Being isolated from society during the pandemic has been a challenge for a lot of people, with the transition back into society being, in some cases, even more difficult. The same is true for many college students, and an upstate professor is studying their behaviors, and the students who are optimistic about their future.
Brian Teitelbaum and Mickale Thompson are students at Utica University. They started college before the pandemic.
“I got to do a lot with the baseball team,” Teitelbaum said. “I got to help out in the community a lot, just events around campus. It was just a lot of fun.”
Teitelbaum and Thompson said they’re grateful for how their university has handled the pandemic.
“We became more in-tune with the people we have in our community,” said Thompson. “We learned to make the most of everybody we have here even though we couldn’t have our family members or friends.”
SUNY Oneonta Professor of Sociology Dr. Alex Thomas said he and other researchers are examining different aspects of the pandemic in nine Upstate New York counties.
“Generally speaking, if you want to do this kind of research in terms of data collection, it’s best to collect the data as close as you can to the actual event,” said Thomas.
The work is expansive, and includes studying the pandemic’s impact on the behaviors and stress levels of college students. It was timely, as Thomas had just co-authored a book that included information about psychological distress among college students. That past work provided pre-pandemic data to compare the new surveys to.
Thomas said they found that the “percentage of students who were experiencing really severe distress about doubled with the advent of COVID, and as the crisis continued. It has improved a little bit over time as people get a little bit more used to it. It becomes a little bit more of a routine, but it’s really nowhere near what the baseline was before that.”
That seems to be the case for Teitelbaum. He said masks no longer being mandated is a big help.
“I still have that extrovert personality where I can just walk up to someone and just say, ‘Hi. My name is Brian.' But other than that, the face-to-face interactions is still kind of weird,” said Teitelbaum.
Thompson said he’s ready for the transition out of school. He credits the university for that.
“I think that because of the support system that we had here, and the measures and the strategies that were put in place here, me personality, I’ve never felt nervous or like it wasn’t going to be the same at all because of everything that was done here to ensure that we kept moving forward,” said Thompson.
Thomas said if you look at history, it’s possible the pandemic may have lasting behavioral impacts.
“If you think about what some would call, the 'Greatest Generation’, the generation of people who grew up during the Great Depression, a lot of them, not all of them, but a lot of them, even though eventually life got good, they enjoyed life again, everything was 'normal,' a lot of them were also penny-pinchers for the rest of their life. So it might be very interesting to see what happens with this particular generation,” said Thomas.
The nine counties included in the research are Chenango, Delaware, Fulton, Herkimer, Madison, Montgomery, Oneida, Otsego and Schoharie.