Finding Hope During COVID

On one of her first outings as an exchange student at Beacon University in Melbourne, Australia, Digital Corps Video Specialist Hailey Russell travelled with other exchange students on a three-day excursion. While on the bus, students spotted a kangaroo in the distance and huddled around the windows, clamoring for a picture. “I was going to be there for four months, that wasn’t the only kangaroo I would see,” Hailey recalls. “That was the only kangaroo I saw.” 

Let’s be real: 2020 has been quite the let down. When that clock struck midnight on New Years and 2020 began, we all had so much hope and so many things to look forward to. Now, it feels like we are all just struggling to make it through the day without receiving more bad news.

But despite all the pain that 2020 brought, there is still good in the world. People have still found happiness, even during the lowest of times, so we can learn a lot from these individuals. 

Hailey Russell

Hailey Russell was a junior at Ball State University studying Telecommunications when she decided to spend Spring semester 2020 abroad.

The plan was to spend four months in Melbourne, Australia, attending Beacon University, and prior to leaving, COVID-19 hadn’t crossed her mind; “I actually thought that I wouldn’t be able to go because of the fires that were happening in Australia,” says Hailey.

In fact, there really was no fear of COVID-19 when Hailey left for Australia—she recalls only one couple on her flight actually wiping down their seats.  

Hailey at the Royal Botanic Garden of Victoria

When Hailey moved in with her host family, she brought up COVID-19 with her host mom, but there wasn’t much concern. She remembers her host mom saying she shouldn’t worry because none of her previous exchange students had been sent home. 

Not long after, however, all of Hailey’s classes were moved online, and everything seemed to be escalating. “My study abroad program emailed me that I could either come home now or stay for the rest of my program, but if I could not get a flight back, I would lose my visa.” 

This created a lot of anxiety for Hailey; should she leave or should she stay? She decided to go back home because she would still have to pay to live in Melbourne, which is very pricey just for online classes.

After arriving home, she spent some time grieving the loss of not getting to finish her study abroad, and then, she was able to find the good out of a bad situation. She still keeps in contact with her host family and knows that they will let her come back and stay with them, so now she is focusing on earning more money and visiting again. In times when she feels down about the missed opportunity, she reminds herself about the amazing host family that she had and that she will get to see them again someday. 

Hailey with host sisters

She is also very thankful for the classes she got to take online through Beacon University. She took two marketing classes and an indigenous studies where she was really able to learn about Australia. 

All in all, Hailey does not regret studying abroad at all and is so thankful for every opportunity that has come from it. No matter what, Hailey knows she will be back. 

Eli Sokeland

Over the summer, when the pandemic was at its height, Eli Sokeland, a Development Team Specialist at the Ball State Digital Corps, worked as an intern at DeveloperTown in Indianapolis. While there, Eli worked as a mobile engineer intern on mobile and web applications through front-end development.  

Eli’s internship was moved completely online until July 25th. Because of this, Eli had to adjust to working remotely. However, after July 25th, in-person attendance became optional and Eli was able to come in to work on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. 

  What was supposed to be a summer spent in an office with lots of employees was instead an office with a maximum capacity of five people for social distancing precautions, and in-person attendance was optional. And instead of going into an actual meeting room for meetings, then were held online via Slack calls or Google Meet.   

Eli’s office, or “house,” at DeveloperTown

Although having to work remotely was an adjustment, Eli has had previous experience working remotely at the Digital Corps. Eli said that “luckily the Corps helped prepare me in the ways that teams work through group collaboration.” He even found that the little things that the Corps does, like doing check-ins, was very helpful during his internship since he needed to learn everything virtually. 

In order to keep motivated while working remotely, Eli relied on his daily progress check-ins, taking mental breaks, and going out for a jog after work. It also helped having video chats, so he could stay connected with his friends despite being apart.  

Despite the struggles, Eli is happy to have gotten the opportunity to work at DeveloperTown. As a developer, his job is not location specific, so there is the potential for him to have a career where he works remotely. This experience also taught him how to handle remote work and the level of professionalism that comes with it. All in all, Eli is very thankful for his internship because it was a learning experience, and he strives to be a lifelong learner. 

Scott Anderson

Right now there is so much uncertainty as to what the future holds, and that uncertainty has a big impact on college graduates who are going into the workforce. An upcoming Fall 2020 graduate from Ball State University and Video Team Specialist at the Digital Corps, Scott Anderson, also feels the weight of that impact, stating, “COVID has been a big test…it tests your motivation and your willingness to learn in general.” 

Scott was able to land a job at the Illinois Farm Bureau, located in Bloomington, IL,  where he will be working as a video production specialist. For other college students who are also looking for jobs, his advice is to “be consistent and adamant about your willingness to provide for another company.”  Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, he was unable to visit the office, but did interview over Zoom and was given a virtual tour of the office after he accepted the position. 

While Scott expected his last year of college to be spent in classrooms or study tables, he instead spent most of his time on Zoom. What most would see as an inconvenience, he instead saw as an opportunity: “What’s great though is that the field that I am in can be done completely remote, so I looked at it as an opportunity to become accustomed to working remotely before joining the workforce.” He now feels more prepared and more knowledgeable about working remotely as his job will be half remote and half in-person. 

He also took this time as an opportunity to learn. Scott took the time to continue learning various methods of video production and video tips. He also explains the importance of keeping up with friends while in quarantine. Scott made sure to reach out to his friends by actually taking the time to call them and see how they are doing and what they have been up to, and says that “it’s important to not lose touch with people.”

Despite the ups and downs of going to school during a pandemic while also searching for a job, Scott has still been able to remain positive. When times get difficult, he would remind himself why he is here and who he is here for. “I’m a pretty optimistic person. Life is all about overcoming adversity and to keep pushing on. If you were to give up, then what’s the whole meaning of life?”

Jolee Edge

Finally, it is no question that everyone has suffered from the pandemic, but what about the people who actually got COVID-19? Jolee Edge, a graduate student in the EMDD program at Ball State University, tested positive for COVID-19 at the start of the fall 2020 semester. 

Jolee woke up feeling groggy and had a headache, but passed it off as being tired and a little under the weather from staying up late. As the day went on, her symptoms were not wearing off; if anything, they were getting worse. She decided to get tested, and her test results came back positive for COVID-19, meaning she would then have to quarantine for 14 days and inform the people that she had come in contact with that she had tested positive. 

“I felt this, like, shame for sure,” says Jolee. “I was terrified to tell the people that I work with, but everyone was so supportive.”

Jolee is the User Experience Team Lead at the Ball State Digital Corps, so she would have to work remotely until she was out of quarantine. Luckily, the Digital Corps has taken various steps to ensure the safety of all employees. All employees are required to sanitize their hands and grab a sanitizing wipe to wipe down their assigned desk at the start of each shift. Then, at the end of each shift, the desk must be wiped down again. Everyone in the office is required to wear a mask at all times, the one exception being staff members when they are alone in their closed door office.  

The Digital Corps has worked hard to create a place of positivity for its team members by sending virtual “YAY” cards or sending a “comfortbot” to anyone that needs a little pick me up. There is even a group chat called “daily-gratitude” run by Assistant Director Charity Coffman that asks team members to say what they are grateful for, no matter how small. 

In the grand scheme of things, 2020 has been a real let down; however, there is still hope. We may not be able to change what has happened this year, but we can change our attitude—we can look for the positives no matter how small, and we can never stop hoping and trying for a better tomorrow. So when the clock strikes midnight on December 31, 2020, go into 2021 with the hope that whatever the year may bring, you can  find the good. 

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