Christine Bourgeois – University of New Orleans

My name is Christine Bourgeois and I am wrapping up my junior year as a marketing major in the College of Business at the University of New Orleans. I spent my last two semesters serving as the President of the Student Government Association. I will start by saying this last month was not how I pictured ending my term, but that I also have felt very honored to serve as the student voice representative at a time such as this.

From moving to solely virtual academics to cancellations of commencement and our most attended events of the year, being a student right now looks different than anyone could have imagined. In the last month, instead of focusing on finishing projects for courses and extracurriculars, the focus turned to stocking up on groceries, packing up dorms and apartments to travel home, and everything else that comes between. Personally, it has resulted in spending hours on my laptop, jumping from zoom call to zoom call, whether it be for class, remote work, or SGA business. All of this while simultaneously trying to assess your mental and physical health and keep worried family members at bay as the number of COV-19 cases continues to rise rapidly in New Orleans.

I would love to spend some time highlighting the light that has come out of the darkness. First, to keep some form of consistency, we continue to have our weekly scheduled SGA meetings virtually. We have had more participation and action in these last few weeks than our organization has seen in a long time. It has moved me to see almost all of our senators come together so quickly to write legislation, bills, and advocate for our most vulnerable student population as quickly as can be done while also having to make this transition themselves. We continue to have productive meetings and discussions, finding common ground and supporting one another while finding comfort in seeing each other weekly. Secondly, a lot of our offices and departments at UNO have not stopped since everything started. For example, our Student Involvement and Leadership office and Student Activities Council, which are both used to being the hub for all things fun and engaging, didn’t skip a beat when transitioning online to keep students connected with one another. Within days, they were hosting online events, sharing resources, and reaching out to students to assist in any way they could.

Through these last few weeks, every day has been a series of emotions. Time began to feel futile and days of the week have all blended together. They have simultaneously flown and slugged by. I feel so many of us are trying our best to find our own new normal, but everything still seems up in the air in a sense. My mind constantly wanders to how freshmen are feeling, how undergraduate seniors are doing, how master’s and doctoral students are coping? It’s a never-ending cycle of pushing forward, hitting a wall, sitting a minute, and getting back up to try again. The only constant through this entire thing has been those around (at least 6 feet away) that are thinking the same exact thing.

To summarize my experience, I’ll refer to a cinematic masterpiece, Frozen 2. Last week (or what I think was last week) I was able to watch this “kid” movie to take my mind off things temporarily. During the climax of the film, one of the main protagonists is really going through some things. They feel alone and have never been faced with such a situation before. They begin to sing a song called “The Next Right Thing,” a journey through their emotions of wanting to succumb to the darkness around, but instead standing up and just trying to put one foot in front of the other. That is the best way to describe the mentality I’ve been experiencing during such a trying time. Right now, the best we can all do is do the next right thing. Sometimes the right thing is closing your textbook, exiting social media, going for a walk, or just drinking some water. For me, I’ve had days where I’ve done all of those things, and somewhere I’ve done none. In the end, this won’t last forever, and I know so many of us are looking forward to the day we can safely give each other a hug and meet in public again.