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Saturday, December 4, 2021

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Students in communication professor Wayne Beach's class share their personal perspectives on the impact of COVID-19 on themselves, their families and the environment. Graphic: Ryan Schuler Students in communication professor Wayne Beach's class share their personal perspectives on the impact of COVID-19 on themselves, their families and the environment. Graphic: Ryan Schuler

Students Explore the Personal Impact of COVID-19 in a Communication Class

In Wayne Beach’s class, students share the pandemic’s impact on themselves, their families and the environment.
By SDSU News Team

Unexpected. Stressful. Anxious. These are some of the common descriptions of feelings 2020 evokes in people. A group of San Diego State University communication students and their professor spent the fall exploring ways the COVID-19 pandemic has personally impacted them.

Professor Wayne Beach teaches Communication, Health, and Social Relationships (COMM 424) and asked his students to give thought to what has changed for them, what makes them anxious, how they are coping, and other concerns during this eventful year.

As they have navigated major changes during the pandemic, four students in Beach’s class shared their perspectives with SDSU NewsCenter.

At SDSU, the community has responded to the pandemic by introducing dozens of research initiatives, some of them directly supporting the reduction of COVID-19 on and off campus. Staff have shifted student support services online and are offering virtual events and programs as alternatives to in-person gatherings, as county, state and federal agencies continue to discourage certain in-person meetings and social activities. These resources are listed below, at the end of this article.

Mother-Daughter Relationship (Alma Villa)
I’m a full-time student pursuing a health communication degree, and a pharmacy technician at the Navy Medical Center, San Diego. Most importantly, I’m a single mother. My 11-year-old daughter’s name is Evolet. Our time together is always precious, especially with such a tight schedule.
I work in a hospital with diverse medical staff. These interactions create high COVID-19 risks, and I became deeply afraid of infecting my daughter. Her safety was my priority, and out of love I began leaving Evolet with my parents. Though it felt wrong to not touch and embrace her, I believed protecting her from the virus was even more important. Over time, however, her expressions of disbelief, sadness, and pain from my withholding of touch were extremely painful: It broke my heart when she told me how much she missed me and begged to come home.
The damage was done and the change was obvious: Evolet became withdrawn. The time apart without my presence and affection damaged her spirit. She needed her mother, and I needed her. Despite the virus threats, I decided to soothe both our feelings and sought her embrace. Although kisses shifted from her cheek to the top of her head, reconnecting with her became my priority. I wanted to share the joy Evolet and I always experienced together.
The chaos of COVID-19 triggers legitimate fears. But I now realize that loneliness and living without affection makes us all unwell. There are times when it is worth taking infection risks to gain intimate love. 
Yoga and COVID-19 (Katie Gomez)
I am a communication senior at SDSU. Teaching yoga at Corepower Yoga (CY) helped me to calm my mind and allowed me to impact others’ lives in meaningful ways. Over time CY became my second home and primary source of social support.
I didn’t fully realize how much of my identity was connected with teaching yoga until it was put on hold with COVID-19 restrictions.
My relationships at CY were the reason I dared to become a teacher in the first place. I missed my students and the rewards only teaching can provide. Once studios were shut down, however, I gradually realized that I had to rediscover my true reasons for practicing and teaching yoga. It is not about the heated studios, the Lululemon apparel, or even who you practice with. The purpose of yoga is to build harmonious connections with ourselves and others. By creating mind/body balance it becomes possible to become more aware of and accept the many challenges of everyday living. These are the keys to peaceful and fulfilling relationships.
I remain hopeful in the midst of this unprecedented time. In quarantine, I am discovering that I still have much more to learn in my current SDSU classes, and before I resume my role as a yoga instructor. Oddly enough, this pandemic era has given me the gift of time to grow and mature in ways I never could have imagined.

An Environmental Conflict (Juliette Decker)

I am currently pursuing my communication degree at SDSU during a global pandemic. I am also an environmental advocate, a full-time restaurant manager, and a person constantly faced with contradictions causing a large amount of mental and physical stress in my life.

I spend my days looking for small ways to fix the large problem of climate change. Yet at the same time, faced with COVID-19 threats, I have to ensure the safety and health of myself, employees, and customers. Doing so requires wearing protective gear at work, like gloves, to ensure that I am not spreading the virus. These gloves are replaced by people hundreds of times throughout the day, and must be thrown away, which causes me to feel extreme guilt.

I have spent years of my life trying to reduce the amounts of one-use material I use, as well as influence others to do the same. But now I have no choice but to give in to the one-use lifestyle to promote safe work environments. I have to lead my team by encouraging them to use gloves and other protections. These behaviors minimize risk, but also stand in conflict with my own emotional commitment to environmental advocacy. 

I feel double-binded and double-blinded – anxious and guilty. How do we maintain personal safety without giving up on efforts ensuring a sustainable planet?

Family Matters (Tannia Godinez)

As an SDSU communication major coping with this pandemic, I’ve reflected on how my upbringing has shaped what I understand about health and communication. I grew up in an Hispanic household where our parents didn’t talk to us about our health. I didn’t learn about how best to care for my mind and body. Discussions about sex or my mental and physical health never occurred. If I raised a health problem I was told “You’ll be fine.” and my feelings and concerns were dismissed.

I came to realize that my parents knew little about medical care and didn’t have insurance. Only on rare occasions did they drive us down to Tijuana to be treated by doctors. We had few resources to manage our sickness in the United States, and my parents’ language barriers put us all at risk for health disparities in education, treatment, and sustainable care.

When I was at San Diego City College I paid a health fee every semester and I knew it was for health necessities. But I was not comfortable using these resources, or admitting that I needed care, because I was raised to accept that very few options existed for managing health. And it was not my choice to do so. SDSU offers even more health resources for students, and over time I am gradually allowing myself to become more open-minded to seeking help when needed. Utilizing health services is not only available, but encouraged and appropriate for healthy living.

As a single mother of three growing boys, I am having to relearn and teach them about not only the importance of health, but the fundamental right to be open about feelings and take advantage of available resources. I feel grateful to be alive, and empowered by my education to create a new health legacy for my family.

The many resources SDSU offers include: 
  • Counseling and Psychological Services (C&PS), which will add seven new therapists in January to further expand capacity. Students are encouraged to call 619-594-5220 for a consultation to get personalized recommendations by a therapist. 
  • “Talk-it-Out” is available on a drop-in basis, for students who need a focused consultation with a therapist. The schedule is available online for the one-on-one sessions. 
  • Well-being and Health Promotion continues to offer one-on-one education to connect with students and help them understand more about their sexual health, nutrition and sleep hygiene. 
  • Students who need support obtaining accommodations in their courses should contact the Student Ability Success Center (SASC) by emailing or calling 619-594-6473. For general SASC information and appointment scheduling, you may also contact the virtual front desk: 
  • The Economic Crisis Response Team (ECRT) offers student support through any basic needs crises, including food and housing insecurity, financial insecurity and health insecurity. Students can fill out a basic online form to request ECRT assistance
  • Faculty and staff should also rely on the Employee Assistance Program and other resources for employees available online.  
  • Faculty and staff can also find COVID-19-related guidelines, forms and resources via the SDSU Campus Repopulation SharePoint site (login required).