With the state of the world being as uncertain as it is these days, the student population of Grand Valley State University is no exception to the chaos. In a voluntary Lanthorn survey, 44 returning students shared their thoughts on stress levels and safety regarding returning to campus this fall.
When asked about their mental health, over 90% of students responded that they felt their anxiety levels have been higher, and 78% responded that they felt that their mental health had been suffering. Recognizing the decline in one’s mental health can be challenging and many people struggle to cope with the changes.
Many respondents said that they turned to friends, family and especially pets as a sign of comfort. Others found that therapy was a good way to calm their thoughts.
Over half of the students responded that at one point in their time at GVSU, they utilized the services at the counseling center. However, most indicated that they were not planning on continuing to use those services.
“Yes, I am aware of the Campus Counseling Center, but I have had poor experiences with them,” said one sophomore, who preferred to remain anonymous. “I prefer to seek therapy outside of the school.”
“Over the phone counseling (was) super helpful at the start of COVID,” said junior Melissa Smith.
While it may not be right for everyone, the GVSU counseling center is available for students to make appointments. Along with individual counseling, they also offer a variety of group sessions. Currently, sessions are conducted virtually, but the Center hopes to move to hybrid counseling sessions as the semester progresses.
The matter of returning to physical classes is another source of anxiety for many students. While comfort levels for returning to physical classes creates almost an even split, more than 75% of respondents reported that they were most comfortable taking classes that were hybrids or completely online.
“I’m immunocompromised, and it’s ridiculous to expect us to go back to in person classes with where Michigan is today — we aren’t even close to slowing the spread,” said junior Katherine Parker. “I’m not going into a classroom. That would be the absolute worst thing we could all do right now.”
Online learning is not ideal for other students. It is harder for some people to learn virtually and they often require face-to-face interactions to comprehend the material fully.
“I have hybrid classes anyway, and I feel that with a limited exposure to people and a few weeks in between every in-person meeting, that we should be able to recognize if we are having COVID symptoms,” said junior Lauren Mroczek. “I also think in-person classes are important for learning purposes, but to decrease the spread of COVID, hybrid classes are the best options for learning and health safety.”
Overwhelmingly, most students are concerned with the health-related dangers of returning to physical classes and the motivational issues of online learning.
“Fully in-person classes would be incredibly dangerous, and fully online would be frustrating mostly because I would be moving back to Allendale for no reason,” said senior Lauren Moine. “Hybrid seems like a good compromise, but I have a feeling people are going to get sick and we will be fully online before the end of the semester.”
Though GVSU has been sending out regular “Lakers Together” weekly updates throughout the summer, nearly 75% of respondents say that their concerns have not been alleviated.
“My fears are now mounting as it gets closer to the beginning of the school year,” said junior Sydney Trepeck. “While I know I’ll be in good hands at GVSU, I am still nervous about the upcoming year.”
Concerns for returning to campus ranged from the busing system and the increased price of parking passes to GVSU’s nightlife and students not taking safety precautions seriously. A mask policy will be implemented on campus, but many students fear that some will choose not to wear them.
“If people continue to go to parties when classes resume this fall, there’s no doubt cases may spike, and we might be forced into entirely online classes,” said one sophomore. “I’m worried a few rule breakers will jeopardize things for the rest of us.”
At times like these, we must all rely on each other to keep everyone safe. Therapy can be intimidating for some people, and while the counseling center is a great resource, there are other resources available out there and people ready to help.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has a variety of coping devices when it comes to COVID-19-related stress. You can find these and more at cdc.gov/coronavirus and you can contact the GVSU Counseling Center at 616-331-3266.