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Crucial Lessons COVID-19 Has Taught Me As An Undergrad

I fondly recall when I celebrated this New Year’s Day with my friends.

We cheered and wished each other a great GPA for the coming semester (we’re all first-year university students).

Well, those were simpler times.

For most of us, the COVID-19 pandemic is the biggest crisis we have ever faced. With rising infections and death tolls every day, we are forced to change the way the we meet, the way we eat, and the way we live.

As I stay home and practise safe distancing, I notice a silver lining - I have gleaned some valuable lessons that I probably won’t forget for the rest of my life.


1. Financial security is super important

Seeing how many workers lose their jobs or had their incomes drop to zero really frightened me. Amid all the uncertainties, one thing’s for sure – it’s crucial to have some savings on the side to tide over this crisis.

For many of us university students, we’re stuck with the huge burden of student debt and I constantly worry about how I’m going pay for it in a few years after graduating. Will I get a decent paying job? Will I able to support my parents next time?

I ponder these questions all the time but this pandemic has shown that financial security in the present is just as, if not more than, important in the future.


2. Helping each other means everything

In the competitive environment of university, sometimes we tend to forget that we can ask one another for help. Despite how terrible the situation has become, there are many remarkable acts of kindness that have surfaced.

Early on, we already heard of some students who volunteered to deliver food to quarantined students staying in the hostels.

More recently, there is spreadsheet initiated by a student that collates internship opportunities to help students who had their exchange programmes cancelled or are in need of employment.

Such acts of warmth have shown that it isn’t always about being better than others – it’s about helping one another that matters. A very stark message is that how we behave now determines how we will be seen in the future.


3. We can't prepare for everything

In school, almost everything can be prepared for. We can revise the treasure troves of endless past-year exam questions, or practise our presentations to a blank wall for hours. University isn’t easy but the tasks are things we can get ready for.

Contrast that to COVID-19 where we don’t know what’s coming. Infection numbers keep rising and policy changes happen every other day.

The more important lesson here, it seems, is to be ready to adapt.

When physical lectures were suspended, our teachers adapted to e-lectures quickly and we as students gave feedback on how to improve, sharpening the process to make it easier and more effective for everyone.


4. There’s a bigger world out there

Sometimes when we’re cooped up in school cramming for the next test or planning a CCA event, we tend to miss the bigger picture. This pandemic has reminded me that our society has a lot more people than students and teachers, and a lot more problems than just getting that A.

It’s not that our grades or school activities don’t matter - they do very much at times - but it’s just that when we look at it in the grand scheme of things, maybe there are tougher questions for us to answer.


5. Maybe try laughing a little more

Lastly, but perhaps most importantly, I have found that humour is a powerful coping mechanism during this crisis. I often try to see the good and funny in things but during these critical times, it’s not easy.

However, there are some really funny videos and memes poking fun at the problems of online meetings, folks hoarding toilet paper or the uncanny resemblance of “Corona beer” to “coronavirus”.

It’s hard to find the funny in all this and be optimistic. You’re absolutely right that it feels scary and distressing. But I think if a meme or viral video can brighten up our days for just a few moments during these trying times, it’s better than nothing. Cheers.

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