Starting Public Health School in a Pandemic

By: Tianni Spence

Honestly? Starting public health school during a pandemic was… challenging. I think we all had an idea of what school would look like, but the pandemic quickly changed those realities. I’m not from Atlanta, so moving to a new city from out of state during the pandemic was a little lonely. The first couple of months were tough, but as the *virtual* semester progressed, I slowly began to feel more and more comfortable and at home. I think we all soon realized that we were all in the same boat and that we all shared similar experiences and frustrations. We bonded over our shared challenges, but we also supported each other in a way that no one else could. I think all students who were in school during the pandemic developed a certain level of resiliency that we may not have developed otherwise. 

While there were many challenges to starting public health school during a pandemic, there were also many rewarding experiences as well. Because everything was virtual, I had opportunities to work with organizations outside of Atlanta. As a result, I expanded my professional network immensely and worked on amazing projects that aligned with my public health passions and career goals. In a weird way, the pandemic closed some doors (like being able to travel to do global work), but it opened more doors for me than I could have ever imagined.

I never imagined myself starting graduate school in the middle of a pandemic, but once I got the hang of things, the experience became great. It was a huge adjustment but super worthwhile. My biggest advice for someone starting graduate school (during a pandemic or not) would be to lean on your support people and don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. It is your journey, but you don’t have to go through it alone.