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Student Experiences With Working During a Pandemic

Updated: Oct 28, 2021

By: Kristen Beachy

Many college students maintain jobs in addition to their academic workload in order to provide for their cost of living, build professional experience, or gain practical application of their major. With over one-third of Ohio Wesleyan students employed through the university and others seeking employment off-campus, the work lives of students is one of many areas affected by the pandemic.

For some students, finding seasonal employment proved to be an obstacle. Ohio Wesleyan student Kiley Kerrigan stated, “Over the summer I was unable to find a stable job and the pandemic has definitely impacted how much I normally make.” The pandemic also affected Kiley as she lost her on-campus job following the premature ending to the Spring 2020 semester. Consequently, when Kiley returned home it was much later than other college students who had already secured employment for the summer.

Caroline Elliot, an Ohio Wesleyan student majoring in business, has been working with children at the Goddard School of Worthington since June 2020. Caroline faced a similar obstacle of finding employment over the summer.

“Due to COVID-19, I wasn't able to have an internship focused on my major,” Caroline said. “However, I was able to work with children, as their parents needed to work throughout the pandemic. I am very lucky being able to work, yet it took me half-way into the summer to gain this job.”

In addition to impacting the job-seeking process, students shared that the experiences on-site were drastically altered to maintain safe protocols during the pandemic. “During the first three months of my job, the pandemic made it very difficult to watch the children and care for them in the way they needed,” Caroline said. This adjustment proved to be hard for Caroline and her coworkers as they worked hard to ensure the safety of the children and employees; being physically distant while remaining socially close.

The pandemic has also forced some students to work remotely as a means of precaution. Hailey de la Vara started an internship in January that changed from in-person to remote. “The experience hasn't been bad, just different. Working remotely is unlike anything I've done before and has taken time to get used to,” Hailey said.

The experience of those students working through Ohio Wesleyan’s student employment programs has also been uniquely affected. One way in which it has been affected is that students were only allowed to work one job on campus and some offices were cut in their budgets for student employees. Jeffrey Hudson, employed at the Department of Health and Human Kinetics, said, “There has been lots of physical distancing and following of protocol so I feel safe at work.” In addition, Ohio Wesleyan has provided hand sanitizing stations throughout campus to ensure student safety, students, employees, and visitors have been wearing masks, and the size of gatherings has been limited.

While all members of the community have been playing their part in abiding by guidelines, the isolation has taken a mental toll on students. Hailey de la Vara noted that “sitting in one place for prolonged periods of time is something I have not done, so it has been a struggle.” For Caroline Elliot, the pandemic greatly affected her mental health in that the isolation from friends was extremely hard. This pandemic has continued to affect her mental health as she shared that, “I did and still do feel overwhelmed with my work and trying to stay safe.”

For other students working on campus, staying alone to prevent the spread has been tough. Jeffrey Hudson shared that he struggled with “getting used to being alone more than I usually am at work. I interact with fewer people because of COVID.” Caroline explained that "the biggest struggle during the pandemic was the adjustment of being back on campus.” She works two jobs and is continuing to take classes at Ohio Wesleyan. The course load she has taken on while working two jobs has proven to be difficult for her.

“Finding time to relax and take a breath is very difficult since I feel stressed all the time,” Caroline said.

Morgan Liszeski, a senior employed on campus, shared that “being a student in a pandemic can be really stressful and overwhelming at times.” Support from her employers has helped in navigating this. “My bosses are really understanding if I need a mental day or just need to work at home.”

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