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Semester Interrupted: An Interview with an Epidemiology Student (Part II)

Megan Mulroy, LPC 

Self-isolation and working from home has given me more time to check in on friends and family, which has been great. I’ve been checking in on my cousin, Maria, because she is currently in her last year of her master’s program at Grand Valley State University. She is getting a degree in public health with a concentration in epidemiology. Epidemiology is basically the study and analysis of diseases. Maria has been one of our family’s main points of contact for anything COVID-19 related as she has been studying diseases and viruses nonstop for the past three years. I thought it would opportune to ask Maria  what it’s like to be studying epidemiology during a pandemic.

Tell me a little bit about how classes are being held now.” 

School seems harder than it has been before, because there is a lot more learning, I have to do on my own to make up for lost time in-person. We meet at the same time we normally would, but we have class over Zoom, which is different. We do a lot of discussion posts, and check-ins to keep us accountable. I have one teacher who works at the Department of Health who was too busy with everything to teach, so she just gave us a final project to work on. It’s a bit frustrating as we’re not getting to learn more from her, but her job is pretty important right now, so I totally get it. 

Does Coronavirus come up in every lecture right now?” 

It’s definitely top of mind and has come up a lot. My peers and I are always talking about it a lot, and we have similar worries and anxieties so its nice to share with them. Everything going on right now is really applicable to my studies which has made for really interesting discussions. It’s really an interesting time to be studying epidemiology. 

“Other than online classes, what has changed for you?” 

Two big things have changed from me that I am really disappointed about. The research I did for my thesis got accepted to be presented at the Annual Michigan Epidemiology Conference, and that’s now being done virtually. I have no idea how that will work, but I had been really looking forward to sharing my research with [friends and family], and I was super proud of my work. The only good thing is that people from out of town can dial in for the conference.  My graduation ceremony has also been postponed and will likely be cancelled. It’s been pretty tough watching all of things that I worked so hard on get cancelled or changed. 

How does this affect your practicum hour requirements?” 

Luckily, I have met all my practicum/internship requirements already, but I have a few friends whose spring internships offers were revoked. I’m not quite sure what they’re doing, but I know GVSU has been really good at helping them find replacement hours. 

How will this affect your job search?”

Frankly, I have no clue about this. It could go one of two ways: either public health companies need us more than ever and will be hiring in droves; or people in our field will be too busy to conduct interviews. I’m still applying and really want a job at the CDC. 

What is your biggest worry about COVID-19 and how are you managing it?” 

My biggest worry is that people aren’t taking social distancing and isolation seriously enough. I am managing that anxiety right now by focusing what I can control, which is how I am isolating. I get outside every day and have been really focused on school. Hopefully I can help our community during this pandemic with what I’ve studied, and in the meantime, I am taking it day by day, and learning to roll with the punches.  

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