Learning the hard way through COVID-19

I teach a class at Jamestown Community College called “Newswriting and Editing.” The coronavirus pandemic has triggered a unique worldwide response.

Because my English class is all about the ins and outs of journalism writing, covering current events is key. Considering this, I decided to assign my students an essay with three coronavirus-related questions as guidelines. I found their responses to be interesting, informative, and insightful. With their permission, I have included essay highlights from four of my students in this column.

First Topic Question:

How have you as an individual responded (and continue to respond) to this unprecedented event?

There were a lot of similarities in the responses to this question.

Mara, who described herself as a “19-year-old, first time college student” and “introvert” admitted that “I should be jumping for joy that school is closed until the end of the semester.” Instead, Mara quickly found herself “wishing I could leave my house.”

Like other working students Mara lost her “non-essential” job as the local gymnastics center that employed her closed down.

With so much time on her hands at home she’s been able to catch up “on some TV shows that I had fallen behind on pre-quarantine.”

Both Mara and other students have admitted that among the greatest challenge of the quarantine is staying motivated with their school work.

Ethan, a student and avid Youtuber conferred.

“I know that personally it takes a lot for me to motivate myself to do school work, and that sometimes I feel as if I am not understanding everything I am working on; there are many professors that are going out of their way to help their students.”

Kristina, an international student from Russia, has been most dramatically impacted by the coronavirus response. At first she had remained in her dorm room in Jamestown, but was eventually sent back home.

“I have no words to describe how shocked I was,” Kristina wrote. “Arriving home, to Russia, I had to spend two weeks in quarantine. It was a required rule for all citizens of Russia, who had arrived from abroad to prevent spreading of the virus. These two weeks were not really that bad; I spent all the time with my parents, and because I had not seen them for a year, we had lots to talk about.”

Second question: What is your perception of how experts, politicians, celebrities, government agencies, hospitals, etc., have responded to the coronavirus?

Meghan, a student with experience writing for the The Post-Journal in Jamestown was critical of those people who have been protesting the quarantine or calling for the quarantine to be lifted prematurely.

“It is putting our hard-at-work care providers, doctors and nurses at more risk and causing them to suffer from more exhaustion.”

Due to the first responder’s sacrifice and due to the chance of the virus getting worse, “I believe we can all suffer through a little more uncomfortableness in being cooped up in our homes?”

Mara was critical of some world leaders, explaining that there was more “they could have done in response to the coronavirus. Leaders weren’t communicating all of the facts and were (spreading) false information.

Mara wrote that she felt that the early run on toilet paper was largely due “every newspaper and news station [reporting] about the rising death tolls, leaving the rising recovery numbers out of the headlines.”

Kristina cited data from a “popular news source in Russia” called “Meduza Magazine”: “As of May 1, Moscow and Moscow county counts the greatest number of coronavirus cases (53,739 confirmed, 611 deaths and 5,135 recovered). Saint Petersburg is in second place (4,062 confirmed, 29 deaths and 779 recovered).

The region, where my family lives (Krasnoyarsk Territory) is in the 22nd position (666 confirmed, 8 deaths, 64 recovered).”

The third question: How has this event changed you and how do you feel this event has changed and will change the world as a whole?

The answers were mostly hopeful and optimistic, but also called vigilance.

Mara: “One person isn’t enough to make a difference. We’re in this fight together and we all share the same common goal: for things to be back to normal. [But] the world will not be the same; we’ll be stepping into a new normal. There’s no use fighting it but learning to accept it and embrace it will make all the difference.”

Ethan: I think that once this all blows over that this situation will make for a reminder to everyone of what can happen. I think that everyday life will be slow to adjust to, and some paranoid people may wear masks after this is all done. I think that whenever it is flu season, some people may choose to wear masks or try to stay inside as a safety precaution, but I do not believe that everyone will panic and that we will all go into lockdown. I think that the only time everyone will be put on lockdown is if anything like the coronavirus happens again.

“I personally cannot wait to finally have the choice on whether or not I want to go outside and see my friends instead of being forced away. I like to have that choice instead of being forced into a situation without choice.”

Kristina: “It’s naive to think that even when the virus will come to an end and the quarantine will be over, everything will be like it used to be before. (The pandemic) is a cruel lesson, which taught us many things. It made us learn how to be isolated from other people, how to be more humane and how to protect ourselves and our families. I don’t think that the virus will cause a mandatory vaccination (process.) There are always people who are against this kind of interference to their immune systems, so it won’t work. But the fear will remain in our minds forever, so it will make us be more careful and safer.”

Meghan: “As far as vaccinations go, I am sure people will still see them the way they want to, good or bad, needed or not. People tailor their lives, situations, and surroundings to best fit their lives the way they see fit. I don’t believe there will be much of a change in this department, sadly.

“More than likely, the election of U.S. Presidency this year will be more biased and controversial than ever. I just hope that people can see and understand that everyone has been living in pretty similar situations as everyone else and settle their emotions and passions come election time.

“Moreover, people will come out of this pandemic the way they want to. Fit, motivated, with a new skill or hobby, or things will fall back into rhythm with how they were. Eventually society will hit its ‘regular’ plateau and life will continue on. Until then, we are mostly all left with waiting, dreaming and hoping for a ‘great big beautiful tomorrow’. Here is hoping we make it out of this safe, sound and content with life, so we all can move forward.

Note: “There’s a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow” is the theme song to two Disney attractions, Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress at the Magic Kingdom of Walt Disney World and Innoventions at Disneyland.

Damian Sebouhian, a former OBSERVER staff writer, is a Dunkirk resident.


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