College During COVID-19 Blog: Faith Castle

College During COVID-19

Editor’s Note: KXAN’s interns are both learning about the news and living it — experiencing virtual learning and changes in their college and universities because of the coronavirus pandemic. Each is keeping a weekly blog about their experiences during the spring 2021 semester. See other interns’ blogs here.

And that’s a wrap.  

After filming something, typically the videographer or director will cue those involved by saying, “that’s a wrap”. As I finish my internship with KXAN, and I’m also leaving another chapter in my life, my college education.  

Graduation 2021 photo by
Afolabi Oyewuwo

Next week, I am graduating from The University of Texas at Austin with a Bachelor of Journalism and History Minor. Words really can’t describe how I feel, or perhaps there are too many. I am excited, nervous, anxious, relieved, and stressed but stress-free all at the same time. Graduation is supposed to be this monumental time of celebration, but this pandemic has intervened once again. However, I am grateful to have in-person graduation, as many of my friends missed the opportunity last year. Yes, there are many aspects to this virtual process, but at least I get to wear my cap and gown at Darrell K Royal Stadium next Saturday night to mark the end of my journey.   

As I leave, I embark on a new road ahead, one that is hopeful yet frightening. But before I can move onto the next step, I must wrap up the current one. Last week, I wrote about my classes coming to an end; this week, I’m writing about this internship coming to an end. Next week, I’ll be letting go of some of my leadership positions as we make complete transitions for a new era. Saying goodbye to a chapter is always difficult. Not because it was necessarily so perfect and sweets all the time. But because the process of letting go is like seeing the beauty of a rainbow. After all the rain, storms, sweat, and tears, there’s a unique beauty that appears when it’s all said and done.   

This beauty is my growth. It’s who I’ve become as a young woman, developing my personality traits, discovering my strengths and weaknesses, and overall being a well-rounded graduate. I never expected to achieve so much during my four years.   

So as the production comes to a close, I have a lot of words, but for now, I’ll stick with “And that’s a wrap!”   

The last sign.

This week was my last week of school, and it was very bittersweet. Every semester when a class ends, I was getting a little melancholy because a semester goes by quickly. The feeling of a semester ending in college is different from secondary school because the bonds you make with your classmates are special. You’re each other’s everything in those moments. We live in a bubble with each other to eat, study, and play together. So, when it’s all said and done, you may stay in contact or find yourself coming to an end of solid semester relationships. And while the immeasurable amount of work disappears, you realize the class was not only a challenge but an experience. Even the difficult ones taught you something about yourself. Oddly enough, I was grateful to be done with terribly long readings that took up my lifespan, but I knew I would miss learning about those subjects. Also, I realize that I’m lucky to have bonded with some of my professors. Each semester, there was a professor that I knew I would deeply miss.


And as it all ends, I’ll miss the whole experience. It’s a space of learning, semester bonding, and life lessons. However, in a virtual setting, it’s a bit different. I had these same feelings, but I also never truly felt connected. I missed my fall history professor’s unique teaching style and the GroupMe jokes among students, but even my professor was tired by the end. I already miss my gracious professor from this spring’s history course, but I never felt connected to the students who always had their camera off. Elements were missing in all my courses, except one, American Sign Language. I took ASL starting in the spring of last semester. I quickly made friends, some of who I would walk home with every week from our six-hour class. Then the pandemic happened. I wasn’t sure if we were all going to move in the course.
As most of my friends signed up for ASL 2, we realized how much we loved our professor. Uniquely, she moved up higher in her teaching as we did. From ASL 1 to ASL 2 to ASL 3, our professor moved up to the new level. I had always imagined that I would dip once It was time to take ASL 3. I changed m catalog junior year to make sure I had the option to opt-out of the third level and take a cultural class for credit instead. I pictured myself liking ASL but being over the learning by that point. But as ASL 2 came to an end, I realized that I not only loved my professor and friends, but I enjoyed learning the language. So, when this class came to an end, after three semesters, it hurt. Most of us had her for two or three semesters, so we decided to make a zoom thank you video. She cried at our gratitude and told us to always remain in contact. While journalism, many organizations, and activities seemed to consume most of my college time, I didn’t realize how much this class impacted me. It was a part of my everyday life, as I practiced, studied, and read up on deaf culture throughout the week.

A screen image of my newscast on the updates of the Derek Chauvin trial. In the image above I sign the word “cop” in reference to Derek Chauvin.

ASL 3 is the highest level offered at UT. Ironically, enough our final capstone was a newscast. Both my journalism friend and I, who had taken the class together we’re ecstatic to do this. It was a unique opportunity to combine our passions. Maybe one day, I’ll be able to do some ASL newscasts, but until then, I’ll keep practicing.

Welcome to digital world.  

Many ask me whether I am ready to graduate in a few weeks. My response… 

I’m not too sure. It’s time. I’ve completed four years of classes, organizations, and countless nights of working my heart out, but it doesn’t feel like it’s time. Perhaps, it’s the “real-world” nerves that are starting to seep into my brain. Or maybe, it’s the fact that instead of a welcome to real world invitation, I’m getting a “welcome to the digital world” invitation. It’s full of vagueness and uncertainty. When this is all said and done, my zoom reality and limited interaction may not end here.  

Even in a world without the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re still engaged in a digital world. A world where we constantly live and thrive to promote ourselves on social media. A world where if our clicks and engagement don’t hit our goals, it can cost some of us our jobs.  

With all of that said, there’s still something to be grateful about. This week, many took the time to celebrate our Earth on its birthday. I saw beautiful pictures of the outside, tagged with important messages about climate change and cleanliness. It reminded me of how the first time in a while, I’ve appreciated the outside. To look at the earth and its natural beauty has been underrated and overlooked. I’ve constantly sped through life, trying to find the next thing. Not knowing that what was right in front of me was a God-green space of beauty, wholeness and fresh air. Sure, the world may be progressing towards a digital, internet absorbed space, but there’s beauty waiting at the door. And its knocking to tell me that it will always be there…well if we take care of it.  

Maybe the next steps in life don’t seem so bad. To know that despite zoom exhaustion and digital pressure, there’s a space to catch my breath. I am at peace.  

Why is my bed so close?” 

Image and artwork of my bed.

I’m thoroughly annoyed that my bed is nearby. Working at home during this pandemic has made my bed more apparent. As I grind through the day on a cup of coffee or black tea, I’m still tired. I see the bed not only as a resting place but an escape. I want it to rescue my fatigue. This is ironic considering I’m just now learning how to utilize it. In other semesters, I would fall asleep on the couch with my laptop open drooling from my work. Even now, I try to use my bed, but I fall asleep upside-down laying on top of it, not in it. There are days when I could prepare to snuggle in it, but instead, I make the active choice the lay on top because being comfortable scares me. What if I’m so warmed up like a pig in a blanket that I miss my alarm?   

Being burned out during a pandemic is different from being burned out any other time. Well, maybe not… I find myself still overly tired, unmotivated, and overwhelmed with the immeasurable number of final projects, midterm exams, and peak extra-curricular activities. However, this time, I feel distant from my friends, the outside world is on fire with a pandemic, and my bed is near. I ask myself, is my bed inching closer to me, or have the flames of the semester spread to burn me out?   

I want to tell stories and learn about our ever-changing world, but when you’re drained those goals seem unattainable. Dreams turn into nightmares. Interesting school lessons turn into painful amounts of homework. Socializing turns into a zoom headache. When you’re burned out, everything seems like a chore.   

TW:   

Last week, a news report showed that a University of Texas at Austin (my school) student committed suicide and murdered his family. Students rushed to social media to express their complaints against the university’s lack of attention towards this student’s behavior in the days leading up to his death. Others poured out their mental health struggles. Even student journalists deleted their tweets about the news because of the draining responses under their posts. It seemed like one cry of help from a sea of students trying to reach the end of the semester in a pandemic. I didn’t stay on social media much longer because it was exhausting. (I can’t lie. I still read about every tweet in the reply section.) I tried to distance myself from the situation, but couldn’t escape those cries. Their tweets were tears flowing a river of 140 characters of exhaustion. We don’t know every detail about the situation, but it was a wake-up call to some. Professors, peers, and people see how a mental health building can’t as equip our students at all times.    

I see my bed as a hero that can rescue me from my burnout. Perhaps, it’s stronger than any caffeine I’ll ever try. May I find rest there. I hope others find their hero during these trying times.   

Information Overload


As a young student journalist, I’m always looking for the next pitch. Maybe not as often as the professionals, but my ears and eyes remain curious 24/7. It’s not only my job, but it’s my duty. In this COVID-19 pandemic, reporters have been on level 100 consistently reporting on vaccines, stimulus checks, and misfortune in our changing world. It keeps them on their high toes, but it’s devasting and overwhelming at times. However, I’m proud and inspired by the quality of work I’ve seen by reporters in this pandemic. I often wonder why I can’t do the same, or “reach their level”. Knowing there are hundreds of stories waiting to be told, I’m frustrated when it seems like I can’t find one. The news has always been and will always be, but this era is nothing like we’ve experienced.

I go back to my drawing board, or as some would say “reporter’s notepad” and start from square one. Why journalism? Why report? Why would this pitch even matter? The voice we can give to the voiceless changes narratives, inspires and spreads knowledge. The real question is, “what is a story without a subject?”

As the president of my school’s National Association of Black Journalists chapter, I decided to implement this concept into a project. As a chapter, we’re taking the last few weeks of school to tell stories through a simple audio story. For students, it can feel overwhelming to piece every piece of the puzzle. Just reporting and hitting record, can remind us all to hit record, ask the right questions, and listen.

Three. Two. One. *SAY CHEESE*  

As I prepare to take my graduation photos, I didn’t envision finishing my senior year taking most of my classes online, having little to no contact with friends, and foreseeing graduation where only two guests are allowed.   

Many people mourn the loss of senior year and graduation with me in some sort of solidarity. But my mind is filled with anxious thoughts about finding employment. It seems as if graduating in-person with limited guests isn’t even the worst part of it all. However, as I’ve learned to do throughout this pandemic, I’m counting my blessings.   

Starting from one, I’m grateful for in-person graduation. I have many friends who didn’t get in-person graduation, and even with a “do-over” option in September, many have moved on from all collegiate ties. Secondly, I can buy a new fit or two, let a professional touch up my hair and makeup, and prepare early for my upcoming grad photo sessions. Many of my friends had to delay or compromise their grad photos with last year’s quarantine restrictions.   

Aside from these graduation privileges, I’m just grateful to receive this education. The University of Texas has proved repeatedly, that it’s not perfect, nor will it ever be. But its endless amounts of opportunities and world-class faculty have led to me try and learn things beyond my imagination.   

It’s a blessing to type this blog as I learn from the professionals here at KXAN. The fact that my fingers are full of energy, blood flowing, and ready to type is all that I could ever ask for. So when the photographer counts “three, two, one”, I’ll make to do the same. 

“A New Day Is on the Horizon”  

With the rise of the COVID-19 vaccine doses being administered, we hope for better days. With spring break approaching and college students going out more and more, we fear of worse days.  

My eyes can no longer take another zoom square, I don’t remember what the outside looks like, and friends seem to grow further and further away. As I see people move on, I somehow feel stuck in quicksand. The contrast between the vast number of vaccines being administered and the vast number of people still dying from COVID-19 polarizes my thoughts. Is the new day on the horizon? Has the new day already come? Is the somewhat virtual reality our new day?  

I remember an acceptance speech Oprah Winfrey gave for her lifetime achievement at the 2018 Golden Globes. She proudly burst into a saying, “A new day is on the horizon” as the crowd of actors burst into applauses and cheers. Her words gave people sitting near and far, a sense of hope. This hope would take women into a new era where change was enacted, and a reality for a voice formed into fruition.  

Perhaps, like Oprah’s strong statement, a new day is on the horizon, but it seems so far away. 

“Help is on the way”

This week, I’m currently working with a reporter on a mental health story about those affected by the recent winter storms. One thing that stood out to me was how these residents wondered if they were the only ones with new arising feelings and mood changes— ultimately leading to loneliness.
Throughout this pandemic, we’ve seen spurts of loneliness spread almost as fast as the virus itself. Amid the already recommended stay-at-home order, masks give us the option to quietly not respond, and the zoom ‘camera off’ mode allows us to fade in the background. Our opportunity to be alone has grown more than ever as we become mandated introverts.


Even though it’s logical to be as safe and adapt as quickly to the new world, that doesn’t make it easy. With Abbott’s recent recommendations, we witness businesses opening up faster than we are opening ourselves. The vaccine is stimulating our world in the right direction, but people are still sick with both COVID-19 and/or the illness of loneliness.


My greatest hope is that one can find themselves near and dear to confide in. You may have roommates, a partner, or friends to live with, but that isn’t enough. Pre-COVID-19 pandemic showed us that loneliness can still be present, so having people around isn’t always the solution. This week I called my best friend to sit on the phone with me as we finished our assignments. It took me back to the days we spent goofing around at the Perry-Castenada Library at UT. Florescent lights flickered, many students pacing back and forth struggling to find a seat in the crowded space, and an aroma of Expo markers spreads throughout the floor. My peers and I sometimes slightly complained about how ugly and chaotic the PCL was. I realize, I took advantage of those long nights. When it seemed as if we were getting nothing done, staring at the same problem over and over again, we still had each other. The companionship made getting through a chemistry class as a journalism major, doable.
As I finish up this story on mental health, I hope that these residents will find the help they need. Whether that’s professional help or a phone call with a friend, help is on the way.

“Finding My Rhythm”


“And the Beat Goes On” is the title of one of my favorite hits by an old groove band, The Whispers. This title embarks how I’ve felt during this pandemic, and even more so after last week’s winter storm. When life hits hard, we must continue to move with rhythm because its beat remains steady. I have friends who still have cold water, know of residents who lack living resources, and interact with everyday humans who are readjusting to their normal routine – all within the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic.

I wish I could write that I easily found my rhythm again, but I missed a few steps along the way. It’s easy to beat ourselves up for not catching all of the right moves. I fooled myself into believing that this was an innocent snow day, and I was going back to school. It was from that. We experienced a winter storm, a loss of time, only to go back to a virtual world.
When learning a new routine, making mistakes is bound to happen. I’m sure even The Whispers messed up a few times when writing that song. Luckily, with practice comes learning. Hopefully, I’ll find my flow and rhythm again.

“Brain Freeze”

This week amid the big Texas winter storm, I found myself in a frozen state. No school, no motivation, no warmth, and no power. Who knew school could be cancelled even if it was already virtual?

During these days, I wanted to be productive and take advantage of any power I had, but I found myself with a sort of brain freeze. When you’re living in a storm within a pandemic, it’s hard to find that rushing motivation to be the best student. Even with classes and meetings cancelled, no sources available for my journalism stories, and a lack of food, I found myself being disappointed that I wasn’t producing an immense amount of work. With this sudden brain freeze, I found myself stuck in the uncomfortable awkwardness of inactivity. However, I realized in times like these I could find warmth in the love and camaraderie of local friends and peers. When I had to evacuate my apartment earlier this week, it was the giggles and conversations I had with my roommate as we walked to a new shelter that warmed me. As my power went out on Friday, it was my boss’s understanding that warmed me. When we were hungry and low on food, it was the free breakfast provided by UT Austin professors that warmed me.

When having a brain freeze, maybe you’ll find warmth through the kindness and patience of others.

Love in the cold air”  

With Valentine’s Day around the corner, I hope that people find more love and compassion within these tragic times. I often wonder if we loved as much as we advertised sweet candies and flowers, where we would be now.

It seems the desire to take care of each other has slowly vanished as we all try to cope with loss in all forms. I’ve found this sort of love through the patience of my professors and peers. When technology fails, mental health crashes and the weight of the world seems a little heavier than most days, we help each other. This kind of love isn’t exemplified through the chocolate covered strawberries they’re selling in West Campus, Austin. It’s shown when my professor’s power goes out, we patiently wait, and she does us the favor of recording the lecture. While it seems like we’ve been in an everlasting snow day for almost a year, there are so many new challenges that arise. Quarantining in this cold weather, I find myself experiencing a snow day within a snow day. It’s the patience others exude that helps me get through. This is the kind of love I found this Valentine’s season, and I wish others find it, too. 

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