Global Pandemic: A Unique Opportunity to Thrive

Students in graduation robes displayed on a tablet, alongside the text "Online Graduation"

COVID-19 has impacted many people including students enrolled in Higher Education. Understandably, anxiety is at an all-time high so let’s talk about why. People have lost their jobs, unemployment is elevated, and uncertainty terrorizes us all.

 A Survey conducted by researchers at Arizona State found that about 40% of students who were surveyed have either lost a job or internship offer, and 13% have delayed their graduation. Western students are facing a similar dilemma. The stats are disheartening, but let's highlight that through all of this, there have been positive outcomes. There is a real chance for individuals to thrive regardless of the current circumstances.

Creativity Has Increased

It turns out that by combining constraints and boredom, an influx of creativity can emerge. Although it seems counterintuitive constraints can help one be more creative, and there is research to back it. The human brain wants to be lazy and is always looking for shortcuts, but when you force constraints onto it such as time, price, or process, that's when innovation happens. Instead of following the path-of-least-resistance, there is now "a creative challenge that motivates people to search for and connect information from different sources to generate novel ideas for new products, services, or business processes". Oguz A. Acar, Harvard Business Review.

Flowchart showing a loop, Constraint > Idea > Make > Insight

Boredom can be a meaningful experience. During periods of boredom, the mind craves and seeks out stimuli. When this happens, the brain becomes engaged and activated. Psychologists have worried "that these days we don’t wrestle with these slow moments. We eliminate them. This might relieve us temporarily, but it shuts down the deeper thinking." Clive Thompson, Wired. (Follow him on Twitter)  COVID-19 creates ample time for increased boredom, being stuck at home all day gets monotonous, but it is in these moments where genius strikes. Some of the most influential people in history produced their best work during a pandemic. William Shakespeare wrote King Lear, Antony and Cleopatra, and Macbeth all during the year 1606, when the plague had returned and shut down the city. Sir Isaac Newton isolated himself for years to avoid disease in England. During this period of isolation, he formulated the theory of gravity. These are extreme examples of creative breakthroughs, but the point being that sometimes it takes extreme circumstances to make extraordinary discoveries.

Become Your Own Boss

With fewer distractions and increased downtime, people are finding time to complete projects or start new ones. While many people have lost their jobs due to COVID, some people have used the downtime to find personal success by starting a new business.

In London, one couple noticed the impact quarantine was having on their relationship, and this spawned an idea. Caroline and Jai created an online orderable date box, offering a new theme each month. From Tucson, pottery date night to cozy campfire night, just sit back and let all the planning be done for you.

Remote Internships

Google Maps directions from Seattle, WA to San Diego, CA.

Companies have created remote internship positions allowing students to apply to companies they would have been unable to without quarantine. Like many other students, I lost an internship this summer, but plot twist; I gained an even better one this Fall. Feeling bummed about the lost internship, a few weeks ago I decided to stop throwing a pity party, so I hopped back onto my computer and began to search for another internship. I was surprised to see the number of remote internships that had become available.

Suddenly my options were no longer limited to the area I live in, my opportunities had expanded. Now I am working for a flourishing start-up in San Diego while attending college here in Washington all the while expanding my network across states.  

When one door closes, another one always opens. The problem is if you are too focused on the closed door you will fail to see the one that has just opened.

Staying connected

Maintaining connections and building new relationships is more prevalent than ever as isolation takes its toll. Online groups allow you to stay connected, maintain positivity, and share ideas. The Student Marketing Association (SMA) at Western meets once a week, so wherever ever you are open your laptop, pull out your phone and tune in. Quarantine does not have to be a moment of stagnancy in your life; instead, maybe it will be your breakthrough moment.

Portrait of Jess Bauman alongside text reading "Jess Bauman, Student Author, 02/10/2021"

You can connect with Jess Bauman on her LinkedIn here.