain a normal feel to the school year, and introduce socializing from a distance.
Although the uncertainty, anxiety and stress is a sign of the times, Laurier golden hawks remain hopeful for the school year, and keep persevering through hardships that come their way.
IF YOU FEEL IN NEED OF HELP, DO NOT HESITATE TO REACH OUT TO THE WELLNESS CENTRE. CONTACT INFORMATION BELOW.