When nursing student Kaitlyn McCarthy began her summer vacation, she didn't think she'd find herself in full personal protective equipment holding the hand of a migrant worker who was "petrified that he was going to die."
The decision to jump into the pandemic headfirst and join Erie Shores Healthcare's Migrant Worker COVID-19 Assessment team came easy for her.
But, like many others, McCarthy expected her summer to go a lot differently than it did.
"Either I roll with it or it's going to roll over me," said McCarthy, who is one of the co-chairs of the Hotel Dieu Grace Hospital Youth Advisory Committee. "So I just started to help, I started to be a part of whatever this COVID thing is going to be and I decided that I'm going to move with it and that's where my future will take me."
Not everyone reacted in the same way.
While McCarthy jumped the instant she felt the world shift beneath her, Katarine Kolobaric, 21, didn't know what to jump to.
Kolobaric, a UWindsor psychology and biology major who wants to attend medical school, was one of many who struggled to find her footing at the start of the pandemic.
Usually busy with school, work or an extracurricular, Kolobaric, who is also a co-chair of Hotel Dieu's Youth Advisory Committee, said in an instant she was forced to stop and consider what was next.
"It's definitely been a roller coaster. The beginning was probably the hardest for me just because I'm one of those people that is constantly living life at full speed and when everything just kind of shut down and stopped I kind of just hit this wall and I didn't really know what to do with myself."
Kolobaric struggled to build her future, when no plans could be made.
"After everything stopped I realized that I had no hobbies because I was so busy all the time," she said.
A few weeks in and regular talks with a counsellor, she was able to build a schedule, but it was a process that forced her to be kind to herself.
"I've kind of grown up in this burnout culture mentality. Everyone's always kind of pushing you to do everything and especially [when] I'm striving to go to med school, they want everything from you," she said, adding that she needs to have a job, extracurricular activities, and good grades.
"In the end it kind of just starts to feel suffocating. Even though it was very strange for me to step back and have nothing to do, it was also oddly refreshing and just really made me realize a lot about myself."
While Kolobaric dealt with the pandemic by taking a break, McCarthy found that she couldn't.
"I've been able to learn more about my community and I've been able to learn how in the future years when I become a registered nurse, how I'll be able to help my patients and how vulnerable everybody can get," she said. "It's humbling and it's exciting and it's a new way to learn for me."
Regardless of how you've approached the pandemic, McCarthy said people should just do what feels right for them.
"I would say follow what you want to do. If you don't want to be on the front lines don't be on the front lines...do what you love and what you feel passionate about."
Youth blamed for disregarding pandemic rules
As the province has slowly begun to reopen, youth have been blamed for taking the crisis less seriously and disregarding social gathering advice from public health officials, which has sparked an increase in cases in the demographic.
As of Friday, the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit reported that majority of the region's cases are in people between the ages of 20 to 39 years old.
Despite seeing the evidence of people's carelessness on her social media, Kolobaric said it isn't reflective of the community that she knows.
"I have definitely seen on social media people in large groups of friends going to parties and even though that's really really frustrating for me...I don't think that that reflects the majority of youth in Windsor-Essex," she said, adding that a lot of the people she knows are following public health guidelines.
"The youth of Windsor Essex really are powerful and we are able to make this big step toward building a better generation for the future."