COVID-19 has disrupted life for everyone across the world. Since the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus outbreak a global pandemic on March 11, 2020, staying inside has become the ‘norm’ we’ve all had to accept for a year, from working at home to staff on furlough and people studying online.
For the latter, how has a year of lockdown impacted students? Graduation is now an understated virtual affair, screen-time fatigue is more real than ever as classes are taught remotely, and moving back home is an all-too-familiar tale. While many of us can remember our first taste of independence as a student—whether it was linking up with new classmates for an evening out, decorating your first space away from home, or studying with friends—the current generation is missing out on these crucial moments.
In October, the World Health Organization reported that COVID-19 has halted or disrupted mental health services in 93% of countries, a frightening statistic. In a bid to further conversations around the lasting effects of the pandemic, Vogue spoke to seven young people about how the past unparalleled 12 months have shaped their lives.
“As a freshman, I didn’t have the opportunity to meet new people and make friends. Like many, I missed my longtime friends and became overcome with anxiety about COVID-19—I was afraid to walk past people outdoors. I stayed indoors, cried with anxiety, my hands became chapped from using antibacterial gel, and I had fatigue from constantly being on my computer. I couldn’t get [thoughts about] the pandemic out of my head. I’ve managed to cope by exercising and playing lacrosse, which I’ve found to be a great stress reliever.”
“I was planning to fly to Paris after New York to work on my thesis at the Azzedine Alaïa Foundation, but everything happened so quickly. Health insurance complications meant I had to leave the US and go back to Italy, my birthplace. It has been one of the hardest years of my life. I was petrified of COVID-19, as Italy had the highest death toll at one point—it was extremely frustrating not knowing anything.
“Since graduating remotely from the École du Louvre in November, I have been struggling to find a job in cultural institutions or the fashion industry. [But] being at home with my family has helped me cope a lot, as we’ve been living apart for many years. I’ve learned to appreciate the little things and was fortunate enough to spend the past summer with my grandparents in the countryside in Marche [on Italy’s eastern coast]. One thing I’m grateful for during this turbulent time is the focus on emotional wellbeing and mental health.”
“Over the past year, I’ve become somewhat disillusioned with the entire concept of a ‘career’—the pandemic has made it clear nothing is set in stone, and careerist success is never truly fulfilling. I was attending university virtually for most of the year, which was financially difficult and made my health decline, leading me to take fewer classes during my second semester.