Diverse Voices and Pandemic Perspectives of St. Mary's Students
by Camryn Blackmon and Sofia Soto, IGS majors at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, Texas.
St. Mary's University's diverse students' experiences are essential to our community. Capturing students' stories and experiences from backgrounds less frequently discussed in the conventional college story is essential. Here we share the stories of students' from underrepresented ethnic and racial backgrounds, student parents, international students, and those who deal with varying health conditions. This year, students faced struggles beyond the zoom classroom. They've had to grapple with natural disasters, closed international borders, a global economic crisis, caring for family members, and graduating with uncertainty. These perspectives show the strength and resilience of the students that make up our St. Mary's University community.
Mental Health and Adapting to New Challenges
COVID-19 has heavily impacted students' mental health as they have to adapt to an entirely new learning environment. Many students had to transition to a completely virtual semester from Spring, Summer, and Fall. The transition has been difficult for students in many different ways. As students have figured out how to adapt to new models of virtual education, they’ve also had to with the negative impacts of COVID-19 in their personal lives.
Gwyn Hartung shares her experience as a first-year graduate student during a pandemic. She discusses facing obstacles with maintaining a social life, productivity with school, and staying physically and mentally healthy.
For many summer opportunities, students and faculty had to go virtual. The McNair Scholars program usually hosts students from underrepresented backgrounds on campus for seminars and research presentations but this year they switched to zoom at the last minute.
Ashley Trayler, a senior undergraduate student majoring in Criminal Justice and Psychology, is a student and a mother of two-year-old Adrian. In the interview, Ashley discusses her life before during the pandemic and the obstacles she has faced.
International Students and Travel Restrictions
During COVID-19 many International borders were closed. This directly affected many International students who were either unable to go back to their home country, or were unable to leave their home country to study at St. Mary's University. As International students and those studying abroad faced these unique challenges, they adapted and learned how to handle uncertainty with a positive outlook.
Valeria Rodriguez, a St. Mary's University Freshman studying virtually from her home in Honduras. She highlights the ways in which she has overcome challenges and continues to look at the bright side of things.
The Trump administration wanted international students to go to their home countries if they were not taking in-person classes. While this decision was ultimately blocked international students faced a lot of uncertainty for their education due to the pandemic causing colleges and universities to go virtual.
Andrea Avilés is an International Student from Tegucigalpa, Honduras. From the borders closing in March to Hurricane Eta causing catastrophic damage, Andrea shares about how she copes, stays connected to her family, and above all, positive through such difficult times.
This is an email, Sofia Soto, sent St. Mary's study abroad coordinator, Raquel, at the end of February while studying abroad in Alcalá de Henares, Spain. Students from this international program at the Universidad de Alcalá were being sent home and cases of Covid-19 were increasing in surrounding cities.
Hurricane Eta has created destruction in Central America. The St. Mary's community has stepped up to help those affected. From increasing awareness of the destruction to raising donations on GoFundMe through social media, students have been working together, despite a geographical distance, to create a positive impact.
Hurricane Eta caused catastrophic damage in Honduras. St. Mary's University's Humanitarians have created an Go-fund me account in effort to provide relief for the people affected.
This video of Toncotín, Tegucigalpa's International Airport. It is alarming for many St. Mary's International Students from Honduras because of the implications this destruction has on their future, such as the ability to enter or leave the country.
Andrea Aviles, an International student from Tegucigalpa, Honduras shares about the destruction Hurricane Eta has created in Honduras and how she is helping her community from a distance as she continues her studies in UTSA.
Class of 2020 Virtual Graduations
2020 is the year of nontraditional celebrations, from virtual graduations to drive-by diploma pick-ups. People have adapted and learned how to continue commemorating achievements during a pandemic.
St.Mary held an event where students and their families could come to campus and pick up their diplomas. Hosting an event like this for students and their families helped provide a special moment even though a traditional graduation ceremony was a significant loss for those working towards walking the stage.
The Provost's Office sent St. Mary's seniors this email to notify them that the Fall 2020 graduation will be virtual.
Despite everything this diverse collection of students experienced, they persevered; all of these stories portray not only the obstacles students faced, but also how strong St. Mary's University students are.