The title of this post may be suspect, but even the saying “we’re all in this together” is true but at the same time untrue in how the coronavirus affects certain populations more than others. The COVID-19 pandemic is more or less unprecedented, especially with how far technology and modern society has advanced since the Spanish Flu pandemic in 1918 — that’s over 100 years! No other disease has ravaged the world in recent times like the novel coronavirus.

As we’ve adapted to technological advances, so we must adapt to this pandemic too. Some people may be calling it the “new normal,” but really, what is normal? Can’t we redefine and reshape our world to make sure that we are not as unprepared for a future world catastrophe? Change is difficult. That’s it. Period. However, if people can embrace transition and change better and more fluidly, we could solve so many of the world’s issues! That may be an optimistic view and it may take another 100 years to see change, but you know what? It all starts with the younger generations growing up and going into adulthood during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Advice to College Students

Document your experience in some way throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Whether it’s a diary, a blog or vlog, through social media posts, poetry or photography, make sure you record how you feel about what is currently happening because there’s a wide open secret among adults: We don’t know what we’re doing either. We are all rolling with the punches, but you hold the future in your hands in how you react to this current climate.

College students may resent online classes, the ban on frat parties, the limits of sports teams, and the inability to go to bars. Maybe there are other aspects that can be improved. Write it down or else things won’t change as readily as they can with your feedback. Without these critical observations of the students who are experiencing different restrictions and situations, the world cannot adapt to what is necessary for society to thrive.

Reshaping the Future through Mindset

We need people from ages six through twenty to say, “Wow, the pandemic was a crazy time. I didn’t like X, Y, and Z. Let’s change that!” After those thoughts materialize, it might not be simple, but the power of this mindset could change the world as these children grow up.

Elementary school children use technology as easily as thinking and breathing, so why couldn’t they use that as their advantage in the future? Everything could be completely virtual in 20 years, but limiting face-to-face contact would slow a virus like the one we’re battling now.

What about college-age students currently? They are mature enough, thoughtful enough to voice their dislikes before the younger generation. They can be the catalyst to the change, the bottom of the learning curve. “Unprecedented times” can soon be precendented and society can react to it postively and implement systems of change for the better.

Educational models, employment standards, heathcare systems, and government approaches can be structured to better adapt to the ever-changing climate of the world. Make change a positive thing, make it sound like growth instead of a hassle. It can be small at first, but over time, with more support, change will happen and we can improve the world.

Don’t Forget about Empathy

Everyone will have a different experience during the COVID-19 pandemic. Some may be working remotely, some may be trying to balance work and childcare, some may be on the front lines, some may be trying to figure out how to teach online classes, and some may have lost their jobs or even their loved ones. The biggest internal asset we humans have is empathy.

We can empathize with another person even if we haven’t experienced the same thing. This is why it’s important to document your experiences instead of internalize it. Future generations will want to know what it was like during the coronavirus in 2020. We also need to employ empathy now. Know that not everyone will be mentally or physically equipped to handle social distancing, quarantine, travel restrictions, etc. That’s okay! Help others out if you have resources that they don’t. Be supportive of your friends, family, coworkers, healthcare workers, grocery store cashiers, and anyone else you know or pass by on the sidewalk even if you’re six feet apart.

Everyone is in uncharted territory. Be mindful and empathetic as much as you can. Dr. Lou Agosta who attended and presented a poster at the World Future Forum in 2019 shares his insights on “Empathy in the age of coronavirus:”

So what are the proper boundaries in a coronavirus epidemic? Empathy lessons 101 teach us that the most fearsome thing is the unknown – the Hold that thought. The unknown is stressful. The unknown leaves one feeling isolated. The unknown inspires anxiety. The unknown creates an opening for alternative facts, half truths, and total nonsense.

And while that much is true, Dr. Agosta finishing the same article with:

Every breakdown, when handled with empathy, has the possibility of a breakthrough – a breakthrough in sustaining and crossing boundaries with expanded understanding, generosity, humor (as appropriate and inappropriate), responsiveness, receptivity, respect, random acts of kindness, dignity, and our shared humanity.

On that note, let everyone pursue that breakthrough after this breakdown. We should try to better our world as a result of this crisis and we need everyone — children, college students, parents, teachers, employers, grandparents, etc — to do that.

Resources

There are many resources out there for college students navigating online classes, but here are a few to start with:

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