By: Mehak Dureja, SDSU Chapter Member
With all this time on my hands, I have found myself stumbling upon articles and random research papers I would have never even glanced at before. One of them has inspired me to write this blog post for all you STEM ladies. Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler (https://www.edge.org/3rd_culture/christakis_fowler08/christakis_fowler08_index.html) researched the impact of social networks and connections. Their results indicated that happiness spreads through social networks, much like a virus. It makes it possible for the average person, like you and I, to be infected by other people’s happiness and sorrow. Christakis and Fowler explain: "A person's happiness is related to the happiness of their friends, their friends' friends, and their friends' friends' friends—that is, to people well beyond their social horizon." Currently, we are being faced with two viruses, obviously there is COVID-19, but then there's another deadly one- isolation. Our socialization capabilities have been stripped away from us. Most of us would give anything and everything to wake up exhausted at 7 am for lecture, or to find ourselves laughing with our best friends at the end of a really rough day. But, we are all being told to make the best of it and be grateful for this time at home, so you might be feeling guilty for complaining about it. This is an unprecedented situation that warrants all kinds of mixed feelings. So I write this post, with the help of some amazing friends and classmates, for you to relate to, laugh at, cry with, and most importantly resonate with. I hope by reading about your fellow women in STEM’s experiences, you’ll find a sense of comfort and maybe some semblance of happiness during this difficult time, knowing that you are not alone.
Jenny Kim - Third Year
Major : Neuroscience (minor in psychology, pre-medical track)
My name is Jenny and I am a rising senior (class of 2021!) at Boston University studying neuroscience with a minor in psychology on the pre-medical track. I’d like to start off and emphasize that I hope everyone is staying safe and healthy during this pandemic — it isn’t easy on any of us. Personally, I have found that this time has been one of self-reflection, finding my inner strength, and learning to relinquish control. These past several weeks have helped me recognize that I took my independence for granted; I didn’t realize how freeing it was to do something as simple as grabbing coffee before class, but learning to adapt is a fundamental act of living. It’s also helped me realize that there is so much beauty in human interaction: I didn’t know I could miss seeing the smiles of my friends, giving hugs to loved ones, or the simple nuances of human connection, like meeting a new person and exchanging a handshake. I don’t know when we’ll get that back, but for now, while I miss my campus and being with my friends and sorority sisters, I am also incredibly grateful for my health, as well as the health and wellbeing of my family and friends. I don’t know yet if this situation has fundamentally changed me, but it has made me recognize how strong humanity and community is. I have seen people rise up and put themselves on the front line for others, putting themselves on a fragile tightrope between life and death, which is incredibly brave and humbling. This time has also made me more grateful, if anything, for STEM. The groundbreaking research and collaboration being done by scientists around the world to race against the clock and save as many lives is truly awe-inspiring. It’s an act of love for the fellow human, and I’m constantly grateful for all that is being done. It has only increased my desires to be a physician, and to help others in their most vulnerable states. I hope that after this is all done, that there is still a push for kindness to one another, and an emphasis on community — there is no doubt that we are all connected in some way. I hope that when I am back on campus that I say “yes” to things that scare me more, and to live each day with more intention. I wish everyone nothing but health, love, and happiness.
Nidhi Gopagani - First Year
Major: Psychology (pre-med track)
San Diego State University
My name’s Nidhi Gopagani and I am currently a Freshman in SDSU majoring in Psychology on the Pre Med track, and about a month ago when SDSU had first announced an extended spring break, I was so excited for all the time I was going to now have and all the sleep I was about to catch up on. But during this very much lengthened quarantine, I had realized that I completely misread the situation. Until now, I hadn’t realized how difficult doing Chemistry labs online were going to be or how awful not seeing your friends would make you feel. This quarantine reminded me of the basic privileges we take for granted every single day. Walking in a crowded hallway, going to a party or even hugging your friends seems so eccentric now. I promised myself that after everything gets better to never again take any of these for granted, including going to class. Hopefully, even after this lockdown we remember the lessons of it and all come out of this with much gratitude.
Nithya Rajakumar - Fourth Year
Major: Integrative Biology
I’ve been feeling definitely more stressed, just with the uncertainty of it all. It’s been a bit hard to keep up with all the changes to my classes and my routine, but I’m grateful to have my immediate family nearby and know they’re safe. I certainly took their safety for granted before, but I’ve learned from this experience. I’ve also been thinking a lot about the future as a senior. I still have the same goals and aspirations, and I’m hoping that I’ll still be able to achieve them. It’s definitely a scary time graduating into a recession, with so much job loss. But I’m optimistic at the moment, and hopeful that I can still learn, grow, and contribute to society in a meaningful way after I graduate. This pandemic has shown me that people are resilient, and it has been inspiring to watch people across the world band together and help each other.
Andra Thomas, Third-Year
Major: Human Biology and Global Health
UC San Diego
My daily routine has continued to stay the same except for the fact that now everything is virtual and I am no longer able to leave the house. I miss having places to go and seeing my friends often. That is something that always kept me motivated and consistent with my schedule. It’s been taking a slight toll on my mental health in terms of feeling a bit trapped. I for one don’t do well with change and all of this sudden change has made me feel anxious due to the uncertainty of what is to come. However, I’m really grateful that right now my biggest problem is struggling to transition into a different world. I know that so many families are struggling to make ends meet or are worried about the political and economic aftermath of Covid-19. The one thing I definitely took for granted is having the freedom to go anywhere I want and do whatever I want. We never had a reason to see that as a luxury because it was such an essential part of our lives, but now that it’s gone, it’s something I will definitely not take lightly anymore. I think how this has changed me is mainly the idea of not taking what we have for granted. They say we don’t recognize the good times until the bad times happen. I think this describes what’s happening really well. I also realize that this might be a period of time where we will have to grow up and face the harsh realities that are to come after all of this ends. The battle will only have been half fought, even with an end of quarantine. I think the STEM community as a whole needs to place more emphasis on interconnectivity. As a society, we need to work together in order to communicate information and come up with the best solutions. The lack of discourse between different entities played a significant role in how all of this came to be. I would hope that when it comes time for me to take on my career in STEM, I would be able to help bridge the gap that currently exists.
Angelina Ho, Third-Year
Major: Psychological Science
Honestly, this coronavirus situation has been so stressful ever since the shelter-in-place has been put into place. It feels like I am just getting through it day to day, almost as if I am numb and getting by whilst doing the minimum. My day usually consists of one or more of the following: attending lectures or watching lecture videos, reading assigned textbook pages, doing assignments, and procrastinating from being unmotivated. Sounds pretty simple right? But it just feels like I am just being lazy by just doing the minimum because of the uncertainty the future holds. This was supposed to be the year where I would figure out my passions and get my life together in preparation of post-graduation, like applying for internships and research positions. As a college student, college was supposed to be the place where the puzzles come together. In a split of a second, all that drive disappeared just like that. Is it wrong for me to blame this on COVID-19? Everyone is going through the same thing. I see older generations on social media stating the college students should get over it because they have been through worse. However, being in a field that is so competitive-based that relies on grades and extracurriculars, I am now falling behind and I am terrified of the fact that I won’t be able to come out from this. Everything is just so uncertain.
While my pathway may not always follow others, I have to believe that the puzzles will be complete one day whether it be five or twenty years from now as long as I don’t get sucked into the pressures of society. Constantly being in a competitive environment is stressful and, oftentimes, we put our selfishness above others and forget to show gratitude. The one thing this whole situation definitely has taught me is that I should not take things for granted and live in the moment in times of uncertainty. Just like with what happened with the coronavirus, our lives can change in a split second. Life is always unpredictable, so why dwell in the future when the present is here?
Hope you are staying healthy and well.
Maya Jain - Third Year
Major: Biomedical Engineering - concentration in Mechanical Design
Cal Poly SLO
This transition has been harder than I thought it would be. First off, my room had been taken by my youngest brother and so I am now in the guest bedroom and my desk is still in SLO. I have had to compromise and use my brother's desk. It is situated in an open loft area that has no door so I am constantly surrounded by the noise and conversations of my family, even when they are trying to be quiet. That is something that I have had to get used to and it's been really difficult. I am constantly distracted by my puppy, vicinity of food, my family, but most of it is my own doing. It has been difficult staying focused on a subject and being diligent in my work. After sitting at my desk for hours,I have no drive to keep me doing more work and re-teaching myself material. The environment around me is something that I am not used to, and is not helping me focus. As far as my routine goes, I have a pretty heavy load this quarter, and having it online makes it more of a challenge. During the weekdays I wake up, eat, do work and attend all my zoom classes, eat, do more work, sleep. I sit so much that I have to remind myself I need to get up and go outside or go workout. Being in BMED there are many labs associated with the classes and not having the chance to participate in those hands-on activities is really frustrating and sad. I didn't realize how much I missed school and having my own independent schedule, to go study by myself or with my friends, go to the gym, etc. I love my family and it is wonderful being home, but at times I get frustrated because as much as they say they won’t distract me, they do. The only time I seem to be at my productivity peak is at night when they are all mostly asleep. This has made me realize how I took my room and the study spaces in SLO, the in-person lectures, and office hours for granted. This has definitely had an impact on me and how I will approach future quarters. I will absolutely appreciate and take advantage of the opportunities that my professors and my college provides, through research and other hands-on events.
Harreet Sahota - Third Year
Las Positas University
My name is Harreet Sahota and I’m a psychology major. I currently go to Las Positas University and plan to transfer in Fall 2020. I currently have three universities to decide from and spend a lot of time trying to decide. My daily routine during quarantine consists of my mom and dog running into my room to wake me up and hanging out with them. My mom has a lot of free time now that she doesn’t have to work due to quarantine. She owns her own mobile salon business and overworks herself usually. I’m grateful for the quarantine because now she has time to relax and enjoy time to herself. Continuing with my daily routine, I then try to do some homework, and by the time I’m finished I eat dinner with my mom and dad. After that, I usually like to have alone time to play video games and watch interesting crime documentaries or Netflix shows. Usually, when I get into bed I do research about the colleges that I am deciding between and end up staying up late. What I realized during this quarantine is that my stress usually follows me around all day since I don’t have access to the outside world. It made me realize how for granted I have taken the outdoors and the small things like going to eat at restaurants and just walking around at shopping centers. I’m excited to go to whichever college I decide on once quarantine is over. I will have a lot of motivation to excel in my classes and try to join clubs and greek life since I didn’t experience too much of that in community college. I just hope everything in the world slowly gets better since this quarantine feels like a long summer break that doesn’t seem to end.
Pooja Patel - Third Year
Major: Human Biology
North Carolina State University
My daily routine- Usually I wake up around 10. Shower, eat breakfast, listen to music then start my schoolwork/Netflix. Then I get up to eat around 1. Then take a nap. Wake up and go run or hang out with my family for a couple hours like play games and stuff. We also love to dance. Then dinner and tv. I’m grateful for my family and I felt as if I took them for granted when I spent all my time with my friends. I didn’t give them enough time. So I’m going to try to spend more time after this is over, with them as well. I have also realized the importance of self-pacing which will help me as a student in the future!!!
Kaytki Joshi - Third Year
San Diego State University
Hi! My name is Kaytki Joshi. I’m a psychology major, going into my senior year here at SDSU. Like most of you, COVID-19 came as a huge shock to me, and I had not anticipated the overwhelming changes that I would have to face in the subsequent days and weeks. Coming into quarantine, I had a lot of difficulty with adjusting to a new schedule. I felt very anxious and isolated. I struggled with keeping up with my online classes, and I missed my life in San Diego. Over the past 3 years, I had grown accustomed to having more independence and flexibility, which is something I’ve definitely taken for granted. I also felt very distant from my friends, who are my support system and my home away from home. And if I’m being honest, I was extremely angry. I felt like I had lost control over my life, because a pandemic was calling the shots and ruining all of my plans. However, I realized that learning how to adapt and thrive in uncertain times is a vital skill that will serve me well in the future, so instead of dwelling on the negative side of things, I decided to accept the things that I cannot change, and make the most out of this quarantine. To establish some order, I created a routine for myself. When I felt distressed, I actively engaged in therapeutic and calming activities, and invested time in doing the things I enjoy and I’m passionate about. As students, we take a lot of pressure on ourselves to excel, often at the expense of our mental and physical health. When things return to a relative normal, I think most of us will have a drastically different mindset and approach to life. For me personally, having some distance from campus and extra time on my hands has given me an opportunity to reevaluate my priorities, and focus on health and happiness. My goal is to use this time to better myself, and come out stronger and more resilient than I was before. I’ve also learned the importance of compassion. There are so many incredible heroes out there, making sacrifices every day to keep communities safe. I’ve seen so many more acts of kindness, and this gives me faith in humanity. By supporting one another, we can all become stronger together. I hope everyone is safe and healthy, and I wish you all the best during this quarantine!