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Sitting on a dock, I see the still water move with each breath of wind, the scattered ducks enjoying the sun and the vast forest that resembles a head of broccoli. I’m writing this article while enjoying a picturesque view, breathing fresh, cool air.
If I were at campus right now, I would be sitting in a stuffy apartment, trying to ignore the sound of honking cars, the creaking movements of my building and the occasional shouts from the alley. I can say with full confidence I prefer the green, vibrant woods of northern Wisconsin.
While my opinion is in the minority and is enabled by a position of privilege, there is value to exploring the emotional upside of remote learning.
The sudden removal from the hectic environments of most college campuses presents a unique window to grow and heal for those college students who are prone to anxiety and depression. Historically, more than 60 percent of college students in the U.S. experience extreme anxiety, according to a national survey by the American College Health Association. Additionally, more than 40 percent of college students typically report difficulty functioning due to severe depression.
At the cost — or relief — of leaving our families, college is representative of the eagerly anticipated notion of independence. We carefully place this idea on a pedestal that may cloud our ability to recognize the innate obstacles of leaving our support systems. Until we are college students, we are blissfully unaware of what higher education really entails.
We college students are expected to go-go-go; we may pretend to be the know-it-alls who, in order to make it in the real world, have to prove our intelligence and ambition by any means possible.
We fear we are nobody until someone decides we are somebody.
And if academic pressures weren’t enough, we have to adhere to the broad and omnipresent social expectations created by our peers in order to fit in. We do this out of the fear of being ostracized in a home that isn’t really home. We have to prove our multi-tasking abilities by socializing all night and attending 8 a.m. lectures because hey — college is all about academia and social connections.
Add in some gym time to stay in shape, some partying — even if it doesn’t fit our personalities and before you know it, in the name of finding independence, we are exhausted, stressed, and certainly not prioritizing our emotional health.
That, unfortunately, is how the game goes.
It’s for these reasons remote learning is a gift in disguise, and a new college game is born. Removing ourselves from campus has provided an opportunity to challenge ourselves in different ways, and to re-establish what we thought we were doing in college in the first place.
Instead of functioning on the clock of set expectations, academic and social demands and too much of everything, we can listen to ourselves and perhaps know better our individual wants and needs. We can more deeply understand the personal things that help us reach our goals while nurturing our spirit.
I mean seriously, it really can’t get better than attending class in the comfort of our rooms, wearing PJs and sipping tea.
Wherever you are, this is an opportunity to transform a restricted chapter of life into a chapter of growth. We can grow by directing our energy to our friends, family and self without the looming pressure of having to study, apply and connect. We can bake bread and watch a movie without feeling incompetent.
We might make time to learn a new skill that isn’t motivated by a resume. But most importantly, this is an opportunity to develop a connection with our authentic Self and to be thoughtful and intentional in our actions, beliefs and goals.
While this pandemic is considered unprecedented, the opportunity for college students to realign their energy is also unprecedented.