18.2 million students are going through something we’ve never experienced. Let’s cut them some slack.
At this time, two years ago, my ass was firmly planted at the New Bar on campus at University College Cork. Seated with two close friends, we had our 4 pm happy hour before going to one of our most tedious modules. Sipping on pints, we discussed our dissertation topics, our advisors’ unrealistic expectations, and whether or not Kanye committed social suicide by suggesting slavery was a choice.
As I spend this quarantine with my family, I find myself reflecting on my college experience quite a bit. Those were simpler times. I was surrounded by friends and learning nearly every day. When I was home alone, I was usually procrastinating by bingeing Homeland or building highly curated Spotify playlists. Maybe if I had time to get to it, I’d work on my dissertation. There was chaos roiling under the surface, of course, but things were predictable. School, deadlines, and my friends weren’t going anywhere.
Three weeks ago, my sister came home from college for her spring break. In the 21 days since then, her social life, education, future plans, and concept of personal space have all been turned inside out. Instead of chugging Red Bull at 2 am and cramming for a paper, she’s got me asking her every hour, “Hey, how’s that paper coming?” Instead of partying Thursday night through Sunday’s darty, she’s watching Tiger King and taking pictures of our pets. And classes? Forget chatting with your professor after class, partnering up with that cute classmate, or starting a study group. She’s on her own, and she’ll be lucky to learn half as much in a virtual classroom as she would have in a physical one.
You’re telling me my professor who can’t stop the YouTube autoplayer from playing the next video is going to teach classes online? This should be good.
— Nikki Insana (@NikkiInsana) March 11, 2020
Students are lost on what comes next. And their professors are too.
I am a:
In search of:
⚪️ a 4.0
⚪️ A free trip to Hawaii
✅ emails from my professors about how online lectures are going to work
— keegan (@keeg_u_9) March 15, 2020
No matter your age, you probably know one of these nice Gen Z kids who are recently displaced college students. They’ve been forced out of their dorms, moved onto online learning platforms, sent home to their parents (if they have any to stay with), stripped of their friendship circles, and asked to assimilate to their family dynamic with no warning or prep time. So when you see these young adults on their phones chatting with a friend, aimlessly walking the neighborhood for a change of scenery, or snarking off to their parents, remember this. They just had the rug pulled out from under them, and they’re just as lost and confused as the rest of us. Cut them some slack. Send them a funny meme. Tell them it’s okay to feel upset. And help them find a new normal.
Devon McGrath is an academic researcher turned podcast producer, content creator, and Director of Operations for Punk Rock HR. When she’s not working, you can find her roaming State Parks, hunting for a new great album to listen to, or sitting on the patio at a local brewery.