Covid was Life-changing for Many Students


Bucks students Colin Riccardi, Lucas Darling and James Bonnell

Judith Russo

Remember when we were told to wear masks, sanitize everything and socially distance just for “…two weeks to flatten the curve…”? That was more than two years ago and  “things aren’t normal yet,” says Marmonee Cooper, 28, journalism major.

During the dark days of covid, Bucks students dealt with virtual school, work, isolation and financial difficulties along with fear and anger. Every student’s experience and how they coped during the last 2 years has been unique.

“Anxiety was up a lot,” says Bucks Counselor James Gilligan.

People went crazy staying home too much,” says Cooper. She worked six days a week as a Burger King manager with less than half her normal staff throughout the pandemic.

“People are rude,” she says, “when they have to wait or we don’t have an item because of supply chain issues and we still have supply chain problems.”

“I tell them, come to work. We’re hiring, but it seems like no one wants to work anymore.”

She was glad to attend one of her three classes in person last semester because she learns better that way, but “it was like a ghost town.” She came back to school to finish her degree in journalism during the fall of 2021 after a five-year break.

Alyssa Moore, 21, Editor-In-Chief of the Centurion for 20/21 school year, now studying communications and journalism at Temple, edited and published Bucks award-winning Centurion without missing an issue from her bedroom. “I felt like that entire school year of fall 2020 to spring 2021 was a blur.”

“I tried to do different things to distract myself. Go on walks, do puzzles, write, work. Since I was home a lot during that time, I felt like my bedroom turned into my classroom, and I wanted to escape it, which I never thought I would feel that way about my room because normally it’s my favorite spot,” Moore adds.

“Other students were worried about catching covid for themselves and their families,” says counselor Gilligan.

“I had immune system issues until the age of ten, and my immune system is still weak compared to the average person, so the thought of getting Covid took up a lot of my brain for the first few months of the pandemic.” says Lucas Darling, 20, Centurion Editor-In-Chief.

“While I can say most people were scared for their safety and the health of their loved ones, I can also say I found myself worrying about making people feel uncomfortable. Everyone had their own rituals and attempts to remain safe through the pandemic and it was always really hard for me to figure out what those rituals or attempts were. People deserve to feel safe and I want nothing more than to respect that. When it all first started, I remember how angry people would get because so much was unknown,” Bucks student James Bonnell, 31, says.

“I found myself really only putting myself in public or social situations when absolutely necessary. I figured not only would I (and everyone else) be safe if we weren’t around each other, but also the chances of a confrontation or a lack of comfortability amongst us would be nonexistent,” Bonnell adds.

“Many students had trouble with the virtual environment, and didn’t get as much out of classes because they couldn’t stay after class or attend review sessions and ask questions,” says Gilligan. He helped them to contact and interact with instructors.

“I did a video project for one of the journalism classes at Bucks where I interviewed a couple of students about how their mental health was affected by the pandemic and virtual learning, and the students agreed that they felt this big disconnect when it came to virtual learning, like they felt like they weren’t retaining as much as they would at an in-person class,” says Moore.

But for some it was easier.

“I think the biggest stressor due to covid was the uncertainty of everything. No one really knew what was happening or when it would end which made it difficult to plan something as big as college, especially my first year of college. In terms of strictly school work, I found covid and quarantine easier and more peaceful I guess, to do schoolwork,” says Colin Riccardi, 20 Bucks student. Riccardi has been on campus only once.

Gilligan offered students ways to deal with anxiety such as breathing, meditation, getting enough sleep and exercising and eating right. He said  “some may need to take medications ordered by a physician.”

While Cooper worked out and Moore did puzzles and took walks,  Darling connected with friends, and Bonnell “read more books this past year than in my whole life and I loved every minute of it. Being able to focus on the relationships around me and go back to school were also very helpful. I lost my job because of COVID, but it allowed me to take a step back and find what I really wanted to do.”

“I allotted time at some point in my day to listen/ play music. I play several instruments and having time to either listen/ play helps me forget about school/ Covid and really clear my head. It’s like a little restart,” says Riccardi.

Some think that enrollment dropped during covid because people decided to take a year off instead of going to school and then they got a job and didn’t come back, others thought it was the virtual environment, and others that the school needed to offer more financial promotions or discounts. Bonnell thought that enrollment had already been dropping for several years because of the student loan problems and recession of 2008.

Often students said they took classes at Bucks trying to figure out what they wanted to do because it is cheaper.  Others want to transfer to a four-year-school as Moore did. Bonnell chose Bucks because he had read that the journalism program was very good and the tuition is very reasonable.

Along with student counseling, Bucks offers other support services such as Advisory and Transfer Services which help students to plan for transfer so that their courses count. Sometimes if a student signs a transfer agreement they can even get a scholarship.

Bucks also offers numerous extracurricular activities through sports, clubs, panels, the fitness center, meditation groups, book club  and much more.

Bucks continues to innovate to provide value, support and community for the diverse needs of its students as covid stabilizes and Bucks students come back from the pandemic.

“Anyone who believes they have long-term psychological effects from covid should see a therapist to be evaluated. Especially if the long-term psychological effects from covid prevents them from going about their daily routine. These effects from covid may lead to a mental health diagnosis such as depression, anxiety disorder, etc. Some individuals are more predisposed to psychological disorders. For example, if they come from a family with a history of mental health disorders, addiction, and any kind of abuse,” says Gilligan.

Here are some links for student support services at Bucks: