Lately I’ve seen a trending idea that COVID-19 quarantine is an opportunity to create the world’s next masterpiece…like how Shakespeare wrote King Lear when he was in quarantine for the plague. It’s great if people take inspiration from this. But it just makes me feel depressed. It’s true that I have lots of time on my hands. But I don’t have the mental energy necessary to do anything, because I’m too anxious.
(Here’s a little crochet version of the virus I made as a form of exposure therapy.)
I know I’m not alone in this. The pandemic is scary! We are living in unprecedented times, and it’s normal to be nervous. What’s important is not letting that anxiety completely take over. Easier said than done, I know, but I encourage you to take a deep breath. I’m here to tell you that whatever you’re feeling, you’re not alone, and we’re going to make it through this together.
It’s OK if all you do is make it through the day. It’s OK if your big accomplishment for the day is taking a shower, or doing a little bit of homework. It’s OK if all you can do is plug along, because that’s how we’re going to get through this.
I’d like to share a quote that holds a lot of meaning for me. It’s from John Green’s book Turtles All the Way Down, about a young woman who lives with OCD. The quote is: “Your now is not your forever.” I’ve had this quote displayed on my wall for the past several years, and it’s more important now than ever. Now is scary. Now is uncertain. But it’s not going to last forever.
It’s safe to say I was worried about what was going to happen when the coronavirus finally hit Portland. I was extremely ill over winter break and for most of this term, and have been dealing with a lot of trauma about what happened to me. Some of those trauma symptoms were exacerbated by staying inside for long periods of time — and that’s what I was about to do as coronavirus continued to spread.
I was unsure how my mental health would be impacted, especially with not being able to work as much as usual. I’m a productive person and getting things done is what makes me happy and fulfilled. Sometimes getting through a single two-day weekend at home was difficult, but I felt strongly about wanting to keep myself and others safe and therefore resigned to stay home. I had fought really hard to keep myself going to classes and work this term, battling physical and mental symptoms, and when I felt like I had finally reached a point of things being okay, I was about to be thrown into the fire I had spent so much time gently easing into.
Surprisingly, though, things have taken a turn for the better. I think I’ve been so occupied with keeping tabs on friends and family members and others affected by the coronavirus that I haven’t had time to worry about myself. A lot of my anxieties have faded, and I’ve had a lot to work on to keep myself busy. I usually prefer to take one or two online classes alongside one or two in-person classes, so I wasn’t entirely unfamiliar with our new format. I definitely miss being on our beautiful campus, but I’m grateful for the opportunity to still attend classes.
I’ve found that keeping a daily routine, eating healthy, trying to get outside for walks, and keeping busy has helped my mental health a lot. I’m looking forward to being on campus again, but I’m glad that I’m not putting myself or others at risk, and I’m thankful that my body seems to have decided to give me a break from my amplified anxiety.
I’m very thankful that I am safe and healthy and all of my loved ones and friends are too. Continuing to hear about some of the things going on can be anxiety-inducing, but I try to watch how much I’m checking the news and reading stories and balance it out with things that I enjoy. Hopefully, things will be back to normal soon.
I knew that I wanted to squeeze in some more volunteer work this term, in order to feel as prepared as possible for my application to my graduate program in the fall. However, I was almost out of the house 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. already, and wasn’t sure if I would be able to make time to add another commitment on. I heard from a couple of my psychology professors that crisis counseling was a great way to break into psychology volunteering, but to be honest, I was a little intimidated by thinking of going to a center, taking calls, and essentially getting empathy exhaustion. Then, I’d have to go home at night and probably go to sleep right after, which I knew wouldn’t help me feel cheery.
With a bit of research, I found I could actually apply for a volunteer position with a text line and take conversations on my laptop. I’ve only been doing it for a little over a month, but to be honest, I wish I had started much sooner. I really appreciate the ability to choose my schedule, and change it week to week. There’s also the ability to debrief with other counselors when hard conversations happen, and you receive constant support from your supervisor.
It is tough though, especially when you can tell someone doesn’t feel better after talking with you, and there’s not much more you can do for them. My hardest conversations are with younger people that text in, and may have a harder time understanding that we can’t say or do certain things for them when they’re clearly in need. But I’m glad that I’m giving some of my time each week to volunteering and offering my trained and compassionate ears to people that really, really need it.
I currently put in about four or five hours each week, shifting back and forth between splitting that up into two days and doing it all on Saturday. However, over spring break, I’ll probably be putting in a lot more time.
It’s great practice for my future as a therapist to learn to leave it behind when I close my laptop and to learn that you can’t fix everything for someone, only be there for them to provide support, resources, and validation of what they’re going through. But that’s still pretty special, in my opinion. It can weigh on me sometimes, and it’s not for everyone, but I think I’ll probably be volunteering for a long time.
Finals week is fast approaching, and spring break will be here before we know it! Many students are already thinking about reselling their textbooks and can’t wait to toss their notes. However, I’d argue that there are benefits to keeping class materials.
Old assignments can be useful in future classes
Keeping graded essays from previous courses has been helpful to me in the past, because they can help me ascertain what instructors look for in good papers. Of course, all professors are different, with their own pet peeves and preferences. However, if one instructor makes a constructive remark, chances are that advice can be applied to future assignments with future instructors. For example, in an English composition course I took in community college, the instructor gave us a handout with a list of mistakes English instructors are tired of seeing, ranging from grammatical errors to flaws in logic. This has been an incredibly helpful list to have around as I’ve continued my academic journey. Past research papers have also become a resource — if I didn’t use a source in a previous paper, I can use it in a future paper on the same topic, or use that source as a starting point for future research.
Keeping old materials can help you get your money’s worth
Let’s face it: college is expensive, and human brains are flawed when it comes to retaining information long-term. The notes you scrawl in Statistics and the study guide you fashion for French have value in both time and money. Saving materials from a past class is a way of preserving what you’ve learned, especially if it’s been a long time since you’ve taken the class.
Let’s say you took time off between Class 101 and Class 102. If you kept your course materials, you’d have easy access to what you learned in 101 to refresh your memory before taking 102. Also, you wouldn’t have to pay to take the course again or spend hours combing through Google trying to cobble together a free crash course. Even when you don’t take a hiatus from your education, you forget a lot over school breaks, and having materials around to review before going back can be helpful! Not to mention, the resale value for books is far less than the original price, so if your text has valuable information or you’ll want to read it again, it might be worth it to just keep it.
Looking over old work can be enjoyable
It’s validating to look back at my writing from years ago and see how I’ve improved. Depending on the course, re-reading old handouts and texts can also be fun! For example, I’ve kept books from my literature classes I particularly enjoy. A textbook from my Interpersonal Communications class at my last college sits on my shelf, because it holds information on skills and situations that will help me throughout my life — not just within the quarter I took that class.
How do you select what class materials to keep?
Quality over quantity: it’s important to pare down your notes, books, and assignments to what’s relevant. Here are some tips when deciding what to keep:
Is the information novel, or basic? Is this information you could find from a cursory Google search?
Is this course relevant to your major? Did you learn things that would apply to future classes?
Is this a difficult topic for you, and would it help you to review the concepts before taking the next course in the sequence?
Do you enjoy the subject? Were the readings interesting, and if you enjoyed the texts, would it make financial sense to keep them instead of selling them?
If it’s an assignment, is the instructor’s feedback constructive? Did you learn something valuable?
Do you have the physical or digital space to store old materials?
At the end of every term, I ask myself these questions while I comb through my class materials to help me narrow down what to save. This method has helped me determine what’s useful to toss or sell, and what’s useful to keep around.
I have a small archive of class materials from previous courses that I keep in binders, and I thumb through everything periodically. Some people might raise an eyebrow at this collection, but this works for me, and a similar system might help you during your time in college.
It’s that time of the term again. Finals are right around the corner, assignment deadlines are looming, and the time slot to complete all of these tasks is decreasing with each passing day. Now here we are, nine weeks into winter term with only two more to go. For some of us, myself included, these upcoming weeks bring in an odd combination of stress and excitement as we look forward to the completion of a term but worry about the process getting there. To take some much-needed rest and decompress before spring term, here are some fun examples of what I like to do in Portland as it gets warmer.
1. Try new food
Portland is well-known for its food carts, and with so many to choose from, it is very easy to get out there and try new things. For me, I love some of the local food carts on-campus including Poompui Thai, Portland Gyro, and La Casita.
2. Go to the Portland Markets
Portland has a large community dedicated to homemade goods, crafted products, and locally sourced ingredients. Two of my favorite markets are the Portland Farmers Market at PSU and the Portland Saturday Market down at the waterfront. For foodies who want to try new cuisines and get freshly grown ingredients, the farmers market is the place for you! The market at the waterfront is an excellent spot to listen to music, try new foods, and explore works from many local artists.
3. Take a hike
Portland has so many scenic hikes that are worth going on, and some are very close to campus! Take a trip to Council Crest, Washington Park, and even hike up to the Pittock Mansion. It’s great to take advantage of the nice Portland weather to explore what the city and surrounding areas have to offer.
In my initial years at PSU, I lived in the Ondine Residence Hall. With newfound independence of living “alone” (or rather with a roommate and not with my parents), I wanted to get a pet to keep me company. One of the major difficulties as an out-of-state student, however, is having to travel more to go home and visit family. Because of this, my parents advised me against getting a pet as I frequently took the bus to go home over long weekends. As this is my last year, I decided over the summer to finally get a pet; a little 10-week-old kitten named Bella. I have not regretted this decision and love her so much, but there are many considerations that should be taken before getting an animal.
For those who are interested, consider both your current and future housing status. The PSU dorms do not allow animals unless they are emotional support or service animals. Additionally, many other off-campus housing options do not permit pets either. This is a major consideration, as getting an animal may dictate your ability to rent in both the present and the future.
Another factor in making this decision is the financial implications. Having a pet is very rewarding but can be very expensive. In my case, I adopted a kitten and had to pay for numerous shots and treatments that are necessary for them. In addition, it was quite pricey to pay for the essential items including a litter box, litter, food, toys, and more.
Finally, do you have time for the pet? In my early years at PSU, I certainly did not. Pets, especially in their early years, require a lot of playtime and attention. This is definitely a major consideration as you do not want your pet to feel neglected.
While there is a lot to consider, having an emotional support animal has been very beneficial to me in my last year at school. Do what is best for you and your future animal.
One of the main reasons I chose PSU is because I could live at home and commute to college. I didn’t want to live away from my family for that long, and the dorms were too expensive, so commuting was the perfect solution. After three and a half years of taking the bus, I’m far from a master of public transportation, but I’m much more comfortable with it than I was when I started. And I have some tips to share with anybody in the same shoes.
The best tool you can have as a commuter is a good bag. My backpack has held up through my entire college career, and I suspect it will keep going for many more years. As cool as messenger bags look, they’re terrible on your back. For me, nothing can take the place of a reliable backpack. Mine has side pockets to store my water bottle.
TriMet is a great way of getting around Portland. They recently started a low-income fare program. If you’re a broke college student like me, you just might be eligible. You get to ride the bus, Max, and streetcar for half the price, which has been a lifesaver for me. (Don’t forget you can ride the streetcar for free with your PSU student ID!) The TriMet transit tracking app is useful for knowing when your bus will show up, which means you can time your commute so you don’t have to wait outside for so long.
If you’re going to be walking around after dark, it’s important to have a light – you can clip it to your backpack for easy access. You also may want to consider self-defense, whether that’s taking a class or getting some pepper spray. For safety reasons, I always make sure somebody knows where I am and when I plan to be home. I encourage you to make a safety plan, too.
Another thing I like having in my backpack is my Kindle, which I use to read ebooks while I commute. It’s amazing how much reading you can get done that way. Or you can listen to audiobooks, podcasts, or your favorite music. It makes the commute go by much faster. Now I look forward to my bus rides…they’re a fun part of my day.