Beyond the Classroom: A Student’s perspective on the learnings and challenges of the Pandemic

Lisa Ros-Choi, a University of Waterloo pharmacy candidate currently completing her final rotations with the Prince Edward Family Health Team, offers her view on the COVID-19 Pandemic. (Submitted Photo)

I was absolutely delighted when the university closed in March 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

As a pharmacy student, I would study several hours a day with back-to-back exams, and so unsurprisingly, my first thought was sleeping in and catching up with everything else in my life. But the reality of the pandemic started to sink in as time passed.

Several weeks later, I had multiple realizations hit me all at once: I found virtual classes challenging as they didn’t fit my learning style. I didn’t know when I’d see my friends again. My much-anticipated co-op position in long-term care was cancelled. I had to learn how to live with my parents again after spending seven years at university. What was originally a blessing soon became a slow, repetitive daily routine with no end in sight. Get up. Watch lectures. Do an assignment. Attend virtual meetings. Repeat.

As a student in healthcare, other stressors came from having to educate others about COVID-19. My friends would question the efficacy of vaccines and whether masks were important, reading information from less reliable websites. Some would falsely claim that because they are younger, they wouldn’t catch and spread COVID-19. On social media, I’d watch enviously as friends met outside of their “social bubbles” in large gatherings without any masks on. The pandemic tested friendships as I witnessed arguments over different beliefs about COVID-19.

It was also a test of my vows as a future healthcare professional: I’m not usually someone who imposes my knowledge on others, but when someone’s actions may increase the spread of COVID-19, I would find myself quickly jumping in and giving my professional opinion.

Simply put, the past year has been challenging academically, socially, and personally in many different ways.

But at the same time, I’ve seen the good the pandemic has brought to my life. As a future healthcare provider, it has taught me how to be adaptable. I had lost my original co-op position, but I would eventually find myself in advocacy – an area I never thought I’d work in – where I created helpful resources for pharmacists during the pandemic. I’ve been able to take part in vaccination clinics, front-line hospital work, and nursing home visits, which are opportunities that may not have existed before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Outside of my career, as a daughter and sister, I was spending more time with my family than I had in the past seven years. Most importantly, all my life I’ve been a very on-the-go person, and have rarely stopped to appreciate the little things in life. Now all I can imagine is dine-ins, dance classes, and even hugs, which will be all the more gratifying when the pandemic is over.

Similar to me, I’m sure everyone has something to look forward to once the pandemic is over – visiting a loved one, travelling, or even something as simple as not having to constantly check you’ve brought a mask with you.

With vaccination rates increasing, I hope we can all remain optimistic, resilient, and proactive in bringing the pandemic to an end.

-Lisa Ros-Choi (PharmD Candidate, BHSc (Hons))

Lisa Ros-Choi is currently a fourth-year pharmacy student completing her final rotations at the Prince Edward Family Health Team. Her main areas of interest include mental health advocacy and providing patient-centred care. In her free time, she enjoys using her passion for graphic design to create informative tools for patients and healthcare providers.