CYPRESS — As the pandemic continues, so has Lone Star College-CyFair Professor Robert O’Brien’s journal project – an opportunity for his students living in this most unprecedented of times to share their frustrations, fears and hopes through a unique narrative.
“We are in the midst of a historic, worldwide event that has been disruptive for everyone,” O’Brien said. “I tell my students they are creating something that not only will be used by future historians, but be shared with their future children and grandchildren.”
The extra credit pandemic journals began in the spring when a fellow history professor shared the idea she had gotten from a friend who teaches in California. O’Brien modified the objective for his students to reflect their own experiences living through the Coronavirus Pandemic of 2020. This fall semester, students will not only write about the pandemic, but also the upcoming presidential election, which may be the most important of this lifetime.
“I felt like I got to know these students much better through their journals,” O’Brien said. “Most of the students said they were glad they did it and some told me it was therapeutic. With other students I saw personal growth.”
The experiences O’Brien’s students shared were as diverse as the students themselves. Two students knew people who died from COVID-19. Some worked in a nursing home, a pulp and paper manufacturing company and a hotel when the pandemic first began. Others were parents worried about their children or students concerned about their family’s business and livelihood.
The students wrote about their perspectives on a variety of topics from COVID closures and re-openings of businesses to news coverage. They expressed feelings from handling school assignments and/or employment to safety concerns and worries for the health and well-being of family and friends. They shared observances and behaviors of society and themselves.
Below are some excerpts from journals including Sarah Alvarez, a nursing student who shared how she felt one particular week she was “strange.”
“I think that the best way to describe what I am feeling, and what this time is, is the example of a pendulum swinging back and forth, from one end to the other. It is always changing, always on either end, briefly passing through the middle,” said Alvarez. “I contradict myself, officials and doctors do the same, and some days things get better, other days they get worse.”
Ronda Shivok was a mom with many emotions. She was first scared to leave home, then blessed when the “Stay Home, Work Safe” order came and then concerned for her daughter as businesses re-opened.
“Grocery stores are open but shelves are continuously empty as everyone was hoarding and trying to have food for a quarantine …. I felt safer working from home alongside my kids as they began their online learning lessons from school,” she said. ”My daughter, who works for a restaurant, returned back to her college town and to work. I worry about her but understand….”
Tyler Nuckols, an essential worker in a manufacturing company, said they had to check their temperatures before going to work and he had three masks. He would shower as soon as he got home from work and wash the masks every day.
“To me, the only way to get rid of the virus is to make everyone to stay home or let everyone go out and contract it. The first option of course is the most moral of the two. I don’t think the second option should be considered,” he said. “We will see if the local government can influence the national government and stop them from opening up the country too soon and endanger millions of people.”
Some students like Trinity Joshua said focusing on school was hard during this time of uncertainty.
“Why should I read 100 pages of the women’s rights movement, learn about how to make speeches, or discuss the different meanings of kinship in the world when people are getting sick, losing jobs, unable to do their school or get food, and more all around me? It feels so unimportant,” she said.
“Unifying in that literally every place is dealing with it and everyone is dealing with loss of job, loss of family/friends, online school, trying to stay safe, panic buying, etc. Sad in that you can’t go anywhere to escape it, and death is in every nation.”
Amanda Romero, in her “not ideal freshman year of college,” said she made the best of her time and created a quarantine routine that included working out, which refreshed her mind and made her feel empowered.
”I think I learned a lot about myself and what are the best ways that work for me to maximize my self-discipline and productivity,” she said. “Hopefully, I can fully incorporate these habits I’ve developed during quarantine into my daily, normal, corona-free life.”
No one knows what the aftermath of this pandemic will be, so in the meantime, precautions are in place as students return to school, businesses adapt to circumstances and everyone waits for vaccines.
Discussions are underway to archive journals and other pandemic projects in the college library and possibly in a digital exhibition at some point.
Helping more than 23,000 students reach their academic and career goals, Lone Star College-CyFair is the 5th comprehensive college in the Lone Star College System, located at 9191 Barker Cypress Road just three miles south of U.S. Highway 290. Start close and go far at LSC-CyFair as well as at LSC-Cypress Center, located at 19710 Clay Road and LSC-Westway Park Technology Center, located at 5060 Westway Park Boulevard. For more information about LSC-CyFair and its programs, call 281.290.3200 or visit LoneStar.edu/cyfair.
Lone Star College offers high-quality, low-cost academic transfer and career training education to 99,000 students each semester. LSC is training tomorrow’s workforce today and redefining the community college experience to support student success. Stephen C. Head, Ph.D., serves as chancellor of LSC, the largest institution of higher education in the Houston area with an annual economic impact of nearly $3 billion. LSC consists of six colleges, 10 centers, two university centers, Lone Star Corporate College and LSC-Online. To learn more, visit LoneStar.edu.
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