Preparing for a Semester of Uncertainty

Bakhtawar Yasir
Bakhtawar Yasir

When thinking about returning to school for my second semester, I’ve experienced a rollercoaster of emotions in the last few weeks. At first, I was excited – the pandemic felt somewhat under control and I thought I’d be able to return to school normally. However, with the new variant, Omicron, that may not happen. I feel almost silly for not expecting that there would be more changes, but I was extremely hopeful about going back and having a sense of normalcy. That has all changed.

Many universities have already announced that they are going to be online for the first two weeks returning from winter break. I’m from Texas so at this point, I’m not sure what my school will do. Texas is known to take limited precautions, however, after seeing some universities in Texas announcing they will be going online, a mixture of feelings started to arise. I was thankful and terrified all at once. While I saw universities doing the right thing by taking precautions, I was appreciative because I know it’s for the safety and well-being of everyone, especially professors, staff, and students. However, I was also nervous because I am not sure what my school will do, and I started to experience the anxiety of March 2020 all over again.

March of 2020, when we all began learning about the possible implications of COVID-19, is also when many college students were given an extension on our spring break. We were all excited for an extra week of spring break, thinking things would somewhat quickly improve, but from there the pandemic only got worse. It is scary to think that we could potentially have another “two weeks online” because that can easily turn into another semester. All these feelings can be very overwhelming. I try to remind myself that it is valid to experience all these emotions and that it is an accomplishment to even be continuing my education, no matter the circumstances, especially in the middle of a pandemic.

Regardless of what happens next, I am thankful to be in the Active Minds chapter at my university and have that community. I am currently the president of my chapter so my number one focus is to listen and adapt to everyone’s needs and comfort levels as much as possible. Currently, my chapter is planning an all-executive board meeting about the upcoming semester like we usually do, however this time we are going to focus on creating backup plans if we were to go online and thinking through how we can support all our members.

Since it is such a confusing time it is important that we are doing whatever we can to prepare so we don’t become overwhelmed in the future. I encourage anyone else who is struggling with uncertainty and feelings of nervousness to also take the time to plan what they can. For chapter leaders, these preparations can be steps such as organizing all online general meetings if needed, inviting your chapter advisor to see what they can do to help us, and conducting mental health check-ins. For example, this past fall semester we offered general meetings in a hybrid model where we met in-person and online. Our chapter also has a business chat strictly for announcements from executive officers and a social chat where members can have conversations about mental health. This social chat is another thing that can be utilized to keep up communication and conversation between our members. We are also planning on having mental health check-in events where members can come and discuss how they are doing and what they need from us so we can have a better idea of how to help our members. Even if you’re not an Active Minds chapter leader, taking time to plan ahead with friends and classmates, doing regular mental health check-ins, and communicating your boundaries and comfort levels can help this semester feel a bit more manageable.

It’s exhausting to know that we’re facing what may be yet another semester of uncertainty. A lot of things feel out of control. Despite this, I hope you’re able to cope in whatever way feels most helpful to you – whether that be planning, seeking advice from friends and mentors, or just taking things day by day.