Mental Health and Online School: An Interview with Graduate Student Gwyn Hartung


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Mental Health and Online School: An Interview with Graduate Student Gwyn Hartung

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This is an interview with St.Mary's University Public History Graduate Student Gywn Hartung. Gwyn recently graduated from UTSA with an undergraduate degree in Anthropology and classical studies. She is currently in her first year of graduate school and began it entirely online. In the interview, Gwyn described her first semester of graduate school and how her mental health has been impacted by the combination of COVID-19 and transition to online school.

Gwyn's experience is significant because many students in the fall 2020 semester face various obstacles with maintaining their social lives, productivity with school, and staying physically and mentally healthy.
Interview transcript and audio

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Camryn Blackmon

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Gwyn Hartung

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San Antonio, TX

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Blackmon, Camryn 0:00
Okay, let me pull up my question. So if you could do the same where
you like, introduce yourself and give some information.
Hartung, Gwyn 0:09
Sure. Um, my name is Gwen Hartung. I am a first year master's student
in the public history program at St. Mary's. But before this, I went
to UTSA, where I majored in anthropology and classical studies. I'm
living in San Antonio right now. And I have four cats.
Blackmon, Camryn 0:34
Okay, and then what are your pronouns?
Hartung, Gwyn 0:36
Oh, yes, yes. She her.
Blackmon, Camryn 0:39
Okay. Okay, so my first question would be, are you comfortable
describing what have you been feeling and what your mental state has
been kind of throughout the timeline of the pandemic? And like now?
Hartung, Gwyn 0:52
Yeah, for sure. So, um, I have anxiety, I take medication for it, I'm
there, it's good and bad days. Um, sometimes I really, like, you know,
being inside all the time, because I wasn't a huge fan of going out
all the time anyways. But sometimes, you know, I kind of feel a little
claustrophobic. And all of this combined with the fact that this is my
first year of grad school, and I'm just trying to figure everything
out.I have,like imposter syndrome a little bit. My professors have
been super, super supportive of me. And I really, really appreciate
it. But sometimes I feel like the praise and the support that they
give me is, you know, unearned and unwarranted, like, I, I feel like I
don't do well enough for them to be so excited about the things that I
do. Um, so I've just kind of been suffering from that. Um, but I go
through times, where I'm, like, super productive, and like, really on
top of things, and other times where I'm like, holy crap that was due
today. Well, I gotta go do this right now. Real quick. So that's
generally how it's been.
Blackmon, Camryn 2:06
I definitely deal with imposter syndrome as well, and so many
different ways. But do you think do you feel that more because it's
like your first year of grad school? Like, do you think the pandemic
has like influenced that more? Or do you think you would have that
Hartung, Gwyn 2:23
I think probably regardless, I would feel it, it might be enhanced
because of the pandemic, because I can't see anybody in person to get
these kind of reassurances. And I always feel like I have so much free
time. Technically, I guess you could say, so I feel like I don't
utilize my time well enough to, you know, to get all of the praise and
help that I that I'm getting. So I'm always just kind of like, man,
would they would they be saying these nice things about me if we were
like on campus right now? Or is it because you know, they're just
trying their best and like encouraging everyone really hardcore right
now? Because everything is so crappy?
Blackmon, Camryn 3:08
Yeah, no, I definitely understand that. So what factors in your life
primarily, those influenced by COVID, have had an impact on your
mental health?
Hartung, Gwyn 3:22
Um, so my boyfriend has a job where they have split the shifts. So he
goes in at, he has to be there at five o'clock in the morning. And he
gets home around three o'clock in the afternoon or so. And it is a
little difficult because I stay up a lot later than he does. And so I
don't get to see him as much because he goes to sleep, and then he's
gone while I'm awake. And so I miss him. And you know, I'm looking
forward to when he can have a more regular schedule, or I can have a
different schedule so that we can match better. But right now, it's
just, it's a little hard. I'm really glad that they're splitting
everything so that there's less people in the office at the same time,
but I do miss him when he's gone.
Blackmon, Camryn 4:15
Yeah.Um, are you just like primarily a student? Are there other
responsibilities that you have in your life?
Hartung, Gwyn 4:25
I am a law fellow is what they call it, a fellowship, where we're
working with the law library at St. Mary's. So I work 20 hours a week,
doing whatever they have me to do. And we have a meeting every week to
you know, just kind of sum up what we've done and what our goals are.
So I have those responsibilities as well, but I don't technically have
to leave the house at all if I don't want to. So it's nice in that
aspect, but also you know more, it's a little harder to get feedback
because you're not in person.
Blackmon, Camryn 5:07
Um, how has the transition impacted your mental health to online
school, but especially as like a graduate student, I don't know if
there would be any differences. Um, because you've recently probably
graduated from UTSA and I don't know if you have noticed differences
between being a graduate student in general, but maybe differences as
like an online graduate student.
Hartung, Gwyn 5:29
Yeah, um, it's definitely different from undergrad in some ways, it's
a little less stressful, because there are less people in the class,
you can talk to the professors more in depth. But another ways,
there's a lot of things you have to get done. And so it can be kind of
stressful with that, I feel like they are a lot more flexible, because
we are online, which I find very helpful. I don't know if they're
gonna continue to be quite as flexible next semester, if we do online,
I hope so. But we'll see. And I don't know, I really, I really have no
idea what it would be like to not be, you know, an a, an online
graduate student, most of my courses are in the evening. So that is a
lot different from what I did as an undergrad, which is pretty nice,
because I tend to sleep a little later, which is good, because I
really can't function without sleep. Um, so that's one thing that's
nice. I'm able to sleep a little later and focus more during the two
and a half hour long classes I have to take in the afternoons.
Blackmon, Camryn 6:42
That's good. So, have you developed any, like new coping mechanisms?
Or do you have any from like prior to COVID that you do utilize during
this time?
Hartung, Gwyn 6:55
Um, I've been trying to keep a diary. Um, and I've also been trying to
do exercises daily with my roommates because they are also in the, you
know, there also are at home right now. So it's a little hard with the
diary, I feel a little ridiculous sometimes, like, who even keeps a
diary anymore. Um, but I think it would be interesting to look back on
these entries while you know, in 10 years or so, when the pandemic is
done with looking back at that, and just this year, in general is just
pretty crazy. Um, it's a little harder to keep up with the exercising
because I don't really like to exercise very much, but we just try to
do things just to stay active. So it's better than just sitting around
all day is what we figure.
Blackmon, Camryn 7:47
That's really good.Okay, well, that's all the questions. I am. Do you
have any questions?
Hartung, Gwyn 7:54
Um, no, I'm pretty good.
Blackmon, Camryn 7:57
Okay, awesome. Thank you so much.
Hartung, Gwyn 8:00
Thank you.
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This item was submitted on October 30, 2020 by Camryn Blackmon using the form “Share Your Story” on the site “A Journal of the Plague Year”:

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