Student Mental Health during the Pandemic – Pitstop 2: Interview With Ms. Tasmin Kurien


We met Tasmin Kurien, age 25, and a student of Master’s of Social Work at Madras Christian College. She enjoys blogging, singing, and editing videos. She also recently discovered that she has a penchant for webinars.


1. Please brief me about your area of work and your experience of working with students.

I have been a social worker my whole life, in some form or the other. In my undergraduate, I was part of a Language Partnership Program, where I taught vocational English to students who were struggling with English in college. In my second full-time job as a YouTube content editor in Bangalore, I became a trainer for new employees, often students who joined as interns.

2. What are your lockdown learnings personally?

During this lockdown, I took the much-needed break that I had been craving for several months before this. In March and April, I found peace in staying home (my roommates had returned home and I had chosen not to) and doing chores. Lockdown made me understand the necessity of discipline in life and the importance of small regular meals, instead of big meals two or three times a day. I also took the time to put many of my goals in perspective and back on the horizon, having forgotten about them in the rush of college and fieldwork. 

After I came home to my family in Bangalore in May, I got into a sort of routine and although there were times where I found it hard to be here, I told myself that I knew what was important and I had to focus on that. In the past month, I have gotten more done than in this whole semester.

3. What are your lockdown learnings on a professional front. Eg: online courses, dance classes 

I also regained my past confidence when I was chosen to speak at the valedictory function of a human rights certificate course that I had joined over zoom. The course bolstered my motivation to join social work and gave me new confidence in the skills I needed to be a good social worker. 

Additionally, I joined a mental health support group, a weekend dance class, and a Harvard course on edX on the topic of my specialization. I can’t say I have been regular with all of them but exposure to such groups and people has given me a wider point of view on people and ideas. 

4. How different was it learning an entire online course?

I never believed I would have the motivation to attend every class in the Human Rights certificate course. I have always been a slacker and while I’ve started many big things, I haven’t really managed to sustain them. So actually finishing the course was a relief and a confidence boost to push myself to take up other such opportunities. 

In the meantime, I have learned that I have very little motivation when it comes to self-paced courses like the one I registered for with edX. I am currently in the process of finding ways to work without needing motivation. 

5. What was something new that you learned about yourself?

This lockdown, I have been a part of the class group that comes up with birthday ideas and has been directly involved in nearly every plan. Before the lockdown, I had the misplaced notion that many people in my class disliked me but in the process of the lockdown, I have been able to see for myself the power of influence and persuasion I have in the lives of those around me. I learned that it is possible to be open about my struggles and issues without being negative about them. I have also learned to find happiness in the little things and made bigger efforts to stay in touch with old friends.

6. What do you think are the advantages of e-learning?

E-learning is a boon during the lockdown but every student and teacher can frankly tell you that it is far from advantageous over physical classes. That said, online classes have allowed us to take up more than just our regular classes and gain experience and exposure to a variety of social workers, lawyers, and educators in an easy manner. Webinars on Zoom or Google Meet also make it easier for students from a variety of colleges to gain knowledge on a common stage. 

7. What do you think are some of the disadvantages of e-learning?

Three of my classmates have consistently missed the department webinars and classes because they don’t have enough bandwidth or a proper phone, or because they lived in an area where the network is poor. Apart from the technical issues, the inability to meet your friends, see your professor in person, or to make jokes with your seniors is another serious blow to the concept of e-learning. It also causes something known as zoom fatigue, which three months into this lockdown, is affecting even the most resilient students. 

8. What is your advice to kids in lockdown?

Even as young adults, my classmates and I are frequently undergoing frequent bouts of loneliness, just kept at bay with frequent calls. For some who are in family environments where they don’t feel safe, this lockdown must be an added burden on their hearts. One thing I can suggest (it is something which I am successfully implementing myself) is to FILTER. Remind yourself every day that you choose what can affect you, so you should guard your mind and heart against letting what others say reach you. 

Filter means to understand that your time and energy is more precious than everything you see, hear, or read around you. If people do not treat you with respect, even parents, you can stop letting it worry you. Hear it through one ear, don’t argue back, and let it leave through the other ear. In cases, where physical abuse is concerned, speak to another adult you trust and call the Childline 1098. In case you feel unsafe at home, call the Women’s helpline at 1091.  

Filter gives you the license to let go off things instead of letting them hurt you. But remember that if someone crosses the line with you, do not keep silent. 

9. What are the simple beautiful things you learned from the lockdown?

  • The importance of keeping in touch with friends
  • Find time during the day to take breaks from everything
  • You can be busy even when you’re doing nothing
  • Treat every order your parents give you as a chance to grow your skills and abilities
  • Finish the work your teachers give you on time; after all, you don’t have anywhere else to go.

 10. What do you think of the post-lockdown world?

I don’t know what to expect of a post- lockdown world and I have kept my expectations low. I can’t tell which way the world will swing. Some areas like the poverty gap and unemployment will get worse, but on the other hand, connecting with people and learning how to take care of oneself may become lessons from this lockdown experience for many. 

11. How do you think we can make e-learning more effective and entertaining?

My father swears by Zoom. He says that it must be revolutionary for education because of how interactive it is with its many features. My aunt, who is a teacher in Delhi, is longing for in-person classes to begin again. She says that all the features in the world cannot beat the physical and emotional connection that physical classes give. She suggests training sessions be given to teachers before plunging them into the deep end of Zoom classes and Google Classroom.

I believe that the potential for Zoom is great but the technical limitations, even in my own house over WiFi, are many. For one, classes should be more regular to create a routine and should use more than just PowerPoint presentations to present materials. Also, don’t go all out with presenting material; speak and ask questions. Also, take frequent breaks; Zoom fatigue is a real thing. 

12. Would you like to share your hobbies?

I like to sing, write, play the guitar, read, dance, and design videos. I spend large chunks of my time on Instagram and find it difficult to focus and commit to a long-term task. Because of this, I watch many motivational videos: like Alexandra’s Girly Talk and Jocko Willink’s podcast. I also love watching foreign-language series on Netflix and Amazon and read the news online. I also love stand-up comedy and Andrew Schultz, Anto Philip, and Trevor Noah are some of my favorites.

13. How do you think your learning is going to change after quarantine??

One thing the lockdown has taught me is that I have no time. If I want to cook amazing food, I have to consistently cook it now so that I learn. I proactively take over the kitchen even when my mother is not there. If I want to write well, I have to practice writing every chance I get (even if it is just a dream). If I want to build up my resilience of reading more, I need to read instead of playing videos. If I don’t want to fall asleep during the day, I need to sleep at night.

14. What will be the approach you take towards working with kids after quarantine?

Kids in this generation have the attention span of goldfish. The lockdown has made them even more restless. Teaching them will have to be more interactive and engaging to keep their attention. 

15. Did you spend quality time with your family? What came out of it? 

In the year I have stayed away from my family, I have grown a lot and become a lot calmer in my relationships. I don’t let their anger or annoyance rile me up as easily. This has helped me spend more time with my parents and brother without it ending in a fight. Spending so much time with my mom made me understand how much work she does daily, even to the point where she doesn’t take care of herself. 

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