Taking a gap year during pandemic can benefit students’ wellbeing

Kristie Castillo, Staff Writer

It’s been one year since “Zoom university” became the campus community’s new reality. 

Students have had to adapt to new software, deadlines and assignments all amidst a pandemic that may have impacted their personal housing situations and access to technology.

While many students have opted to stay enrolled and take on the task of completing their semester courses through Zoom lectures and lockdown exams, some students may be considering taking a step back until things go back to normal. 

For those who choose to take a leave of absence from higher education, they have an opportunity to take a breather and return when they feel ready and the public health situation is much more stable. 

The platform change has also led to, as some students feel, an overload of work, where classes seem  to be assigning more work than when they were in-person. For the full-time student, this can present a challenge when combined with their outside responsibilities such as work.

Many students have been expressing their frustration with the online learning environment, feeling as if they do not have enough time for outside activities or to care for their mental health. The back-to-back Zoom meetings feed into a disinterest for class work and lectures, attending meetings because they have to, not because they want to. 

Furthermore, as a result of the pandemic many students may be facing financial difficulties due to a loss of job, which can impact their housing situation and access to the software required by this new mode of education. 

However, if students choose to remain in the online learning environment, they do have access to campus resources to assist them in the transition.

These students could borrow laptops from CSUSM’s IITS department, which offers on-site appointments for tech support and virtual help. By providing these resources to students, the university works to ensure that students can continue their education in this new platform. 

Furthermore, the university has established the Student Emergency Fund which provides monetary assistance to students experiencing difficulty with affording their necessities from groceries to utilities.  

While online learning can be difficult at times, the traditional gap year of travel and volunteer work has also been impacted by the pandemic, meaning the gap year may not be as relaxing or stress-free students may hope to be. 

According to an article from the Washington Post, the gap year poses a potential issue for students who would hope to return, as the process will not be the same. 

“… many colleges don’t allow students to defer admission and then take classes for credit elsewhere … the students would need to reapply for admission as a transfer student. They also would need to verify that the credits would be accepted,” wrote the author of the Washington Post piece. 

There were times during the adjustment period to Zoom university where I felt as if I couldn’t handle the new demands of virtual classes. It can get difficult to handle while prioritizing your mental health. 

When classes get too difficult to manage, it’s important to take a temporary step back and remind yourself that you are handling these university-level courses through a computer screen during an unprecedented time. Our mental health comes first and we need to take care of ourselves before we worry about anything else. 

Universities have adjusted much of their curriculum and operations as Zoom has become the new norm, but students continue to feel as if they’re being left on their own to manage the pandemic and their education at the same time. 

At the end of the day, students know what is best for their mental health, their education and their personal success, meaning that it is important that they consider their needs during such an unprecedented time.