- Dr.Namrata GR Raut
As Covid-19 hit the world in December of 2019, it took the entire world by storm. When I look back in December of 2019, I was wrapping up the dissertation and looking for post-doctoral fellowships. Covid-19, caused by virus belonging to Coronaviridae family introduced uncertainty into major aspects of national and global society, including schools. Be it junior or high school or university, all the students and teachers were in dilemma for the next step. We had to wrap up all the lab work for indefinite times and all the in-person classes were changed to online without any data on how it is going to affect the academic achievements. Lack of data, circulation of myths, making guesses on how and when the students will return in-person learning, multiple questions regarding the virus created so much anxiety everywhere. Preliminary data did not hint at the health risks associated with the virus and there was a lack of data on online learning against the educational needs of the students, that prime concern of the educational leaders.
Being an international student in the USA, we must be enrolled in a certain number of in-person classes to maintain good standing. Student life is overwhelming with classes, assignments, extracurricular activities, and work schedule in university. On top of this, the changing rules coming from the authority were creating so much distress among the students. Closing of on-campus housing, dining, and academic building created enormous pressure on the student of what to do next? Local students had a home to go but international students were in a dilemma of what to do for food and housing. For graduating students, the stress was even maximized as they had to apply for paperwork for work-authorization. Meanwhile talking to my friends on-campus, chatting with some of them and phone calls gave me an idea of everyone was affected around me. Be it, my friends, in the USA or Nepal, we all had our battle to fight. So many of my friend in Nepal were losing their jobs, that created so much economical crisis. The first case of Covid-19 being detected in mid-January in the USA, as the number increases, so many myths started to circulate as well. Different social media platforms made circulation even easier. So much unvalidated news started to make its place in a different form of messages. Scientists authenticated the use of a facemask and six feet distance slows down the spread of covid-19, but many were seen without maintaining the distance or wearing a mask at the grocery store, shopping mall, or restaurants.
As the Covid-19 was increasing, it took a toll on me when my uncle got positive for Covid-19. Knowing the health risks of Covid-19, it was visceral for me to contemplate the occurrence of Covid-19 in the family. With none of the underlying conditions, the test came negative for my uncle after 21 days and it was a relief for the entire family. He is active, not any underlying medical conditions, healthy food habits, still, the toll of the virus was bad. Reading scientific journals from different researchers working on Covid-19, data suggests the long-lasting effect of the virus on the respiratory, cardiovascular, and nervous system and it is sad to hear that Covid-19 being a hoax. So, all these uncertainties had created an impact on psychology apart from physical health. What helped me to cope up with these situations was to talk to my friends in the USA and family in Nepal. Zoom, Skype, etc. helped to get the work done. Physical health can be gained back in the small time frame but if there is a mental toll, and if it is not addressed can create havoc in the long run and the outcome can be devastating. Still, talking to psychologists is considered taboo, and frowned upon, so talking to a closed one always helps. Talking to friends and how it feels to be out of work, not having a regular schedule, not having a day to interact, not having a personal meeting helps to know their point of view. A simple text from a friend or siblings like, “Hey What’s up! How are you doing” not only brightens the inbox but also lifts the confidence and gives a sense of belonging. We always tend to take our friends and family for granted but at difficult times like this, they are the ones who can pull you out of the darkness. This unprecedented time helped me to value the persons in my life even more. As of now, we have many candidates on the vaccine, so hopefully, we all will get back to normalcy soon.
((Writer Dr. Namrata GR Raut is a Post-doctoral Fellow at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical center, Cincinnati, Ohio, USA)