Think back to March 23, 2020. Everything seemed normal until checking Twitter to see a mind-boggling headline: “Could COVID19 be the next pandemic?”. Cases had been reported in China, but few people suspected how quickly it would spread worldwide.

Farrah Beidas, a recent University of Evansville graduate, was on vacation having the time of her life when she stumbled across the devastating news.

Beidas had traveled to Dallas, Texas to celebrate her 21st birthday with her father and brother. She woke up not only to her birthday gifts, but to wearing a mask outside, with friends and in the supermarket.

A whole year later, these precautions are still part of daily life.

“I want to visit my mother who lives thousands and thousands of miles away. The only way I keep it together is binge-watching my favorite Korean television shows and calling my mother every day on Facetime to check up on how she is coping with the pandemic alone, without her kids,” Beidas said when asked how she stayed sane during these difficult times.

Social media is always a way to escape reality, but leaving reality behind for a year can be tiring. TikTok has been a popular platform for people to take their minds off the pandemic by watching funny videos or creating their own content. As a result, TikTok’s total active users rose to 91 million by the middle of summer in 2020, according to a user growth report released by TikTok in August.

California was one of the many states that struggled to contain the spread of COVID-19. Politico reported in October that other states like Vermont, Washington and Louisiana locked down more quickly, which helped to flatten the initial curve and reduce the number of infected individuals.

Humoud Al-Ghanim, an international student and soccer player at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, talked about his frustration with public disregard for COVID-19 safety.

“What makes it more difficult is going outside to buy groceries and seeing elderly or cool kids who refuse to wear masks because it covers their physical features or they can’t breathe. Doctors wore masks way before COVID, and they did not complain, so it is tough seeing these people rebel against the rules, endangering other people’s lives,” Al-Ghanim said.

Not being able to see or hug loved ones is difficult, so to combat loneliness, Al-Ghanim regularly used social media to check up on friends and family. Practicing the sport he loves has also helped to distract him from the tragedies happening every day.

Across the pond, Mariam Nasser is a graduate student at Bedfordshire University in the East of England. As her graduation approached and her classes became virtual last spring, Nasser struggled through miscommunication with professors, unanswered questions and the knowledge she that she wouldn’t be able to see her family that summer.

“Like so many others, I was on a straight path to graduation, but what seemed straight then surely became windy as time went on. Not only was I almost withheld from graduating, my good academic standing was threatened. I always considered myself a dedicated and studious individual…Yet somehow the pandemic hits, and I am feeling unmotivated, uninspired and lazy,” Nasser said.

Fortunately for Nasser, many writing groups and student organizations moved online, and participating provided the support she needed to make it through the semester. Socializing through online games helped as well, and to stay active, Nasser followed guided home videos on meditation and stretching.

Though the pandemic has brought great hardship to our world, it has also inconvenienced us in many smaller ways as we cope with isolation and the weight of tragedy around us. As people are vaccinated and we slowly return to ordinary life, remembering the common struggles and solutions we shared while apart will bring us closer together.

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