Throughout this global pandemic, there have been a variety of different hardships that people have had to face. It’s definitely been a rollercoaster of emotions for a large amount of the world. For students, professors and everyone else experiencing this pandemic, their experiences have been entirely different. In March 2020, we all experienced quarantine for the first time which we can all pretty much say was a shared experience in general, but that doesn’t mean those times we spent and what we did were similar experiences. I recently interviewed a fourth-year social work major here at West Chester, Ashley Gal. We touched on her experience as a student, member of a large family and employee that never stopped working regardless of the pandemic. We touch on aspects of mental health, worklife, social life and more.
Ashley Gal majors in social work and during the entirety of the pandemic never got a break from working. Her field, specifically, encountered some hardships during the pandemic resulting in difficulty providing home-visits, office life, etc.
How has your life been affected since the pandemic began? Has your work life changed? Social life?
Ashley: For work it’s been drastically affected, for sure. With the guardianship of older adults, we need to see clients one or more times a month and a lot of our clients live in nursing homes or assisted living areas. So that resulted in challenges because all of the homes were shut down. Doing home visits in the beginning of COVID, especially, were almost not possible because of the lack of knowledge of what COVID was, how it could be spread, how to protect ourselves and our clients, etc. Switching to Zoom at work to be able to see clients was extremely difficult because not everyone is knowledgeable on how to work Zoom. Even in court hearings, we had to use Zoom. Only up until the past two weeks or so, has that been changing too.
Even finding clients, meeting clients, it was all very difficult. At the beginning, it was masks 24/7. So even not knowing what my co-workers looked like was confusing. I wasn’t sure if I saw them on the street I’d be able to recognize them. Going to home visits we even would have to wear gowns and gloves, being cautious for ourselves and the homes we were visiting with immunocompromised clients. Interning at Generations Lifecare in the spring of 2021, then getting hired by the summer, was really lucky for me. These days, in the office, we don’t need to wear masks. We’re all vaccinated and boosted. So that brought a lot of comfort to us in the office.
As for social life, it really sucked, honestly. By May 2020, it started slowly coming back to life I felt. I was keeping my circle small and just seeing the same people at socially distant measures. As for my academic life, right when we initially went online for school, it was like we weren’t even in school. Then the 2020–2021 school year was a lot of mental exhaustion because I felt like I was staring at screens all day. I would sit around all day and still be tired, but couldn’t shake that. Now it’s starting to feel like we’re back and we’re getting a sense of normalcy.
Would you say the pandemic was overall a positive or negative outcome for you personally in your own growth?
That’s an interesting question honestly. I feel like you obviously want to say it was negative because a lot of people’s lives were challenged, people died, people had to drop out of school, there were global financial challenges. I have to say I’m very fortunate I was able to just move home and was able to actually get very healthy. I had time to work out more and hang out with my family a lot more. Being together that much made us even closer, not to say there weren’t times when I was over it. The first two months of that initial lockdown, when no one really knew what was going on, I was able to hike everyday. I could work out in my garage, and live a life that was not ruptured. I was able to live in my own little bubble. Granted, come summer I was fortunate enough to keep my circle small and surround myself with people I knew were also taking safety precautions. My biggest fear was bringing it home to my parents, but luckily, none of us got sick at that time. It may sound selfish, but I was able to truly grow a lot and find myself more during that time that I don’t think I could have if lockdown, or even the pandemic itself, didn’t happen.
How has COVID impacted you mentally? Why?
I think it gave me a lot of time to grow mentally. I don’t know if I would have taken the time to grow if I wasn’t forced to be the way I was. There were definitely times that it was harder because of the uncertainty of it all. Being online in school was definitely easier to get stuck in these ruts that everyday was going to be the same. Pushing through those things was definitely hard for me, trying to shake that sense of being trapped. Not being able to go anywhere even while living in West Chester at my apartment, it was where I woke up, slept, hung out, ate, etc. It was definitely just hard at times, but answering this question today, I would say that I’m good. I definitely think that from the start, to what seems like, finish of COVID, I was forced to grow into who I am now.
What are your feelings towards the pandemic seeming like we may be nearing the end?
I do get we’re basing it off of the numbers, but I am apprehensive on the one random day in the middle of classes, we just get to take masks off. I am definitely thinking about professors who had no idea about the announcement seeing their students taking masks off, or students who have a health concern and the person sitting next to them rips their mask off. There just didn’t seem to be much of a warning. Someone that’s been consistently wearing their mask for the entirety of COVID, must be terrified that people around them are just embracing this random no-mask lifestyle suddenly. I personally am ready to be done, as I’m sure most people are. I’m ready to know what everyone looks like the first time I meet them, and being able to see expressions on people’s faces. I’m excited to see what my professors actually look like, my clients, etc. The future of it all seems a little freaky just because I wonder what the colder months will bring. If a new strand, or masks come back, what that life will look like since we’re just now adjusting to the no mask life.
The pandemic has impacted a lot of lives in so many different ways, but there’s a sense of comfort to know that there were a lot of people struggling in similar ways. We don’t all cope the same way, and everyone’s experience is their own, but everyone can relate to others on some level.
Yasmin Schepis is a fourth-year English B.A Major with minors in Journalism and Literature & Diverse Cultures.