Students Battle In-Person Anxiety


Leanne Pastore

Amanda Grimaldi, 19, of East Setauket, studies in the Huntington Library on Tuesday, Feb. 17, 2022. Grimaldi is among many students who felt anxious about returning to in-person classes this semester.

Leanne Pastore, Reporter

It’s 8 a.m. on a typical Wednesday morning. Jacquelin Locon-Allende, a 19-year-old general studies major, just got a lift to the Ammerman campus from her mother before she headed off to work for the day. She has plenty of time to kill before class. Chemistry doesn’t start until 11.

Although she would have liked to spend time in the cafeteria, she didn’t want to go alone, so she waited in the library to get some schoolwork done until finally heading to class. 

When her chemistry lab ended, her mother returned during her lunch hour to bring Locon-Allende to her office, where she studied and waited until her mother’s shift ended at 5 p.m. She is grateful to have a ride to and from class on Mondays and Wednesdays (on Thursdays, she takes taxis to campus), but feels uneasy her mother’s car may break down again as it did the week prior.

Crowded cafeterias and transportation to and from class are not Locon-Allende’s only worries about being back on campus: with such long days and limited free time between class, homework, and waiting for rides, her chief concern is not working enough to pay for the next step in her higher education. 

 “I worry money-wise because I’m transferring to Stony Brook soon,” Locon-Allende said. “I know I need to work as many days as possible to save for school but with classes in-person and not being able to drive myself, I only work three days now, and it’s a big difference compared to my paychecks before.”

 Locon-Allende’s anxiety about returning to campus and what the future holds are feelings shared by many Suffolk students as the world works tirelessly toward a new normal after being rocked by the Covid-19 pandemic. 

 Physical education major Amanda Grimaldi, 19, is a full-time student who splits her ambitious 17-credit schedule between the Ammerman and Eastern campuses. While Grimaldi enjoys being back on campus and getting the most of her college experience, she worries about being back among her peers after nearly two years of learning and socially interacting with classmates behind a computer screen.

 “Being back in a classroom setting, I’m not afraid of getting sick or getting Covid. But having a bunch of people around me makes me nervous,” Grimaldi said. “I have a lot of social anxiety, so just having to walk in and talk face to face is hard. We haven’t had to do that in so long. Participating online was much easier because everyone had their cameras off, so they’re not looking at you. Now, the second you raise your hand, all eyes are on you.” 

Sarah Boles, a licensed clinical social worker and the mental health and wellness services coordinator on the Ammerman campus, said there has been a substantial increase in the number of students reaching out this semester — an increase that was anticipated as more classes transition from online modalities back in person this semester. Boles encourages students to reach out to mental health and wellness services to make an appointment if they need support, which can be held in-person or virtually.  

“The best way is the way that makes you most comfortable,” said Boles when asked the ideal way for a student to make a counseling appointment. “Students can go under the ‘experience student life’ tab on and use the online scheduling tool, or email [email protected] to make an appointment.”

In addition to short-term individual counseling, other services available to students include group counseling, crisis intervention, and other mental health and wellness programs like support groups and breathing sessions.

“I’m excited to meet new people now that I’m back on campus,” Grimald said. “It’s been tough getting back into the swing of things, but if I had the choice, I would still go in person. I get more out of my education and my overall college experience.”