Students Adjusting, Learning ‘New Normal’ during Coronavirus Epidemic

(April 1, 2020) – The novel coronavirus has upended much in society, from social gatherings to work environments to education.

Students are adjusting to new routines, learning how to learn remotely and finding unique ways to stay connected with family and friends while remaining healthy during these challenging times. We reached out to several USF St. Petersburg students, each at a different place in their college journey, to hear how they are coping with these sudden changes, what they are learning about themselves and advice they have for fellow students who are going through a similar situation.

Jadzia Duarte – senior majoring in environmental science and policy, current student body president

How are you doing with all of these changes?
I am not doing too bad. I was taking mostly online courses except for Road to the White House, so it was pretty simple to transition. Professors realized this was a really stressful time, so they changed things up to ease stress and make the process as smooth as possible. I have never experienced working from home before, usually always on campus from morning through evening or later, so that is the strange part. But I am able to get a lot of things done around the house that I haven’t before.

What’s the best way you’ve found to keep in touch with friends and family?
Thankfully I have roommates to keep me sane. I have been texting a lot of my friends, telling them I miss them. Doing FaceTime and video calls. With family I call a lot, making it a very regular thing.

What have you learned about yourself during this health crisis?
I realized that I had a bunch on my plate when I worked at school and with the transition to pretty much being at home all the time, my schedule is not as hectic. I like to take on a lot of tasks because it keeps me busy, but when I have time to myself I really enjoy it. I am seeing I have the ability to relax and enjoy the moment but also the ability to switch it on and do a lot if I need to.

Have you found any good ways to cope with all the current challenges?
Honestly social media is a nice way to go through all of this. It continues as normal, nothing stops it. Reassuring in a way. I have also been cleaning a lot and going back through memories, reminiscing of past travels and holding those feelings and energy from those moments.

Have you picked up any new hobbies or returned to old ones while at home?
I have been doing a lot of home improvements, interior decorating, sewing, little things to improve the house.

Do you have any advice for fellow students?
There are students going through a worse situation than me. There are students who are not having such a smooth time. So, my advice would be for them to learn about all the resources that are available to them from USF, like the USF United Fund and laptop rentals. Staff and professors are really happy to help, so reaching out whenever you can when you need it. Taking it a day at a time and keeping informed with updates. Don’t be overwhelmed and stay positive.

What’s the one thing you’re looking forward to once things are back to normal?
I want to travel. I’m ready to see the world and travel some more and take all of it in and live in the moment while doing it.

Jude Labarca – graduate student pursuing a Master of Business Administration

How are you doing with all of these changes?
Personally, it doesn’t scare me, but it is causing lots of changes. My company I manage (Piloarts Day Spa & Salon) in New York was mandated to close down on March 21. We had to lay off 40 of my staff, and I have been spending the last three weeks working through government agencies as it relates to support for small businesses. Also, my children who were going to school are now being home-schooled, so that has been a transition. Finally, trying to keep up with my courses, currently writing a paper for one of my courses. So, it has been a lot.

What things have you found to work well and what has been most challenging when it comes to finishing this semester online?
I don’t think any of it has been challenging for me because the MBA program is designed to be online, so it is already setup to do coursework at home. I also work as an economics tutor in the Student Success Center and it has been pretty seamless to transition, using Microsoft Teams to engage with and help out students in their coursework.

But I do think the challenges for students in general is if you aren’t used to doing your courses online, it will be difficult at first, but once you have mastered the online course interactions with the material and with your professor, it gets easier.

What have you learned about yourself during this health crisis?
I guess I learned what I kind of knew already, that I am a strategic thinker and leader and really plan things out. Managing a business in New York, I have had to navigate almost every possible scenario, being at ground zero during 9/11, the great recession, evacuating during hurricanes and now this. Being able to fall back on that experience and skill set is helping me manage this situation and not get too anxious.

Have you picked up any new hobbies while at home?
Finding the time to bicycle with my kids. My son, who is nine and on the autism spectrum, wanted to go bike riding, and I haven’t gone riding in over a year. And he wanted to ride without his training wheels on, which I was hesitant, but he took them off and he did it. Now I go riding everyday with them. I was so involved with work and school and tutoring, so couldn’t do it before. Also, I am really focused on my personal health these days and have been running.

Do you have any advice for fellow students?
We will pull through this and be stronger for it. We have survived worse and we always come out stronger and better.

Allocate more time for your mental and physical health during this time. Also know that there are resources for you to use, like the Student Success Center. More students should take advantage of tutoring help and other resources that can help them deal with any anxiety they are feeling and help them navigate these challenges we are all facing.

What’s the one thing you’re looking forward to once things are back to normal?
I was supposed to go on a one-week cruise and then a four-week vacation to Italy this summer. I would like to still be able to do that.

Robert Sprick – first-year student majoring in accounting and a member of ROTC

How are you doing with all of these changes?
Good and bad. What is nice about being on campus is being in that learning environment and the accountability of going to class, you have to be more responsible. It is easier to get distracted while back at home or off campus in general. USF St. Pete gave me a great environment to get my work done. I really developed a great routine. I was involved in many things which has now been disrupted; ROTC, going to classes, eating at the Reef, volleyball, Delta Sigma Pi. As soon as I got out of that routine, I had a lot of free time but that became the enemy because instead of using it productively, I used it for video games and watching movies.

What things have you found to work well and what has been most challenging when it comes to finishing this semester online?
The university has emailed me many great tips. They understand this a struggle and they are providing as much helpful information as possible. What hasn’t worked out well: distractions on doing this work from home. Technology has also been an issue. Just today, one of my friends tried giving a speech on blackboard and his WiFi isn’t being cooperative, not enough bandwidth.

What have you learned about yourself during this health crisis?
I didn’t realize that my schedule and routine were so important to me and how they impacted my mood. Having that routine and schedule and constantly staying busy kept me happy and focused.

Have you found any good ways to cope with all the current challenges?
Exercise, even just a little, has been very important to me. Getting outside and some fresh air makes me feel better. Video games have been a nice escape as well. Trying to eat healthier too.

Have you picked up any new hobbies or returned to old ones while at home?
Cleaning a lot and counting calories.

Do you have any advice for fellow students?
Get into some sort of routine and schedule and stay on Canvas, look at what is due today and tomorrow.

What’s the one thing you’re looking forward to doing once things are back to normal?
Spending time with friends, going outside and to an amusement park.

Andrea Rodriguez Campos – junior majoring in environmental science and policy and incoming USF St. Petersburg student body governor

How are you doing with all of these changes?
I am trying to stay optimistic as none of us have faced such a situation before. Me being governor for next year, I’m just trying to keep positive to help out the current administration and getting things set for next year for our student body.

What things have you found to work well when it comes to finishing this semester online?
Keeping in contact with your friends is a really good idea, especially in helping to motivate me. I’m really missing being able to sit down with other students to go over class work and just keeping up with friends in general.

What have you learned about yourself during this health crisis?
That it is very hard to self-motivate (laughing). I work when others are working around me and I am missing that experience of being in an office or library around a lot of people, I don’t feel that same enthusiasm. Hopefully it is something I can work and build on during this time, to be able to better self-motivate.

Do you have any advice for fellow students?
Reach out to your friends. You are not alone in this, as everyone else is going through the same situation. Even though you may not directly be affected yet, it’s okay to feel affected. Allow yourself to feel what you are feeling and communicate that with friends and family who are there for you.

What’s the one thing you’re looking forward to doing once things are back to normal?
Going out to eat! That is an easy one. When this is over, I am going out to every single vegan restaurant that I love.