Students’ stress grows over school, rent, summer jobs
By Sue Tiffin
Abby Gordon was sitting in a class, studying in the last month of school in her first year of the developmental service program at Algonquin College in Ottawa, when everything changed. As the coronavirus spread into Ontario, so was news that nearby universities were planning closures for two weeks, or for the rest of the school year, initiating online classes to keep students home.
“I was actually in class when one of my teachers was talking to us about it and she was saying she didn’t think the school would get cancelled, and if it did get cancelled it would only be two weeks, that it wasn’t that serious and we had nothing to worry about,” said Gordon. “By the end of that class – it’s a two hour class and she was talking about it at the beginning – by the end of that class, everything was cancelled.”
As soon as Gordon got the email
noting that classes would be moving online, she finished the class,
packed everything up and came straight home to Minden without stopping
along the way.
“It was a big change in a very small period of time,” she said.
That change meant the cancellation of her placement, and that her classes moved online, which created challenges for Gordon, who is a visual learner.
“That’s not my ideal way of learning at all, I always get
very good marks and honours and I’m not saying I’m getting bad marks now
but it’s a lot harder to do it online,” she said. “Even to ask
questions of your teachers, you have to email them, you can’t talk to
them face-to-face and ask questions in class, and then you have to wait
for their response before you can continue the lesson. It’s a big
Gordon said the switch to online classes resulted in more assignments and quizzes so that teachers could assess students, which came as added stress for many students who were in the middle of moving home and sorting out accommodations and part-time jobs. Additionally, access to internet throughout the province is not equal.
“I live in
the Blairhampton [area] so my wi-fi is not that good because it’s in the
middle of the forest, so even with bad wi-fi, it brought a lot of
stress and made everything completely different,” said Gordon.
While many students have struggled to keep summer jobs as businesses across the province closed, adding stress to those needing to pay for school and accommodation in the fall, Gordon is fortunate to have secured a job working as a screener at the Minden hospital, but still has to pay hundreds of dollars of monthly rent on the townhouse in Ottawa she lives in during the school year because it isn’t safe to sublet it to others.
At 20, she said the summer will look different – weddings and baby
showers are being cancelled, her 21st birthday at the end of this month
won’t go as planned, and said she understands the grief of high school
“The students that have been going through high school for the last four years and so excited for this day, it’s now cancelled. And it’s devastating because they’ve been working so hard for that the entire time and now it’s just been taken away. It’s nobody’s fault, but it’s super frustrating when that happens.”
For this generation facing their first major historic event, there is much worry of an unstable future.
“On the news, it said this could last 18 months to two years, and I’m like, well, what am I going to do? I’m supposed to go back to school next year and graduate next year, and now that might not be happening, so I have no idea what my future holds anymore because it all just got so disrupted so fast.”
Gordon said she continues to see some friends not taking the pandemic seriously, noting that social media tools allow her to see a user’s location.
“I still see to this day people hanging out and I don’t understand because it’s a rule,” said Gordon. “You’re not supposed to hang out other than with your family members you’re obviously living with, but so many students are still seeing each other, hanging out with their friends, or going for a drive in their car, and I’m like – that’s not six feet.”
Gordon’s mom is a nurse, her dad is a
volunteer firefighter and her sister is a paramedic, and she said
having a family that works on the front line makes her extra aware of
the threat of the virus.
“I just want everybody to take it seriously and understand that once we all comply to the rules, this will end a lot faster,” said Gordon. “But if we don’t comply, it’s going to be going on forever – we’re going to lose our summer, we’re going to lose our next year of school. You have to play by the rules if you want something to come out of this. This can end a lot of faster. We can end it. We’re capable of ending it. But we have to do what they’re telling us to do to end it.”