Student sitting with mask on the grass in front of TJ Jones Library

Surviving COVID-19 in college—a reflection

By Skylar Burns ’23

I survived COVID-19.

My story is normal, basic even. I was exposed, had a runny nose, and I tested positive. And yet, a simple cycle of sickness altered three weeks of my life drastically and changed my perspective on adversity.

I’m learning that drastic changes aren’t always immediate events in which everything is now different. Sometimes drastic changes show up in small losses that happen slowly. COVID was like that for me. The effects showed up in the little things—in the time I lost hanging out with friends while I was in isolation, in the classes I missed, and in the physical strength that my body is now working to recover. I am now a statistic, a percentage, a number. I am now a part of the “COVID Club.”

I’m comforted by the treatment I was given here at North Central University. The staff and faculty went above and beyond to make sure I felt safe and comfortable and that my needs were provided for. My professors gave me deadline extensions, and I was able to make a full recovery without feeling as if I was falling behind.

‘I’ve been blessed’

All things considered, I’ve been blessed. I’ve had close friends see their parents sick, and some have had grandparents passed away. Some of you, even, may have had a worse experience than I. Or maybe it’s your senior year and you feel as if the university you have known and loved looks unrecognizable now. You’re not alone.

Senior Jessenia Gonzalez shared her thoughts on the changes this school year:

“While I’m physically back at school I still don’t feel like I’m actually here. A huge reason I came back was in hopes of filling a shaking the abruption of last school year. However, even though we are back on campus, I can’t just walk onto a dorm floor or have friends in my apartment to share meals and laughs. I can’t make final senior memories as fluidly as I would be able to if COVID were not here. I’m the first person in my family to graduate college—will I walk the stage with my friends? Will I get to celebrate with those I love in some capacity? Don’t get me wrong, I understand all the precautions. They’re so important! My family personally experienced the harsher side of COVID in March and it left my dad on a ventilator for several days and with a recovery that will last a lifetime. However, acknowledging the loss of something is very important.”

Like Jessenia, I’ve found myself wrestling with the question, is this worth it?

My answer to that question is “Yes.”

As I was thinking through my answer initially overwhelmed with annoyance and stress, I began to remember why I came to college in the first place. There is only one time in my life I can have the full college experience. Freshman move-in day, roommates, bro-sis floor events, Homecoming weekend, staying up until 4 a.m. in Clay Commons (even though I have an 8 a.m. class)—these are all moments that make up my college experience. Coronavirus is one of those moments. Although very annoying at times, this is what life is now, and in 50 years I’ll be able to tell my children and grandchildren how I survived COVID-19 way back in the year 2020.

Creating culture in midst of turmoil

The world is changing. As uncomfortable and hard as it is, we have a duty, as the next generation of young leaders, to create culture in the midst of this turmoil. I’ve learned over the last few years that culture is made up of two things—what the leader does and what they allow.

So, I would like to challenge you today: What are you going to do and what are you going to allow yourself to do, think, or say, in regards to COVID-19? Are you going to complain, allow yourself to catch an attitude, and share your feelings with the world? Or are you going to find the joy in the little things, choose to have a better attitude, and not allow your feelings to rule you?

Your feelings are valid, 100%! But I refuse to come out of this season with nothing to show for it but wrinkles on my forehead from frowning all the time. I want to come out of this season as a better leader, daughter, and friend.

There are two sides of history in the making here, and you get to choose which side you are on. Are you going to allow coronavirus to win, or are you going to rise up and do something about it?

The latter sounds like a better story.

Skylar Burns is a sophomore Interdisciplinary Studies Major. She is a Discipleship Leader, a member of Worship Live, and serves as a Student Assistant in the Office of Communications.


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