Misc 22/11/2020

Youngsters and adolescents, cornered and outpaced by the pandemic

ARA interviews those who are growing up in lockdown

Laia Seró / Laia Vicens / Laia Colomer
5 min
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Barcelona / PalmaThe pandemic has disrupted the routines, dreams and projects of thousands of teenagers, who have been forced to attend school and keep in touch with friends through screens. During these months they have felt left out, and at the same time unjustly blamed for the increase in contagion, a mix of emotions that causes them indignation. ARA gives voice to some testimonies of the generation of adolescents who are growing up isolated and locked up at home, just the opposite of what their social and developmental needs mark at a key stage in their personal growth.

"I notice a lack of empathy from adults"

Laia Garsaball, 17 years old, last highschool year

Laia Garsaball

"Mood? Zero. My opinion is that the generation that took the University entrance exams last year had it hard, yes. But those of us who have it harder are the ones who have the exams this June. The other students had already seen almost all the syllabus when they were forced to lockdown. Instead, we are now doing classes that we should have took last spring. Teachers, as they see that we will not make it, are going much further and putting a lot of work into it. In one subject we have studied from Greece to the Middle Ages in two months. And this generates - at least for me - a lot of anxiety. I'm at a point where I can't think of anything else but work, work, work. Everything is "you have to work more because this will get you into the exams". On weekends, I can spend between 7 and 10 hours studying quietly. I don't know, in general, I notice a lack of empathy from adults in these pandemic times.

What I miss most is moments when my head is at rest, that's for sure. Because after you get home, you're unbearable, and it's normal that family can't stand you. I've cried a lot this fall, too. And you honestly don't know why you're crying! It's not for anything specific. I guess it's because there are times when you remember everything's shitty and you sink. We're missing the happy moments we used to have... For example, I play in the symphonic band of Cerdanyola del Vallès, my hometown, and I could have complicated weeks, like now, but on Friday, at rehearsal, I'd see people, I'd hug them, we'd go out for a kebab and that would mean life to me. In this sense, I think that leisure spaces do a very necessary job for everyone, but especially for young people. Because in our case we play, okay, but the band is much more than that. They are escape routes, spaces of socialization where you can be yourself at 100%, environments that had a lot of weight in our lives and that now have almost disappeared.

Another consequence of this state of mind that the pandemic has brought us is that we get very angry with friends because we don't have patience. Or at least in my environment. Oh, and that I eat more - and I thought that was impossible [laughs]. I've even gotten tired of Netflix. If I watch a series it has to be very chill. Like the music I listen to. Don't put something very complex in my head, it explodes".

"It had to be a great year"

Ivet Molas, 21, studying 4th year of nursing

Ivet Molas

"It affects my mental health a lot, because having little social life is complicated, and I'm more tired and apathetic. I used to go to uni and in the evenings I would teach music, or go out and do sports. Now I am doing an internship at a hospital, and in the afternoons I am at home, because I don't feel like doing so much. My friends say I'm exaggerating, but I try to not have much contact with anyone because of the work I have. The virus has changed my whole life. I had to go on Erasmus to China and it was cancelled, and then I tried to go to Finland and it also didn't work out. I feel very bad because I had always wanted to live this experience and I think it was a good opportunity because of the languages. It would have been a great year... And it has turned into a year in which we're all trying our best".

"It's not easy to learn through remote teaching"

Sora Ndiaye, 17, has started studying microbiology


"How am I? Well, I'm pretty swamped. They took a long time to tell us what teaching would be like in our first year of university and, when we still had hope of meeting people, they told us that it would be semi-presential (which in practice means that once a week I can interact with a group of 11 people wearing masks in a laboratory with super-separate microscopes). This was already: "Okay, goodbye university life". And, well, then came the work, which we have a lot of: there is a feeling that they are taking advantage of the fact that we can hardly leave the house and they are posting much more class material than they could give in 50 minutes of class - people from more advanced courses say so too - and it is not so easy to learn when the teacher isn't there.

But to my surprise, all of this has made me care less. This Monday I have a test and I'm not prepared to take it: I'll be up to my ears in reviewing notes, and I'll do whatever I can. I think that we are saturated... If they would have told me that I would start uni like this, I would have cried for two weeks in a row! We've been imagining ourselves as university students for years: all day long away from home, in the library looking for books on super interesting things, going out to parties on Thursdays, making life on campus... And now it's all: home, closed libraries, screens. We're basically resigned.

It is true that we have been told that we have to be positive because now they will want microbiologists everywhere, and that there are moments when you think, look, seeing some classmates every two weeks is worth it because you don't feel that you have started a degree alone. In this sense, there are funny confusions; like when you meet people without knowing what their face looks like and then you see them wearing a mask and you say "But you are such and such, aren't you?" and they are not... But the fun stops here. The sad reality is that we have assumed that until the restrictions are lifted, we will not meet our friends nor have a University life. "When do you think this will happen?" In third grade. At least we can do an erasmus..."