Anna Maria Tremonti spoke in a virtual event hosted by Algonquin College's Pembroke campus on Monday, March 27. Photo credit: Madeleine Fargo

With the end of the winter term looming, a talk given by long-time journalist Anna Maria Tremonti hosted by the Pembroke campus on Monday, March 27, continues to have timely messages for students.

Tremonti, in her role as a journalist, has reported on the changing world for decades. Most notably, she was at the Red Square when the Soviet Union fell, watching the red flag being lowered. She thought that it would be the most world-altering event she would ever cover.

But then the pandemic happened. “COVID-19 has kind of driven us into what I think of as kind of an intersection,” said Tremonti.

Tremonti spoke over Zoom about how the pandemic has left many people confused, angry and uncertain about the future.

“It’s almost as if we’re at a crossroads with medicine, and science, and politics, and geopolitics, economics, business and society – every aspect of society – how we work, how we play, how we learn, how we interact,” said Tremonti.

The stress of the changing world is familiar to many Algonquin College students.

Ahmed Elbadri, a student success specialist who works with students in the School of Media and Design, tends to see more students when these big world events happen.

“With COVID-19 as one factor, I do see more students now,” said Elbadri.

Elbadri has always seen students who struggle with anxiety, personal skills and depression, but after COVID-19, more students seem to be struggling in this way than before.

“It’s hard to go from being relatively isolated to being in the world,” said Elbadri.

According to Elbadri, the best way to work through these difficult issues is to acknowledge them and talk about them.

“There’s nothing wrong with being depressed, being sad,” said Elbadri. “But when you don’t talk about it, it lingers, and then when it lingers, everything else just piles on top of it.”

Ahmed Elbadri, Algonquin student success specialist. Elbadri works with students in Algonquins school of media and design.
Ahmed Elbadri, a student success specialist, works with students in the School of Media and Design. The best way to work through difficult issues, he says, is to acknowledge them and talk about them. Photo credit: Madeleine Fargo

Loneliness was another big theme in Tremonti’s speech.

Tremonti did not just speak of the loneliness caused by a confusing and changing world, but also the loneliness caused by her own experience with intimate partner violence.

Her experience, which she speaks about in her new podcast Welcome to Paradise, left her with feelings of guilt and self-blame. At the same time, she believed she hadn’t suffered enough to share her story.

“I did judge myself at the time. There’s a stigma about abuse as if we deserve it, as if we choose it,” said Tremonti.

Once Tremonti started sharing her story, emails to her started pouring in. Tremonti’s story helped others realize they were far from alone.

Students aren’t alone either.

“Our Project Lighthouse website is all about students who’ve experienced violence, resources in community, online and in person,” said Sarah Crawford, Algonquin’s sexual violence prevention and harm reduction coordinator.

“It is very hard to come forward and talk to people about it,” said Crawford. “Algonquin College has counselling services where you’ll always be believed.”