One year of COVID-19: What has changed?

David Eckstein-Schoemann, Reporter

It’s hard to believe that it’s already been a year since the United States government declared the infectious disease COVID-19 a worldwide pandemic. Because of this people were forced to quarantine in their homes, events were canceled, and a race has begun to bring the world to a semblance of normality. As you would imagine, this has affected many people, particularly UNF seniors who graduated into a world that has become complicated with facial masks and social restrictions. I have taken the time to ask three UNF students about how COVID-19 has affected them personally.


What was your reaction when you found out the country was going into quarantine?

Aisling Glocke: “I was definitely taken aback at first. I was shocked, but it wasn’t unexpected just because so much of my family lives in Europe. It had happened to them before it happened to us. So I knew it was coming, but I didn’t think it was going to happen to the extent that it did.”

Lianna Norman: “I think I was in denial. It just didn’t seem real to me that my college experience, that I’ve worked so hard during and loved so dearly, was coming to an end. I loved going to classes and coming to work every day. It didn’t occur to me that it was possible that it could end on a random Friday. I remember being in the office with the sense that this was going to pass and we were going to come back eventually. But during spring break, we learned it was going to be extended longer than we thought. It happened right around my birthday which was the biggest bummer. For my birthday to be the day of reckoning when everyone started quarantining and closing down their bars. That was the day where I tried to go down kicking and screaming. I got so angry and upset that I wished that I knew the moment it was happening that my birthday didn’t matter. Feeling the youngness of being at college carefree, I guess I would have known that I was going to see the end. I think that I was in denial for a long time as a lot of things in 2020 hurt me, but now I’m grateful for the perspective it’s given me.”

Darvin Nelson: “At first I didn’t expect it to get as big as it got. My professor told me how it was going to be a big thing and suspected that COVID-19 was already on campus. I thought this notion was crazy or over-exaggerated, but in retrospect, I realized that he was right. It’s become this thing that has consumed our world. Working at Spinnaker I was watching the news with an eerie feeling that this was only beginning. I was having so much fun in college life, it just kinda got cut short.”


How did this pandemic impact your graduation?

Aisling Glocke: “Well, I didn’t have a graduation technically. We did a virtual ceremony that was fun to watch with my friends and family. But I was a little disappointed because it’s everyone’s dream, graduating college is supposed to be a big accomplishment. It’s everyone’s dream to walk across that aisle watched by your friends, colleagues, and teachers, and stuff. So I was a little disappointed that I didn’t get to experience that, but my parents planned a little at-home graduation for me, so I was really grateful for that.”

Lianna Norman: “Oh, I didn’t have one. It’s funny because I have been the only person of my friends who cared a good amount about the graduation ceremony. The reason why I care about it so much is because neither of my parents nor my grandparents got that chance. I’m the first person in my family to do that, so walking across that stage was what my college career was leading up to. My family was coming in from Costa Rica to come see me graduate. Since I was the first one in my family to graduate, my family decided to do a big graduation party for me with hundreds of guests at our small house. And it all came crashing down and it just didn’t happen. I spent a while being really upset about it, but then I realized that while I can’t change anything, I can still change my attitude. My life has been anything but normal, so it would feel so out of character and misplaced if I had a normal graduation. That does not represent who I am, so I decided to just sit back, laugh, and accept it. I wasn’t going to have a graduation. I didn’t even log into the Zoom call. I wanted to do what made me feel the most celebrated. So, my mom got me a cap and gown which I decorated. I walked around the house with it before throwing my cap in the air of the yard. I had a delicious dinner with my family, and then I went to bed early. It was great!”

Darvin Nelson: “I won’t be graduating for at least another year or two. I’m not a senior yet, but I have seen others graduate over the past few semesters and they were not able to have their in-person graduation. However, I am grateful that they brought back the in-person aspect for this semester.”


How did you manage your time during quarantine?

Aisling Glocke: “I actually did it pretty well. For me, I’ve taken so many online classes before, so I was kinda used to managing time at home and just having the time where you need to figure out what you need to do for your online classes. As far as managing time, I would just wake up early like I would for school, because even though I wouldn’t have classes until it was time, I’d be on campus doing homework or at Spinnaker doing my job. I would make a checklist of all the things I need to accomplish every day, and I just try to get everything done so I could finish it all early.”

Lianna Norman: “I don’t think anyone managed their time during quarantine. I can’t give you a single tip because I don’t think there’s anything that works for any one person. I think if you’re stuck in one place for an extended period of time, you do whatever you can to complete your tasks. You cheat a little bit. If you want to lay in bed while you type your papers, you do it. If you want to sit down on the floor and listen to a podcast, you do it. We are in a pandemic. There is a lot of stress, and there is nothing that can’t wait for a few minutes to make yourself feel a little more comfortable. Bottom line, when you are forced to do a task you don’t want to do, make it approachable for you.”

Darvin Nelson: “When the pandemic came and everything shut down, I continued to stay on campus for the rest of the semester. They gave us a choice to leave and have a refund, but I chose to stay. I just did my work there while taking time to reflect before I came back home over the summer. I really don’t do anything that much anyway so that wasn’t a big loss for me. I kinda already stay inside and watch movies. It caused no big turbulence in my life. But I did catch the COVID-19 virus back in December. I didn’t feel good at work one day and had to be driven home because I had an itch in my throat and my eyes were watering. I didn’t even consider myself having the virus. But then I got tested the next day where I had headaches and muscle fatigues. I didn’t have any trouble breathing, and my senses of taste and smell were fine, but it was very tiring. Because of this, I had missed my chance to see my Dad in Texas, and me and my family were planning to see him. But because me and my brother got COVID-19, we missed that opportunity. I still plan to see my Dad again near the end of April this year.”


Was it hard to find a job due to COVID?

Aisling Glocke: “It was stressful for sure, especially when you’re working in the TV industry. I was really stressed out during my last month nearing graduation when my internship was about to end. I was panicking a little bit because I was frantically applying to so many jobs. But I was blessed because I knew Mo Baker, my advisor at Spinnaker, and she got a good word for me at News4Jax. That’s where I work right now, so it could have gone a lot worse for me and it didn’t, and I’m really grateful for that.”

Lianna Norman: “Yes. I don’t think it was as difficult for me as it was for some people. I am in grad school at a wonderful university in which I have very talented classmates. One of which saw my work and offered me a job. Coming out of undergrad I felt very confident in the fact that I would have a job. I had everything including a great resume, the internships under my belt, I had checked all the boxes. That was enough in the normal world. However, in the pandemic world what was enough is now disgustingly falling short because no one can afford to take in what they were. The place where I got hired by ‘Business Insider’ was one of the few communications places that this year hired more employees than they fired, which I am grateful to be a part of. But the process was harder than it should have been. Both for me and many of UNF’s bright journalists.”

Darvin Nelson: “No. When the pandemic started, I was one of the editors of Spinnaker. A lot of people at the news station stepped down and I became Editor-in-Chief. So, it increased my job opportunity chances. I was also able to get a job at Mellow Mushroom because they were short on staff members due to the pandemic. So, it didn’t really negatively affect my job experience. Between my job at Spinnaker, Mellow Mushroom, and classes, I was working about 50 hours which was a lot on my plate. It wasn’t good for my mental or physical health, so I decided to solely work at Spinnaker and school for the time being.”


Is your job altered because of covid?

Aisling Glocke: “At News4Jax a lot of multi-platform producers have an editor there. It’s all different in a sense that the newsroom is very empty, so the editors are considered essential workers and we all need to be in the studio. But as far as producers and some creative designers, some of them work from home, so the newsroom environment isn’t as busy as usual. Other than that, we have to wear masks at all times. If we’re sitting down in our own area we’re allowed to take them off, but we have glass plates everywhere. It’s also been a little bit difficult to get to know everybody because I came right when the pandemic started. But it’s been slowly getting better, and I’m getting to know everyone.”

Lianna Norman: “Yes, I work from my home in New York. Whereas I would usually be going to downtown Manhattan to the Financial District. I don’t get the glitz and glamour of going to the one liberty center office building, but I think working from home made me realize it suited me more than I thought it would.”

Darvin Nelson: “Yes. When I worked at Mellow Mushroom, we were all wearing masks. We also tried our best at social distancing, but it’s a workplace where people are in the kitchen so you have to get next to each other. At Spinnaker there were tons of changes. In the office, we have to wear masks, social distance from each other, and use hand sanitizer. We did all of our meetings through Zoom, and there are only a few people who physically work at the office. Some people may come in, but it’s not the same ambiance it used to be.”


Did you gain any insights from this experience?

Aisling Glocke: “I think this experience made me realize how important family really is. Because my grandparents live in Ireland, and it’s been a year and a half since I’ve seen them due to COVID-19. I don’t know when I’m going to get to see them until they get their vaccine. It really made me admire them a lot more, and I go out of my way to call and communicate with them. So it’s really made me take it into heart and realize my family is very important to me, because a lot of them don’t live in Florida, so I don’t get that opportunity to see them often.”

Lianna Norman: “I think that this year I have learned to talk a lot less and listen a lot more. While I still make sure my voice is heard, I have taken steps to talk less and listen more to people. I’m thankful that in a myriad of ways 2020 taught me to do that.”

Darvin Nelson: “I gained insight in terms of how social I was. I used to hang out with a lot of friends, but now I don’t anymore, and I now spend a lot of time reflecting on myself and what I want for my future. In terms of the workforce, I gained a lot of insight of how to better reach the UNF audience because we had to move a lot of things digitally. While I do think digital means such as zoom are convenient, I feel like we’re sacrificing that in-person aspect so we can do things more efficiently. It makes me ask when the pandemic is over, will we keep doing things digitally or go back to normal?”


How has it impacted you negatively or positively?

Aisling Glocke: “Negatively, I felt that I graduated college very awkwardly. Especially since we had our spring break extended. Then we weren’t allowed to come back after that. It also negatively impacted me because I never got the chance to say a proper goodbye to anyone. I couldn’t tell my Spinnaker friends, my classmates, or my co-workers anywhere. So, I really wish I had gotten that chance. On a more positive/personal note, I’ve grown my faith a lot more. I felt like I had all this time and I didn’t know what to do with it, so I would just read my Bible every day, or just watch daily masses to get inspired that way. That’s been a big personal plus for me because I’ve never been stronger in my faith before. Another positive is spending time with my family, because I felt like I’ve been busy in my life at college between classes and work. I got to be really close with my mom and we have a very close bond now. I even got to be with my brothers a lot more, so it’s definitely positively affected my relationship with my family.”

Lianna Norman: “Negatively, I think that this year I’ve dealt with feelings of isolation more than I have in my life. After I graduated, I moved to New York City by myself in the middle of a pandemic. This has caused me to feel loneliness in a way that I’ve never felt before. Even though that sounds like a negative thing, it’s been an overall good experience. Even though I felt isolated, it caused me to come to terms with who I am. On a positive note, I think it’s good and healthy to get comfortable with who you are when you’re alone.”

Darvin Nelson: “Negatively it has affected me physically as I caught the virus, and I don’t know if there are any long-term effects. I don’t know if I’m going to get a respiratory illness at some point in my life. Positively, it’s given me more of a chance to catch up as I always felt I was behind on a lot of aspects in my life. Like I don’t have a car or a license permit, so when the world paused it gave me the time to gain these things so that when the world starts up again I will be ready.”


These stories are only a small fraction of what the COVID-19 pandemic has done to the world. A lot has been thrown out of balance in the past year, both on a social and economic level. Many of you who are reading this article probably don’t see the world coming back to normal anytime soon. But that doesn’t mean we should give up. If anything, these stories show that every one of us has lost something along the way. But instead of giving in to despair, we adapt and find new ways to press on. If there’s anything I want you to take away from this experience, it’s to stay strong, be creative, and think hard on the things that matter most to you. Things may not seem good right now, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t strive for a brighter future.


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