Through this experience in interviewing a few different people about their pandemic experiences I truly learned a lot more than I thought I would. I interviewed mainly young people in the same position as me, a college freshman who was a senior in high school when the pandemic started, but I also interviewed my mother who works as a librarian with a lot of community and public interaction. With that being said, telling stories in times of trauma can clearly help all kinds of people connect and learn from each other, and from there help everyone remember they’re never alone, which can possibly make hard times at least a tiny bit easier.
Starting off with the three interviews I conducted with friends of mine who are currently finishing their freshman years of college, I discussed with them big challenges of switching to online learning, struggles with mental health, as well as a few other things. Going into these three interviews I definitely expected most of the answers I got, but I didn’t realize how interesting it would be to hear stories that were very similar to mine, but also so unique in their own ways. For example, I asked all of these interviewees “As a senior in high school when the pandemic started, what would you say was the biggest challenge in switching to online classes to finish off your high school career?” and I got basically a different answer from each person, each having a different struggle. In my first interview with my friend Trinity she said the biggest challenge was having to complete most of the schoolwork without much help or guidance, my next friend Grace talked about the overall challenge of finding motivation, and my last friend Sam talked about how with online school it was easy to not care about schoolwork anymore. This relates back to the article I read before interviewing titled “The Impact of COVID-19 on Student Experiences and Expectations: Evidence from a Survey” by Esteban Aucejo that discussed just what the title suggests. Aucejo writes, “Moreover, approximately 50% of our sample separately reported a decrease in study hours and in their academic performance” (Aucejo 1). The challenges presented by all three interviewees relate back to this statistic as schoolwork was hard for a number of reasons, which all three answers suggest. All of their challenges during this time were different, but everyone definitely had them, and I myself also resonated with them, which is something that connects us all. Looking back on those beginning of the pandemic days and reflecting on my own experience based on what I was hearing from them was really great because even I was starting to feel understood and not as alone since I had never really talked about these experiences yet with anyone before. With that also since we are still in the pandemic, it made me realize that these first hardships we all had at the beginning of a time that no one had experienced before is something that will be so important to discuss in the future because we really were all struggling just maybe with some different things.
Something in all of these three interviews that was basically the same, though, was that everyone pretty much said that as the pandemic went on, their mental wellbeing fluctuated. Before interviewing I had read the article “School closures, exam cancellations and isolation: The impact of covid-19 on young people’s mental health” by Gillean McCluskey which discussed the pandemic’s impact on the mental health of young people. With that being said, McCluskey noted, “it is clear that the effects are uneven and that some groups have been more directly and negatively impacted” (1). The findings in this article found that young people were definitely one of the groups seriously negatively affected in terms of mental health by the pandemic, and with the young people I interviewed, that definitely lined up. I could relate to my interviewees here as well, and find myself in their words as they talked about how things were okay and manageable at first, but then it all started to get harder and draining. The feelings brought on by this pandemic will no doubtedly be remembered, but are also ones we kind of all will want to forget in a way just because of how odd and painful they were, but again connect us all and say a lot about what life was like during this pandemic.
Now just to talk about what it was like interviewing my mother about her pandemic experiences as someone who works in the community, her answers were ones that didn’t necessarily surprise me. I talked with her about what it was like working from home and what it was like not getting to talk with members of the community at all anymore, and I was not surprised when she said she missed it a lot, but it was definitely worse for a lot of other people who work. I think I wasn’t surprised about most of her answers just because I lived with her through the beginning of the pandemic and got to spend more time with her so I could often sense how she felt working from home, but we just had never really talked about it before her interview. Working from home was hard and of course not preferred for her, and that is a story that is definitely valid and one a lot of other adults can probably relate to.
The stories each of these people had to tell me were all unique, but definitely had ways of connecting, and I even was able to connect with them all quite a lot. This just goes to show that during this pandemic over the past year, we’ve all been through so much, each person’s experiences so unique, but so connected at the same time which is really special. Telling stories can really help people now, but also during hard times to come.
Aucejo, Esteban M., et al. “The Impact of COVID-19 on Student Experiences and Expectations: Evidence from a Survey.” Journal of Public Economics, vol. 191, Nov. 2020. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1016/j.jpubeco.2020.104271.
McCluskey, Gillean, et al. “School Closures, Exam Cancellations and Isolation: The Impact of Covid-19 on Young People’s Mental Health.” Emotional & Behavioural Difficulties, Apr. 2021. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1080/13632752.2021.1903182.