After two and a half semesters of Zoom-education, UR students are ready for a change of pace. The modified schedules for the fall and spring semesters left students without the typical fall or spring break. Sporadic mental health days, one during the fall semester and two during the spring semester, were ineffective in mitigating student stress and burnout. To be clear, UR students are no stranger to burnout, but it has been particularly different this past year due to the academic conditions, global pandemic, and a challenging social climate.
Sophomore Jules Stewart saw a change in this past semester compared to previous COVID-19-impacted semesters. “It’s also been different this semester versus the fall or even spring 2020, because there was a lot more leniency, because everything was new online,” she said. Stewart added that “this semester, professors were like, ‘you guys understand how to do everything online,’ and [they’re] not as lenient in giving extensions or [understanding].”
Echoing Stewart’s experiences, junior Kate Lindsey described her experience burning out faster this past semester than ever before. “COVID[-19] has definitely made the burnout hit quicker,” Lindsey said. “I’d say normally it’s about halfway through the semester, and I feel like at the end of February, I was already done.”
For junior Sophia Stafford, the lack of breaks and excessive time isolated in her room augmented her burnout. “I think a combination of no spring break, being in the library all day doing classes, and not walking around campus and seeing people in class really accelerated it,” she said.
The lack of break translated into “many months of just straight work” for first-year Joel DeVries. He felt that the lack of traditional breaks during the semester did not provide students with apt time to decompress and recharge from the academic course load. Although mental health days were provided, there was no opportunity for an actual break. Instead, he “ended up doing work on those days anyways, just because it was only one day.” He felt that completely removing spring break from the 2021 schedule was a mistake, saying, “Spring break is very important just to give people a break [within] the semester.”
The challenges online courses brought persisted from previous semesters, but seemed especially difficult this semester.
“I’d say focus is probably one of the hardest things, and the fact that […] I’ve had experiences with professors thinking that because things are online, we have more time, which is definitely not the case […] It’s just overwhelming,” Take-Five Scholar Toni Hahn said. “When you have more work and less focus, nothing gets done, and you’re just stressed and it’s an endless cycle.”
Sophomore Elaina Beittel had similar experiences with a never-ending workload. Beittel said, “I just don’t have the motivation to even begin any of my assignments, and it all just piles up and I get super stressed.”
Stewart found it hard to work over Zoom. “Usually when you meet in person to do either group projects or even to go to class, it’s a sense of togetherness that you get,” Stewart said. “When you’re just on the Zoom, it’s you alone and [so I] personally don’t feel as motivated. I think that meeting with people motivates me a lot to try harder and get my work done.”
However, Stewart did not know about available resources to address her burnout. “I know there’s UCC, [but then again] there’s also a huge wait time,” Stewart said. “It could just be that I don’t know what resources exist, because I ignore a lot of emails that I’ve gotten. There’s so many because of everything, so I’ve stopped reading them, so there could be events or other things that are offered that I’m just unaware of right now. This is even normal in normal times — I didn’t really think there were a lot of options for students.”
Students overwhelmingly looked forward to the summer and having a break from school. “I’m hopeful, but it’s almost over,” Lindsey said. “I think I have something to look forward to, because summer is almost here, and we only have about a week left.”