College During COVID: Student Nina Martinez Shares Her Experience•
Posted on October 26 2020
What college/university do you go to and what are you studying?
I am currently a sophomore at St. Edward's University in Austin, Texas and studying journalism.
What struggles do you face when learning/working at home? Do you like it better this way?
I definitely feel deprived of social interactions. It's not the same interacting with my classmates over Zoom. Luckily, my classes are only 20-30 students, so conversation is more natural and it's not all listening to lectures. I haven't decided if I like it better this way. There are a couple aspects of online learning that make life easier. For example, I live with PTSD, so if I have an attack, I do not have to step out of class and draw attention to myself, I can simply turn off my camera. Time management has been a struggle for me lately. My first semester it was managing coursework, but this semester it's become difficult to find time for myself. Luckily, my dog Fitz gets me out of the house, but mentally taking care of myself has been difficult.
As for my jobs, my communication internship is all remote, so meeting my supervisor for the first time over Zoom was interesting, but she's made my internship a lot of fun and I'm able to get all of my tasks completed. I enjoy this alot because most days we stay on a Microsoft Teams meeting just for company while we both do our work, which has made it less lonely. My other job, I serve as the news editor for our student newspaper. It's been very difficult because I am the youngest on the team I had just gotten print media and editing down, and in a blink of an eye we had to switch all of our reporting and publishing to online.
What is the atmosphere among your colleagues/classmates?
For my classes, they are all pretty much the same. I'm taking 16 hours and only one of my courses is asynchronous. You can kind of tell half of the class is just done with this semester, while the other half is really trying to enjoy it, which is difficult. Our professors try to yield discussions, but that's usually a flop. It's just become a routine and most students just want it to be winter break already so they can stop looking at their screens. I have two professors who are very vocal about mental health and making sure we take care of ourselves. The others are simply trying to get through the semester to, and hold the same expectations from former semesters.
The non-profit I intern for makes remote work much more desirable. Every Monday, we have a meeting and for a good hour my supervisor, me and her colleagues all discuss our weekends and how we're doing. If I didn't have that hour every week, I'm not sure I'd have much inspiration to maintain a good work ethic. The newspaper staff and I are very good about checking in with each other. We're all students and will blatantly explain what we're struggling with or if we need help with managing articles. My jobs are definitely what I look forward to throughout the week. This year as news editor, my team and I have been reporting on the election and preparing for it since August. We've been interviewing local candidates left and right so they know what the young people in Austin look for in a candidate. It's been a lot, but having the rest of the staff help out and remain positive has been very helpful.
How are you staying connected to your friends and family?
I've been a lot better about staying connected with family since the start of COVID-19. Facebook, while incredibly frustrating at times, has been my main source of staying connected with family. I've also gotten a lot closer with my godmother after she moved back to Sugar Land, so it's been nice to have my own kind of guardian angel with me throughout this. We lost someone very dear to us during the pandemic, but the celebration of her life allowed our big family to rekindle some relationships, reminding us of the importance of family. As for staying in touch with friends, that's been a real difficulty. I don't have much time to communicate with my friends between work and school, and I'm working on that. While we may only send each other funny tweets through Twitter, there is the occasional FaceTime call every couple of weeks, where we just unload everything and catch up.
What do you find inspiring currently? / What do you find keeps you motivated?
I recently moved back home from Austin, and seeing how faith-filled my community/hometown is has inspired me to return to my faith. Also, the reminder that while things might not be the same when this ends, but have the potential to be better has kept me going. I'm also in the process of receiving my yoga certification and it contains a lot of self-reflection which gets me excited for a better me.
How has this impacted you emotionally?
I am learning so much about myself throughout these times. I am learning how to set boundaries, respect myself and how to spend quality time with myself. I'm a very social person and used to need to be around people all of the time, but I've learned to truly enjoy my own company. The more time I find on my hands, the more transparent the issues in our country tend to be. So having this time has inspired me to fight for change.
Has your style changed during the pandemic?
Oh, definitely. I went from really thinking about my outfits when I lived in Austin, to wearing pajamas everyday over the summer being stuck inside. When school and work picked back up again, I realized I could just dress up for myself, and that I deserve to feel good in what I'm wearing even if no one is there to see it. I've always been a bargain hunter, so that hasn't changed much, much I've become more of a minimalist and able to make new outfits with basics in my closet.
What have been your go to activities to stay busy?
I occasionally go on runs with my dog, but mainly a lot of long strolls around the city or neighborhood. I've picked back up on yoga, since I'm working toward my Vinyasa certification. I've enjoyed baking so much and have cooked through Joanna Gaines' Magnolia cookbook at least four times this year. Over quarantine I've binged Schitt's Creek (which I adore and wish they didn't end it), The Simpsons, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Reba and Friday Night Lights. I've also been reading a lot of Texas Monthly and read the wonderful Delia Owens' Where the Crawdads Sing.
Have your education/career goals changed due to the pandemic?
When I first began as a journalism major I used to share my "big girl" dream of becoming the Editor-in-Chief of the New York TImes or Washington Post. However, my internship with the non-profit Foundation Communities has allowed my writing to focus on community issues and aspects. My career goals have changed as I now think I would better enjoy reporting or editing for a local newspaper, so I feel that sense of community instead of the intense competition I would find at those bigger papers. The pandemic allowed me to understand that community and community issues are just as important as national reporting. While it is still a dream of mine to report on national events and issues, I feel that I could serve my hometown and surrounding towns more efficiently and also gain better relationships.
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