My fourth semester at UT Dallas started just like the previous three. Shortly after Spring semester began, I fell into the routine of my classes and was ready to take on the next 16 weeks. This normality of college life screeched to a halt when the news of COVID-19 emerged. The coronavirus did not seem like an important issue mid-January, but as time went on and the number of cases, diagnosis, and deaths grew, I soon realized that this disease would grow into a pandemic uttered out of my mouth at least once a day. Little did we know, our employers would lay us off, our schools would become desolate, and our social gatherings would all be cancelled. Little did we know, coronavirus would change our lives.

Like many of my peers, I did not take coronavirus seriously at first. I figured before it became a serious problem in China, there would be a vaccine. My false sense of protection would soon be shattered by the growing numbers of infected individuals in China, and then the global spread that soon followed. The first moment I was truly scared was when the local news announced the first case in Collin County. It may sound strange, but I knew something was wrong the second I was able to find parking at school (there were actually green spaces open around noon). Spring break was approaching and UTD students were brainstorming what the future of this semester would look like. After the announcement of online classes instead of in-class sessions from Rice, UTA, and UT Austin, I knew it was likely our school would follow suit. The Friday before spring break, the university sent an email explaining our extra week off and future online class platform. Soon after that, I received a call from my workplace, explaining a 15 day closure.

When you think about the idea of two weeks of no work or school, you would expect to be excited. I wasn’t. Not only was I restricted from setting foot on campus for the rest of the semester, even worse, I wasn’t going to be paid a whole paycheck. I know as of now I am still an employee and I should consider myself lucky, but the future of my job is unforeseen. While my story isn’t as unfortunate as some, please be mindful that this can be a hard time for many financially and emotionally, no matter the circumstances. We are all new to this virus and many individuals are scared, whether it is for their health, their families, their financial future, or their mental well-being.

If you are feeling any stress, anxiety, sadness, or depression during this time, it is understandable and there are always people for you to express these feelings with. Even though we are practicing social distancing, this doesn’t mean social isolation.
Text, call, and video chat with the people you are close to and be open with them about your changing emotional state if you are comfortable.

UTD’s Student Counseling Center is still open remotely. If you are in crisis and need to talk to a mental health professional please call 972-883-8255. You can always find more useful information on their Instagram @utdcounseling.

While reflecting on the recent developments of COVID-19, the most shocking sights, in my opinion, are the empty shelves in grocery stores. The unnecessary hoarding of toilet paper, milk, hand sanitizer, and cleaning products is outrageous. Stores shouldn’t have to resort to portioning an hour of their work day for elders specifically to shop, and we shouldn’t put our elders in the position where they have to go without necessities. I hope this ridiculous pressure to bulk-buy items stops and we, as a society, realize what we are doing to the other people living in our community.

One sight that brightens my mood during this time of isolation and confusion is people reintroducing themselves to their forgotten hobbies. Personally, I have not portioned any of my time for art and music because of school and work this semester. I am sure many of you can agree these hobbies are important parts of yourselves, as they reveal what makes us unique. Paint again. Sing again. Read for entertainment instead of for economics again. Do all the things you have neglected this semester because they are important to you. If you are quarantined at home because of the virus, cherish your time with your significant other(s), family, roommate(s), or whomever you live with. We have been taking these people for granted during the hustle and bustle of our work and school days. I will leave you with a list of new hobbies or activities that can take your mind off of these stressful times and hopefully help spread the positivity that will keep us motivated to keep going.

Please take social distancing seriously
Ride your bike
Take a walk
Enjoy nature
Learn to cook something new
Redefine your self care routine
Outfit plan
Digital creation
Creative writing
Organize your home/room
Play a board game
Prepare your work space for online classes

And most importantly: don’t give up!