Saikiran Bomma on College Students and the Realities of COVID-19 on Campus

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the lives of many people. From the way Americans work and study, to how we spend our personal time, nothing has been untouched by this global epidemic. Social distancing measures have kept us away from friends and family and a general sense of uncertainty has lingered. One of the most significantly impacted groups — college students. In fact, today, due to COVID-19, the life of a college student in the United States looks significantly different than it did just a year ago.

Saikiran Bomma of Fairfield County, Connecticut, completed the last year of her undergraduate degree under the restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic. Saikiran attended Penn State University where she graduated with a degree in biological anthropology. She discusses the impact of COVID-19 on campus.

Campus Life

For all students and first-year students especially, the loss of campus life due to COVID-19 pandemic restrictions has been difficult. Many students go to college looking forward to the exciting and social campus life that is offered. However, with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, many typical campus activities have been altered or canceled altogether. In particular, the social distancing measures that have been put into place to reduce transmission of COVID-19 have completely changed the social life of students on campus. Regulations regarding group sizes have meant no gatherings, parties, or tailgating. Even spectating at sporting events has been limited or cancelled at times. Where group gatherings are allowed, social distancing recommendations keep students at least six feet apart, making it difficult to interact. For those living on campus, a limited number of guests are allowed in student housing. And, in some cases, no guests are allowed at all. Saikiran Bomma suggests that these restrictions, although necessary, have hampered the college experience that many are looking for. These conditions also make it difficult to develop connections with other students, potentially leading to a difficult and lonely experience.

New Ways of Learning

At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, many students were forced to move their learning online. In most cases, this was a new experience and posed many challenges. Students had to very quickly learn to navigate new systems and procedures. For those new to online learning, additional time management, motivational, and organizational skills also had to be developed. Now that many colleges have resumed in-person instruction, the difficulties of online learning have been eased. However, new challenges have surfaced. New rules, particularly those concerning social distancing measures, are in place, leading to a learning environment that is much different than normal. Returning to class, many students have found that they are required to wear a mask and to maintain a distance of six feet between themselves and others. These new rules and regulations, notes Saikiran Bomma, pose a unique set of challenges that students must navigate.

Coming and Going

Even the ability to freely come and go from campus has been limited in some circumstances due to the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, students attending certain colleges in Connecticut may be required to self-quarantine before coming to campus if they have visited a state with a travel advisory in effect. In addition, all those coming into the state of Connecticut must complete an online health form within a day of their arrival. These requirements can place additional stress on college students who are trying to keeping up with classes and homework. As well, Saikiran Bomma points out that these procedures force many students, especially those from out of state, to make tough decisions about returning home to see their families. In the case that self-quarantine will be required upon their return, a student may find it too daunting to return home. This can lead to mental health concerns and requires the college community to come together to offer solutions and provide support.

Saikiran Bomma on Mental Health

With altered campus life, limited social interactions, and the stress imposed by new rules, regulations, and learning styles, students are facing increased anxiety and depression in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Saikiran Bomma notes that now more than ever before it is important for students and faculty to focus on their mental health and to support one another. To get through this everyone will need to work together — reach out to those in need and check in with your friends and family regularly, even if you can’t do so in person.

Saikiran Bomma is an anthropology major and recent graduate from Penn State University.