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The 2020 cohort of the Youth Reporting Institute and their work.

On-Campus Job Has Helped This Student 'Keep It Together' During Pandemic

WUNC Youth Reporter Erin Batten-Hicks has continued to work at her on-campus job during the pandemic.
Erin Batten-Hicks
for WUNC

Many college students are experiencing the longest winter break of their school careers. That’s because most universities extended their breaks to avoid having students on-campus during a winter spike in COVID-19 cases.

But some students, like me, are still going to campus.

For about 20 hours a week, every week, you can find me at my job. I work on UNC-Chapel Hill’s campus as a barista supervisor in the Student Stores. When COVID first hit UNC, I moved back to my home in Durham and took classes remotely, but kept my job. I continued to work during the semester, which meant travelling an hour by bus each way, four or five times a week.

Now that classes are over and I have more time, I try to reduce my exposure to COVID-19 by taking one bus instead of two. That means walking three miles from my home to the Southpoint Mall where I catch the bus to Chapel Hill.

Walking to work gives me a chance to exercise and get out in nature, even though it makes the commute longer. The long, unstructured days of winter break usually do a number on my mental health. With a two-month break this year due to COVID, I couldn’t afford to take the risk this time around.

WUNC Youth Reporter Erin Batten-Hicks.
Credit Erin Bratten-Hicks / for WUNC
for WUNC
WUNC Youth Reporter Erin Batten-Hicks.

Practicing Spanish and cooking have helped pass the time, but it’s the responsibility of work that gets me out of the house and helps keep me together.

The irony is not lost to me that “getting out” is literally not the move in a pandemic. It’s a privilege to even have a job right now and lately I’ve felt conflicted about whether it’s worth continuing to work. The risks of getting and spreading COVID only seem to be going up.

But I have to be real with myself.

This semester was crazy and this break is much longer than usual. After such a demanding year, I’ve come to appreciate moments where I can add a sense of accomplishment in my life. Even if it’s just cooking a meal, walking outside, or clocking out after a shift at work.

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