Life as a Working Student in 2021

Being a student while having a job can be difficult, as Michael Guzman exemplifies as someone who decided to enlist in the military while also valuing and pursuing higher education. “Balancing school and the military is so much easier after I finished my AIT [Advanced Individual Training]. I’m able to live as a normal student while serving in the military. There are times where I have to be committed to the military more than my education,” says Guzman. Guzman has been part of the Howard County community his whole life, and growing up he always envisioned himself enlisting in the military. 

Guzman is a first-generation immigrant in a family from Mexico, and he is the first to go to college in his family. “It feels pretty good… Right now, I’m focusing on my education and my career which matters to me the most. I do feel that I’m moving up in my life and learning more than I did in high school.” Guzman still feels as though he has a long way to go to make his parents proud. Knowing that he is the first to attend college, many of his relatives, especially on his mother’s side, ask him about his experiences, “During college, I had to learn that my education comes first before anything I wanted to do. I had a chance to balance my social life and dedication to my studies. During your social life in college, it can be very fun, you’re treated as an adult, and you get to experience living by yourself. COVID was a pain to deal with because it really ruins my social life in college.”

Despite the fact he attended his freshman year at Mount St. Mary’s right before COVID-19 hit, he only experienced half of his college life on campus. “So, my school is one of the few in Maryland that is allowing students to come in person. They actually get to experience college, but there are restrictions on what we can and cannot do.” It is significant to know that studies show from different states that virtual learning has caused an immense amount of stress among students; this may also lead to a higher rate of depression among this generation’s youth. Guzman confirms that the pandemic has caused more stress towards him as a current student. “I feel more stressed during the virtual session because it’s something that people are not used to and it really sucks when you can’t teach in person. During virtual, I don’t feel like I’m ever learning anything new and it’s tough to pay attention in class when you have things happening at your place.” Virtual learning has affected many people, not only in the states but also around the world, which is causing an effect on many students’ mental health. 

2020 and early 2021 have been very historic times in which many people have experienced and witnessed events in which no one had expected to occur. Not only has the pandemic caused stress and other mental effects on people, but other events, such as the presidential election and the Captial Riots, were historical events that we have witnessed this past year. Guzman spoke about the ways these events affected his perspective or mindset, “I practice social distance, wearing a mask, and allowing them [other people] to continue on what they do.” Guzman wanted to share that “Nothing had really changed for the virtual learning aspect and it has not affected my mental health.” Knowing that schools are progressively letting students return, there have been cases where faculty and students have tested positive for COVID-19. “Yes, my schools did have students who tested positive and what the school did was put them into isolation rooms for two weeks. We have students deliver food to their rooms and attend class virtually.”

Despite the fact that Guzman is a college student, he is also military personnel. Out of the branches he could’ve chosen, he decided to join the United States Army. “I joined the army because it’s what I wanted to do when I was a kid, I was inspired by my grandfather. I chose the signal branch because I wanted to get a nice job on the civilian side and make decent money.” During the whole process with his recruiter, he was very enthusiastic to start a new chapter in his life, something he has envisioned and is passionate about. “I remember that I was excited to start a new journey for myself and I was ready to start it after school high school. I was thinking about failing anything in general because… make a wrong move and you’re done.” Knowing this made it seem like he was trying to mentally prepare himself before what they call basic training. Basic training is a process when recruits learn the basics and make themselves be better people and break bad habits. “During my experience in basic training, it sucked. I didn’t want to be there and the heat was killing me. I felt alone and no one to guide me at all. Throughout basic, I learned that I had God by my side and my family. I learned that I needed to endure to the end and continue to improve myself.” Guzman explains that he did feel alone until he finished basic training when he was glad to see his family for the first time in a couple of months. He remembers that he cried after seeing his parents and younger siblings, and he would say that he rarely cries in general, but that was a very happy moment for him.

Normally, Guzman would report to Fort Meade for his job, but he has had more flexibility about when he has to go into the base. “Currently, I do [go into work] at the moment. There are restrictions such as mask mandate, six feet apart, and so forth, not much restriction has changed since.” Guzman continued that he is still able to work in-person, but there are times when he is allowed to work from home. As we all know, the pandemic has changed many people’s career paths; some say that they had to reroute their plan in order to still be able to achieve their dreams. “It has not affected my career, it made me want to commit even more to my education and career. I’m more dedicated to most of my work now.”

Everyone has at least one person they look up to who they are inspired by, whether it be an author, illustrator, celebrity, sports player, or many other figures. “My grandfather inspired me to join. He showed me what it is like and how awesome it was to be a leader and the opportunities it provided.” He is also now showing his perseverance to his grandfather on how far he has come, and Guzman states that his grandfather is proud of him and hopes that he continues to strive through. 

Overall, Michael Guzman is a student who balances his work and is passionate about his job. Even though it may sound hard to manage, Guzman is one example of how anything is possible with some hard work and perseverance. We wish Guzman, who grew up in our community and is a Howard County graduate, the best for his future.

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