A survey done by the Graduate School of Education at Harvard University showed that 36 percent of respondents, and 61 percent of respondents aged 18 to 25, said that they felt lonely almost all the time during the pandemic. Now, students are back in person and once again part of a community, but while returning to in-person school may seem like a joyful experience for many, some students have had concerns about the transition.
Aaron Hurtado, a freshman, said, “I don’t really want schools to close again.” This is a sentiment many students feel, and is a motive for us all to persevere during this transition.
To find out more about these complicated feelings students are having about coming back to school, the Jacket talked to Diamond King, an Individual Education Plan (IEP) counselor at Berkeley High School (BHS). He agreed that although many students were happy to come back to campus, there was a shared concern of what might have been forgotten during a year of isolation.
King explained that students were anxious about once again finding their place in a community. “Interactions between humans in person [are] a lot different than [over] Zoom or the telephone — all these thoughts and energy that you want to get out — and just figuring out yourself within a group is tough in itself,” said King.
Jennifer Kapczynski, an associate marriage and family therapist, has been working with teenagers and adults throughout the pandemic. She also worked for two years at the Albany High School’s mental health department for her training, until June of last year. Kapczynski understands how the sudden transition from a year of isolation to an overwhelming number of people can cause anxiety.
When asked about specific concerns she has discussed with teenagers, she said, “COVID-19 clearly is not done with us, so there is a lot of anxiety about how to stay safe.” Kapczynski explained that a big stressor for some was relying on others to adhere to safety protocols and being able to tolerate risk in an environment where being safe is not always in your control. “Schools tend to be loud, busy, active places,” she said. Therefore, it will take a period of readjustment for us all to feel completely normal after being away from that environment for so long.
Both King and Kapczynski emphasized the importance of letting ourselves have the time to readjust to a physical school environment. After a year of isolation and stress, going back to school will be no easy feat.
“Your nervous system and senses are in the world and they’re engaging with a level of information that they probably have not had for a long time,” Kapczynski said. “That’s a lot to take in and digest psychically. Socially, it’s reasonable to expect that you’re a little rusty.”
It may be a while before students feel perfectly at home again at school, but King and Kapczynski have some tips to help calm these worries. They both highlighted the importance of talking and sharing feelings with others, and said it’s a good way to find comfort in this sudden change of scenery from a lonely, online world to a busy school environment. They encouraged students to find things that make them happy, whether it’s a hobby or hanging out with a friend. This is a strange time for all of us, and it involves new and complicated feelings about our changing world. King reminded us as a community to be patient because “we’re all in this together; we’re all pretty much relearning this together.”