What’s it like for an 18-year-old Parisian to Live Under Covid?
Frustrating and depressing are the two first words that pop into my mind. Being in the first year of university in Paris is supposed to be liberating and exciting, not isolating or oppressive. A third of France’s 2.7 million university students are suffering from depression. The future awaits us, but how can we grow and learn from our mistakes when we can’t experience the world and experiment like we should?
Pandemonium hits overnight
March 12, 2020 at 5 pm: I am studying for my mock exams, stressed out as we approach the date of my A-levels.
8 pm: I’m watching President Macron’s statement. I am so relieved when I hear that schools will close; mock exams canceled! Yet we are all confused and scared. How are we supposed to obtain our high school diploma if we can’t go to school? How does this virus work, how deadly is it? So many questions, it was overwhelming.
Overnight, in-person classes come to a grinding halt. We are now doing “remote learning.” I lose all motivation during the end of my terminale year as we barely have online classes. All we are given are documents with lessons and exercises – wow, so encouraging…
“It’s so scary not knowing when this situation will end…” – Judith, 18, business student at IESEG
September 23, 2020: It’s my first day as a student at ISCOM, a communications school in central Paris. I’m taking the international global communication course, which means everything I study is in English! I will be learning about marketing, graphic design, how to link creativity with the way we communicate and how to understand multicultural communication. I am so excited to meet new people and to be in a classroom again. I feel lucky to have an in-person class every two weeks.
Since then, it has changed again. Now all my classes are 100% online. Zoom has officially become my new best friend.
Imagine waking up each day to a screen and staying for hours in front of it. Not only is it tiring for the eyes, but it’s also mentally taxing. I can’t help but wonder where this is all leading me to?
Life in my room
My friends and I are always worried about our physical health although our mental health is equally important. I never realized until now how I lose my appetite and feel tired all the time when I’m down. Not knowing if my life will go back to what it was has made me feel anxious and, moreover, being alone always in my room makes me feel hopeless. Listening to the news, telling us each day how many deaths are caused by the pandemic, how blurry everything is definitely has had a strong impact on our mindset. I wonder for how long I’ll be isolated from my friends?
It’s like we hit the PAUSE button but never clicked back on PLAY…
For my first Zoom class, I took a shower, dressed up and had a clean room to present on video. But as time went on, I started to get up late, having my Zoom calls in bed, in my pj’s, not eating anything for breakfast as I didn’t see the point in making all that effort. I then noticed that I felt better when I was more dynamic and closer to my “normal” life. I began dressing up to feel alive and eating to be healthy and feel energized. It seems so basic but sometimes the smallest effort seems hard to us when we’re low.
Suggestion: The goal is to keep a routine. Don’t go to bed late, wake up with a cold shower, get dressed, have a nice breakfast and most importantly, keep your room clean. Your room is your cocoon. I sometimes feel my parents are annoying and not as understanding as I wish they would be. As a result, I end up spending all day long in my room. It’s the only place I feel at peace, a place that I own and where I can do and think as I please. Decorate it to reflect how you feel or to cheer you up.
“I’m getting more and more used to it; we have to adapt ourselves to this new life whether we like it or not” – Agathe, 17, student at Dauphine University
Exercise is essential, as we don’t move enough. During the first lockdown, I did some physical activity twice a week with some general muscle strengthening exercises but then I felt discouraged. I switched to dancing in my room to “twist and shout” by the Beatles. Everyone needs to move in whatever way is best for you! Dancing is a way for me to get through difficult times.
Feel free to let off steam. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to be productive and try to do things that make you feel good.
In search of opportunities
As a communication student, an internship each year is mandatory. But how are first-year students able to find one when employees are struggling to keep their own companies afloat?
“It’s frustrating not being able to meet professional people when you try to apply for internships, I got so many rejections and started to wonder if something was wrong with me? Luckily, I found one, but others are stuck.” – Luna, 18 years old, student at Iscom
I feel sometimes that my confidence is wavering. I work on and send so many applications to find an internship. Now more than ever, I know my cover letter and CV have to stand out to be noticed.
Suggestion: Social media is an easy way to contact people so try connecting with companies or agencies where you’d like to apply. Determination and confidence are key. I’m passionate about fashion and not just because I love following fashion trends but because wearing an outfit that reflects me empowers me to put my best image forward.
Try to find what boosts your spirits so that you can project the best possible version of yourself.
How not to go stir crazy….
Parents, they can be so loving…and so annoying, am I right? They never truly understand us as our friends do. You don’t choose your family, but you choose your friends and that’s why being surrounded by them is crucial. As hard as it can be, I pick my battles with my family.
Living with parents 24/7 is not easy. Like a lot of teens, I don’t always agree or get along with my family but when you find common ground, stick to it and try to avoid conflict. Parents may not remember how they felt when they were young.
Suggestion: We should remind them, let them know that we need interactions, events, places to meet new people as they did in their youth. We are discovering our identity and want to have fun and if not now, then when??
So, if some parents are reading this, let your children play video games or talk on their phone to their friends; trust me we need it.
Also, don’t be too hard on them. Instead of telling them what they don’t do right, tell them what makes you proud, encourage them to do new things and perhaps they’ll find it surprisingly nice to spend time with you.
Suggestion: Find a new activity that you find stimulating. Watching TikTok videos of people painting made me want to learn, so I tried to get into the swing of things and found inspiration in online museums and tried techniques on YouTube. Find some books at the emblematic Shakespeare and Company bookstore.
Learn a new language with Gymglish or Babble. Try your hand at photography to encourage yourself to get out of the house. You have Paris, the most beautiful city at your disposal, and right now the city belongs to you with no tourists.
Have a walk on the quais de Seine, go on the new swing next to the weeping willow. Enjoy the flowers at Jardin des Plantes or some street art in Montmartre.
Walk around the rue de Rome to find the perfect music sheet to either learn or improve your musical skills. You could also share these activities with your family.
Find a way to connect with yourself and others
Try to picture yourself young, what pops up first in your mind? Friends, parties, gatherings, playing sports with your teammates? Now picture yourself alone, inside, sitting on a chair staring at the screen of your laptop. Sad, isn’t it?
Teenagers aren’t the only ones affected by the pandemic and lack of social life, but it’s harder for us. We’re at an age where interactions are what makes our life exciting, what reassures us and makes us evolve in so many ways. We’re at an age where we are finally able to be “free” (kind of) and get wild! What stories will we be telling our children? We are growing up and trying to find out who we are, which is now impossible to do when the only people you meet are your family and your neighbors.
Thank goodness, young people are resilient! The things we can do is to go on house party, a face to face social network where you can also play some games while video calling friends. We can chat, maybe even have an apéro online. You can play interactive games such as on Plato, or Among Us.
With the curfew, you can still go out with your friends from time to time while keeping your distance. Grab a hot chocolate to go from Starbucks and wander around the beautiful city that is Paris. Recently, I went to the top of the stairs of the Opéra Garnier and sang along with a street musician and the surrounding people. I felt alive again! I take enormous enjoyment in the little things. Today, I ate lunch, a Vietnamese bobun with a friend in the Parc du Luxembourg.
There is pleasure in doing new things. I’m learning to live differently to keep living.