Campus Reopening

Social anxiety in the New Normal: Not everyone is ready to go back to campus

Sharanya Chakraborty
Sharanya Chakraborty
Posted on 15 Nov 2021
11:18 AM
Students will be meeting their batchmates for the first time.

Students will be meeting their batchmates for the first time. Shutterstock

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Summary
Students fear socialising with peers and meeting professors after a long gap
Going back to offline classes would mean changing one’s daily routine again
Some are wary of giving up jobs and internships they took on alongside online classes

Most students are waiting to return to campus and reunite with their friends and professors in the classrooms, but for some it doesn't seem to be as exciting an idea. Trying to navigate the challenges of juggling several activities at once, get out of the inertia of the lockdown routine, overcome anxiety to meet so many people at once, all the while thinking about how COVID will strike next, may just be too much to handle for some.

Social anxiety hits hard

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For those of us who find it difficult to socialise, make new friends or connections and maybe even simply interact with people consistently, the lockdown seemed like a refuge. It was a good excuse to not have to connect with people any longer. But debilitating mental health during the pandemic, however, made things worse.

“The pandemic allowed me to stay behind the screen for almost two years and become accustomed to it. Talking via chat boxes or just texting on WhatsApp, not engaging with people like we used to became the new normal. I guess it'll be more devastating for people like me who have always had social anxiety and agoraphobia,” said Rusha Chowdhury, a third-year English student at Jadavpur University.

Campuses are places buzzing with activities — fests, events, seminars, informal gatherings. To those of us who are socially anxious, all this can pose a threat to our mental stability. Reopening campuses would mean having to play at least a passive role, if not an active one.


Re-adjusting to the new normal

A break in pattern is not always welcoming as we grapple to re-adjust with the new situation. Most of us have made changes to our regular routines according to the new normal, keeping in mind our commitments online. To change all of that again, to attend classes in person would mean serious challenges for some of us.

“I arranged everything — work, academics and my social life — in a way that suits this new normal. Reopening campuses now will completely unearth that and I will have to start from scratch. Currently, I wake up at 9am instead of the usual 6am to get a good amount of sleep. I work part-time in the morning, watch class videos and complete assignments by the evening. At night, I spend some time with either myself or my family. Now I will have to get up at 6am every day for college. Then I would have to travel for about three hours to reach college by 9am and spend the entire day there. By the time I will reach home, the whole day would feel like a waste,” said Debangana Brahma, a fourth-year Biotechnology student at Amity University.


The pinch in the pocket

Reopening educational institutions means more travel and eating out, which means a rise in expenses and all of us are not ready for that. “I have to do most of the work at home since we don’t have any domestic help. I have taken up a few more tuitions, to support my family during the financial dip that took place last year. Now suddenly I have to become accustomed to the change and that is making me anxious too,” said Shalini Das, a second-year post-graduation English student at Basanti Devi College.

“We have opted for additional courses and started learning other languages while staying at home. I have already taken up a full-time teaching job, which I could manage because of recorded classes but when the college reopens, I will have to leave all of that,” said Priyanka Gupta, a first-year English post-graduation student at Jadavpur University.

Students will be attending offline classes maintaining all COVID protocol.

Students will be attending offline classes maintaining all COVID protocol. Shutterstock

Maintaining COVID protocol and fear of the third wave

During the second wave of COVID, the youth had built a network of resources and played a commendable role. We do not wish for something as severe as that to reoccur. “My campus has completely changed. I’m in my last year of college and I don’t want to go back for two months and increase the risk of getting affected,” said Rumi Das, a second-year English post-graduate student at Presidency University.

“I am dreading the long hours we would need to sit in the classroom with our masks on. It gets so hard to breathe after a few hours and we are talking of long hours. Professors, too, would need to speak with a microphone so that the class can hear them through their masks,” said Aritri Samadder, a third-year History student at Jadavpur University.

Last updated on 15 Nov 2021
15:18 PM
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