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Coronavirus school closures

Class of COVID-19: students reflect on school closures amid the pandemic

As schools and universities shut down worldwide, young people tell us about the impact on their work, their mental health, and their futures

TextBrit DawsonIllustrationCallum Abbott

We’re living through unprecedented times – the current, very unusual alteration to the way we live life right now calls for solidarity, togetherness, and communication. So on Dazed, we’ve created the #AloneTogether community. Across the days, weeks, or months of the coronavirus pandemic and concurrent isolation measures, we’re connecting with our audience to offer URL experiences, art, and advice made with you and talent from across music, fashion, art, tech, and politics. We may be alone, but we are together.

As the coronavirus continues to spread across the world, social distancing measures have forced the closure of a number of institutions. While many of us are disappointed that we can no longer frequent our local boozer, for students, the closure of their schools and universities has left them with uncertain futures.

Across the world, students have been forced out of university accommodation, had their exams cancelled, and given up degree shows they’ve worked for years to create. For GCSE and A Level students, it’s unclear what will happen next in their studies, while for those graduating from university, the loss of final projects might impact their career progression.

Future prospects aside, in the short-term, the coronavirus has stolen the bittersweet last day of school, as well as leavers balls and end of year proms, burgeoning friendships and life arcs that crest in school hallways, rec halls, and cafeterias. While it’s still unclear what will happen next, Dazed spoke to students around the globe to find out how the closure of their university or school has impacted their studies, their day-to-day lives, and their mental health.

Watch our video with some of the affected students below.

EMILIA FORD, 21, BRISTOL

Emilia Ford is a third year graphic design student at the University of the West of England

“The biggest loss for us is access to facilities, which we’ve been reassured won’t impact our grades, but which may impact getting jobs in the future, as we rely solely on portfolios, which will suffer without access to materials, machinery, and workshops. My tutors have been great with keeping us up to date, sending encouraging messages, and arranging phone tutorials to continue providing us with as much educational support as possible. I feel a lot of anxiety about the current uncertainty of the situation. Despite all this, I do believe it was the right decision to make. My course is very socially and politically driven, and it’s important for us to remember that what’s happening right now is much bigger than our degrees. We must take action to protect the most vulnerable of our communities.”

AKIR STUART, 19, NEW YORK

Akir Stuart is studying journalism at New York University

“(The closure of my uni) was tough. I suffer from a personality disorder and severe depression that basically impedes my entire life. Before the virus-mania, I found it hard to get up in the morning for my 9:30am classes, I wasn’t getting sleep, and I was battling suicidal thoughts. With coronavirus now affecting everyone’s life, I find odd comfort knowing we are all struggling. The biggest challenge will be not succumbing to loneliness.”

“I find odd comfort knowing we are all struggling” – Akir Stuart

GRAYSON RUIZ, 20, TEXAS

Grayson Ruiz is majoring in communications and theatre at Trinity University in Texas

“A lot of my classes are interactive, so this is going to be a challenge for both my professors and myself. I’m in an advanced acting class, and I’m not completely sure how we’ll perform scenes with our partners over Zoom. The university gave us five days to move out of our dorms and say goodbye to our friends and campus life. While I don’t agree with the immediate displacement – especially for students who heavily depend on Trinity’s meal plan and housing – the university has been constantly in touch with updates.

I was actually attending counseling services at my university on a regular basis, which was a prime resource for me. Living with my parents in the town I grew up in has brought up some past issues that I will now have to face on my own, without the support of a counselor. The hardest challenge for me will be this limit on social interaction; I now have to rely upon myself as a source of strength instead of relying on others for support, which will be a major adjustment. I want to find the strength for myself, and have motivation; I don’t want to fall back to where I was.”

JEMIMA GODDERS, 18, WATFORD

Jemima Godders is studying English literature, sociology, maths, economics, geography, physics, psychology, fine art, and history for her A Levels in Watford

“Our school officially closed on March 20, and this was our last day at school ever. We feel robbed and unsatisfied, and are in disbelief, but understand that there’s no right way to go about this as every option available is unfair to some. We’ve experienced great uncertainty – our A Level exams have been cancelled and so we have nothing to work towards. We’ve studied for two years and our opportunity to demonstrate our knowledge has been completely stripped from us. At this moment in time, I feel unbalanced. While a rest from the mental strain will be appreciated, the uncertainty will cause a great deal of stress. The loss of routine will also put many teens in a vulnerable position when it comes to their mental health.”

JUNG-IN LEE, 21, SOUTH KOREA

Jung-In Lee studies fashion and English in South Korea

“To be frank, I was happy about (the closure of my uni); this saves me a lot of money, time, and energy. I’m an introvert, so I’m enjoying myself cooking, drawing, solving puzzles, reading, exercising. I also enjoy the sun when people aren’t around outside. I’m taking this time to think about how I want to live my life after graduating. However, although I’m not experiencing noticeable challenges in my own life, I am worried about small businesses and part-time workers.”

ALICE ELLIS, 21, LONDON

Alice Ellis is a third year drama and theatre arts student at Goldsmiths

“While I think that the closure of my uni was a good idea, it does come with huge ramifications. For many people, university isn’t just a place to learn, but a safe space where people can express themselves, get counselling, share personal experiences, and join societies, so to be cut off from that will cause big problems for a lot of people. 

As I’m studying drama and theatre arts, my studies are half practical and half theory. I’ve been studying for three years in the hopes of making a degree show that I’m proud of, and the reality is that that’s not an option anymore. Throughout art schools, lots of degree shows are becoming ‘virtual’ which seems like a cop-out response given how much work students put in. On top of this, trying to write a dissertation in my bedroom is exceptionally demanding – not having books or resources from the library and trying to maintain focus (and sanity) in the place I usually sleep in is testing. As a result, my mental health isn’t great right now, but at least I can play Just Dance and the Sims.”

“For many people, university isn’t just a place to learn, but a safe space where people can express themselves, so to be cut off from that will cause big problems” – Alice Ellis

OLIVIA WAITES, 22, BIRMINGHAM

Olivia Waites is a third year fashion business and promotion student at Birmingham City University

“My uni closed on March 17, meaning all of our teaching is now done online and through video calls. It didn’t really come as a surprise and I think it was the right decision for the safety of everyone, but it is extremely frustrating as I’m in my final year and doing one of my biggest projects to date. This will definitely be detrimental to the final outcomes of our projects, as we won’t have support from tutorial time, nor access to crucial university services. We also haven’t been given any extra time when it comes to assessments. I don’t even think I’ll get the chance to graduate.”

UMA AKALKOTKAR, 21, DALLAS

Uma Akalkotkar is a third year student studying 3D animation at the University of Texas

“Any initial ‘yay, no school’ sentiments I had (after my uni closed) dissipated pretty quickly when thinking about the effects this would have on my friends and I. Personal disgruntlement aside, I do think closing our campus was the right decision. As an animation student, I need certain software to do my assignments that I only have access to via our school computer labs – in place of our typical 3D assignments, we’re being given quizzes and essays to do instead. It’s all very disappointing.

I can already feel my mental health starting to deteriorate. I have a long history with depression, and have been struggling a bit these past few months anyway, so suddenly being pulled from my apartment, being forced to stay indoors, and losing the one thing that forced me to stick to a schedule, is all very disorienting. Maybe this sudden overflow of time will help me find a balance of activities that works for me. Here’s hoping.”

HIDHIR BADARUDDIN, 25, LONDON

Hidhir Badaruddin is a final year student, originally from Singapore, studying creative direction for fashion at the London College of Fashion

“As my final project is collaborative and visually-led, the coronavirus crisis has really set me back and I’m unable to proceed with shoots that I had planned last weekend (March 21-22) as model agencies and talents don’t feel comfortable going out during this time. There’s been a lack of communication from the university, and tech departments have closed, meaning many students can’t access equipment necessary for their projects. It’s been a very mentally-draining time.”

MATILDA PROUT, 17, WATFORD

Matilda Prout is studying French, Spanish, and history for her A Levels in Watford

“It took a few days for it to sink in that after studying for two years, I won’t be taking my A Level exams this year. I’ll now be awarded A Levels based on what my teacher thinks I would have achieved, using things like predicted grades and mock exam results to make this decision. My school has been very supportive – on our last day, they brought in a DJ and we had a leavers celebration, singing each other’s shirts and saying goodbye to our teachers. 

The biggest challenge for me at the moment is maintaining a structure to my day and making sure I do something productive. My mum is a nurse and is already infected – though her symptoms are very mild – so my parents and I are in strict isolation. I’m in awe of all the NHS staff who have no choice but to go in with a smile on their face each day, despite being terrified of the effects of the coronavirus on themselves, their families, and their patients.”

LOU, 19, NEW YORK

Lou is a first year student at Parsons New School of Design in New York, hoping to major in communication design

“As hard as this is to process, it’s definitely the right decision to make sure students aren’t at risk and aren’t putting other people at risk. It also enables everyone to be a good citizen and STAY HOME (if they can). Having said that, the closure will not only affect my learning abilities – because it’s tough for me to focus at times – but as an art student, I’m missing out on a lot of resources that make up a big part of my tuition, which I won’t be able to access at home. Right now, my mental health is all over the place as I feel utterly powerless. At the same time, I’m grateful that I have a shelter where I’m safe and calm with my family, even if our economic situation remains uncertain. I find it hard to find a balance between staying informed and not feeling completely depressed.”

MATEO CARABALLO, 23, MADRID

Mateo Caraballo is in his fourth year studying international relations at the European University of Madrid

“I’m not completely sure yet how this whole situation will impact my studies; I have regular contact with my teachers and thesis instructor, but as the situation keeps worsening day by day, everything is becoming more and more uncertain. We have absolutely no idea when our final exams are going to be, or if they are going to be carried out at all. I’ve now accepted the fact that this will be my new reality for some time, but I’m convinced that it won’t be forever. I’ve learned that keeping myself busy is the best antidote; I try to work on my thesis and prepare notes regularly. Podcasts and reading are good allies as well. I listen to the news, but less often than I used to. The hardest thing for me is seeing my parents fearing about their own parents, and people avoiding quarantine obligations even when death numbers keep on growing.”

NATALIE MOUTREY, 23, LONDON

Natalie Moutrey is in her final year studying fine art at Central St Martins

“My degree show has been postponed, as well as my graduation ceremony, and I’m not sure when, how, or if these will take place. It’s upsetting as we’ve worked for three or four years to get to this point, and being on a creative course, the degree show is hugely important as it’s how you present yourself and your work to the outside world. Not having this is a major consequence and feels incredibly deflating. My university has been supportive throughout, and course leaders are now sending daily video updates, which is a nice way to maintain human interaction.

My mental health is OK at this point, mainly due to the fact that I have two flatmates who I can be with during isolation. However, I am worried about my future, and don’t really know how the next few months will unfold. The biggest challenge right now will be to try and continue making work for uni without studio space, and keeping motivation in terms of work more generally.”

ELLA MAGGI, 18, WATFORD

Ella Maggi is studying her A Levels in Watford

“The unfair system of predicting grades could prevent me from following my chosen career path if I receive lower grades than I’m capable of achieving in exams. It also means I have a very long gap between finishing school and starting university, and I’m unsure how this will impact my motivation. Everything I’d been working towards academically has been taken away, which is both a relief and a weird adjustment to make. I also feel cheated that everything I’d planned in the summer has been cancelled. However, I don’t feel anxiety about my future as I know everyone will do their best to ensure I’m able to follow the path that I want. My immediate future, on the other hand, is going to be tough now I’m stuck indoors with nothing to do!”

MATTHEW BRUYERE, 22, CHICAGO

Matthew Bruyere is a final year student studying film and art history at Columbia College Chicago

“My uni closed on March 15. I was disappointed because it was my last semester, but I do think it was the right decision. Although my classes aren’t that physical and can be moved online, the closure has definitely harmed my studies because the system the school uses is awful, and the idea of taking my courses on it is dreadful. Having said that, the uni has been supportive and given us a lot of time to adjust to the new norm. My professors have also been very forthcoming with any updates they have. In terms of my mental health, I’ve been mainly OK, but completely bored all the time. Many of my friends had to go home (to their parents’ house), which hasn’t helped with my boredom.”

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