UT Austin

“covid learning” could revolutionize school for students with anxiety at UT

Heart beating, palms sweating, stomach churning, intensifying fear: These are all symptoms of social anxiety. Socially anxious students may be avoiding these symptoms this semester with the aid of the current era of remote learning. 

“It feels like my body is frozen…(like) a bucket of water drops on you. I want to speak but I can’t.”

Claudia Juárez, UT Austin Sophomore

In the age of COVID-19, pre-recorded classes are used to keep students safe from the pandemic, but these classes could also benefit students with social anxiety. Pre-recorded classes can reduce or eliminate the triggers of social anxiety present in in-person classes. There is currently an online petition created by members of the UT student government to continue the offering of distanced learning for students with disabilities such as social anxiety even after COVID-19 has eased.

“I was having anxiety attacks my first day (of class) every time I went somewhere new,” said Mackenzie Ulam, president of the UT chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Approximately 12% of Americans will experience debilitating social anxiety defined by significant impairment in regular functioning during the course of their lives, the National Social Anxiety Center reports. 

The emergence of an anxiety disorder can occur at any age but often will surface during a person’s teens or 20s, the UT Student Affairs Division wrote on its website. This age range means students often experience the emergence of social anxiety during college, potentially impacting their learning experience.  

“(In class) I don’t… want to ask certain questions,” Juárez said. “‘Cause it’s like I go to UT, am I really going to ask this? Everyone’s going to think I’m dumb. Even the professor might think I’m dumb and call me out on it.”

The fear of being perceived as dumb is a common trait in those with social anxiety. This fear can be triggered by numerous scenarios. Triggers of social anxiety include: introducing yourself, “small talk” with classmates, asserting your needs with those in authority such as professors and answering or asking questions in a formal setting, reports the UT Student Affairs Division. 

“You’re having to deal with having to do two things at once: trying to learn the content and trying to work through…anxiety,” said Althea Woodruff, UT’s project coordinator for well-being in learning environments. “You’re basically having to do double or more of the work emotionally and academically.” 

Last semester, UT student government officials introduced a petition in coordination with disability justice advocates to ensure access to online material such as recorded lectures to aid students with social anxiety and other disabilities even after the pandemic eases.

Vinit Shah, UT’s student government chief of staff, said recorded lectures aid students because they cannot just ignore their anxiety. 

“There is no way to challenge yourself out of anxiety,” Shah said. “It’s like learning to swim. When professors say… ‘just get over it,’ it’s really insulting…it’s like expecting a baby to be an Olympic swimmer right off the bat.”

Students with social anxiety may already be eligible for certain accommodations through UT’s services for students with disabilities department. However, accommodations are decided on a case-by-case basis rather than having pre-created accommodation plans available. 

Students must go through a five-part plan to qualify for accommodations. This plan includes providing documentation of their disabilities in an approved format by the department, scheduling and attending an intake appointment with the department, completing multiple forms and signing multiple documents, reports the department on their website

Woodruff said that having recorded lectures available is the type of accessible accommodation that gives students much-needed flexibility. 

“It lets the students know that you actually care about them and you’re being empathetic to their situation,” Woodruff said. “You want to try to be as accommodating as you can to as many students as you can.”

Featured Image by Kara Fields

An honest review of Malcolm & Marie

Burnt X Entertainment Co-Editor Skyler King reviews Netflix Original, Malcolm & Marie , starring Zendaya and John David Washington.

Malcolm and Marie…need to go to therapy.

“Malcolm & Marie” is Netflix’s newest indie love story starring Zendaya and John David Washington. The film follows a young couple as they embark on a night full of emotional turmoil and necessary self-reflection. Filmed during the pandemic, Zendaya and Washington are the only cast members, and they only had a crew of 22 people. It was an impressive feat and Zendaya gives yet another powerful performance. But, this story about love was quite dismal and had little to no payoff.

To know more of my thoughts on the film, check out my video!

Featured Design by Kara Fields. Image courtesy of Netflix.

8 Nature Documentaries on Netflix to Cure your Wanderlust

If there has been anything good to come out of this pandemic, it would be the newfound appreciation for our outdoor spaces. 

As many of us sit trapped within our concrete jungles, wellness and the determination to reconnect ourselves with nature have been at the forefront of our minds. Although we may still be slaves to Zoom, Netflix’s menagerie of nature documentaries have given BBC Earth a run for their money with their jaw dropping cinematography and majestic scoring. Here are just a few of my top picks:

My Octopus Teacher (2020)

One man, one octopus and a friendship that may or may not border on romance has brought this cinematic masterpiece to our screens. My Octopus Teacher took 10 years to film and unlike other nature documentaries equipped with an entire film crew, this documentary was primarily filmed by one man who just decided to free dive in the icy ocean waters off the South African coast every morning for a decade. The filmmaker, Craig Foster, formed an unlikely friendship with an octopus during his dives in the dense and turbulent kelp forest near his Cape Town home. The documentary not only reveals astonishing discoveries of octopus intelligence, but takes an incredibly intimate and introspective look into what it means to be human. This film will probably make you cry, you have been warned. 

“Night on Earth” (2020)

New technology has allowed this film crew to capture animals quite literally in a new light. “Night on Earth” features breathtaking cinematography courtesy of moonlight cameras to film animals at night and reveals new discoveries of their nighttime behavior. 

 BONUS: Night on Earth: Shot in the Dark

Image courtesy of Netflix’s Night on Earth

Okay, I know what you’re thinking: “A documentary ABOUT a documentary? You’ve gone too far.” Fair point, but just hear me out. The work that went into filming “Night on Earth” will blow your mind and leave you with a newfound respect for what nature doc crews do. The camera crew had to travel to the most remote parts of the world, persevere in the most extreme climates and get bitten. That’s right, I said bitten. Bitten by a pack of urban monkeys in Thailand, swarms of mosquitoes in a dense jungle and fanged vampire bats. This film took a lot of creative problem solving and required the crew to shoot in 30 different countries.

Dancing With The Birds (2019)

Those TikTok dances you’ve been practicing in your bedroom have got nothing on these birds. Accompanied by some groovy tunes and rather risqué narration, these colorful birds shimmy, sing and even pole dance to win the eye of a female. The documentary follows the stories of affectionately named male birds in their attempts to, as the narrator puts it, charm a female onto their poles. We see birds intricately building towers, choreographing group dances, dilating their pupils at alarming speeds and creepily enough, mimicking the sounds of human children’s voices in their elaborate courting rituals.

“It may be a cliche, but size matters to female bowerbirds.”

– Stephen Fry, Narrator of “Dancing With The Birds”

“Our Planet” (2019)

Narrated by the nature documentary icon himself, Sir David Attenborough, “Our Planet” is a six episode series covering ecosystems ranging from arctic tundras to the deep oceans. The series boasts breathtaking cinematography of landscapes and animals, but is primarily centered around how human activity is damaging these ecosystems. One particularly horrific scene of walruses plummeting to their deaths while fighting for space almost broke the internet. It is a prime example of the devastating impacts of global warming.

BONUS: Our Planet: Behind the Scenes

This behind-the-scenes film reads a little like a twisted reality TV show at times – you’ve got videographers trapped inside a cold, tiny hut for six days at a time to film Siberian tigers, lights failing during a nighttime shark feeding frenzy with the diver right in the center of the action and then crew mates struggling to fit their gear into a tiny hydroplane. It’s nonstop action. “Our Planet” took four years to film in over 60 countries, with over 6,600 drone flights and 400,000 hours of trap camera footage for the crew to scour through. 

“Alien Worlds” (2020)

If life developed on discovered exoplanets…what would it look like? If Neil deGrasse Tyson and David Attenborough got together to make a docuseries, this would be it. “Alien Worlds” is not exactly a nature documentary, but it took incredible imagination and technical work to animate these fantastical alien dreamscapes. This documentary is a must-watch for sci-fi and nature documentary lovers alike.

Ghost of the Mountains (2017)

This international crew of filmmakers was the first to ever capture a snow leopard family on camera in the wild. The crew had to brave altitude sickness, freezing cold temperatures and live in a crowded shack with no electricity or running water for months on end. To get to their final destination in the remote wilderness of the Tibetan mountains, they had to drive for an entire week to an elevation of over 16,000 feet above sea level. With every 1,600 feet gained in altitude, the crew had to stop and rest for 24 hours to avoid altitude sickness. Before they could even think of filming, they first needed to track down a snow leopard family in the mountains, which is no easy task, but it was all worth it in the end. This Disneynature documentary is now an important part of history.

Featured Image designed by Kara Fields

How to stay healthy during quarantine

Freshman 15? Try quarantine 30. 

Being stuck inside a dorm or apartment all day not only is the perfect excuse to stay away from the gym, but also keeps the sun’s serotonin-inducing rays out of reach. 

We are now coming up on the one year anniversary of the lockdown that shook up our social lives, mental health, and physical wellbeing, and while some people have taken the opportunity to glow up, others have certainly let the somber mood get them down.

It’s not always easy to cook a healthy meal or get up and start moving when the world seems to be spiralling out of control, but with vaccines on the horizon and the winter months taking the seasonal depression away, it’s time to let the sunshine back in and get that serotonin pumping.

There are two important sides to health — the mental and the physical. So if you’re struggling to make it through this pandemic in one stable piece, here’s some tips to stay healthy during quarantine.

Mental Health

Humans are not creatures of isolation. We don’t enjoy staying put for too long, or being locked away in the fairytale-esque tower until our knight in shining armor (the vaccine) comes to save us. It wears on our mental health and creates the perfect environment for depression, anxiety, and other mental problems to seep in.

One of the best ways to combat this is to actively fight against the isolation tendencies COVID-19 has created. And no, Karen, this doesn’t mean breaking CDC guidelines. Zoom, while problematic for professors who can’t figure out what a ‘breakout room’ is, is actually a great way to interact with your friends no matter where you are. Think Discord or Facetime, but magnified into one program that has monopolized the videochat market during this pandemic.

Photo by Surface on Unsplash

With the power of Zoom people can play video games, like Among Us, follow Bob Ross painting tutorials, or have a group meet-up all from the convenience of a comfy couch. Plus, when you get tired of human interaction just pretend your internet is bad— no more waiting for your friend to get done talking so she can give you a ride home, or waiting till that boring movie finishes before you bolt.

On top of the lack of human interaction, the lack of sunshine can also get to us. Sunshine is one of those natural endorphin-releasers that allows for another source of serotonin besides turning an assignment in due at midnight at 11:59 p.m. Going out, whether it be to the store, to classes, or to visit a friend, allows for some outdoor time in the sunlight. Without it, we are less inclined to get those endorphins released. Reduced sunlight already is linked to the cause of Fall and Winter Seasonal Affective Disorder (better known as seasonal depression) so by combining that with the deprivation of human interaction, it may exponentially harm people’s mental health.

One of the best ways to combat this is to go outside and take a walk. It gives you time away from Netflix or schoolwork (and let’s face it, who doesn’t want an excuse to avoid that), and allows your body to absorb that outside energy we’ve all been losing since the pandemic started.

Photo by Church of the King on Unsplash

If it seems a little daunting to do that, another option is to sit by an open window and sip on  some coffee or tea, look outside and let the sun’s rays travel  through the window. Maybe even sit at a table outside for a bit while you procrastinate whatever work you actually have to do. 

Because the great outdoors, no matter how much millennials and Gen Z deny it, are really not that bad. In fact, it’s pretty relaxing around this time of year when the bugs have all receded back to wherever they go. It’s peaceful — which is just what we all need in a time that has tested the amount of stress we can handle before reaching a breaking point. 

Physical Health

Over the course of the pandemic, social media has run rampant with “COVID-19 glow-ups.”  People have used the extra time to their advantage to get that summer body snatched. But when mental health dwindles, so does physical. And while we don’t see quite as much energy around the “glow-down” of being too depressed to get out of bed, let alone go for a run, it is still something our society is struggling with right now.

Mental health is one of the most important aspects to physical health, so if you’re struggling, I’d suggest getting your mind right and then coming back to this. But if you’re ready to put in the work, I promise it’s more fun and rewarding in the end.

Photo by Jonathan Borba on Unsplash

Physical activity is known to be a  mood booster. Exercise releases endorphins just like the sun’s rays, and can be a healthy way to destress. Instead of trying to think of exercise as some daunting chore to check off each day, find something you enjoy doing and make it a part of your daily routine. Your muscles don’t have to be immovable from soreness, and you don’t have to be drowning in your own sweat, for it to be an effective workout.

Something I picked up during the Pandemic is TheFitnessMarshall’s dance videos. To me, they are super fun and allow me to get out a lot of pent up energy. Beyond that, I definitely learned some new moves for when it’s safe to go to the clubs again.

Everyone needs to find that workout that doesn’t feel like a workout. Not only could finding it during quarantine be an entertaining journey, but once you find it you’ll have something to add to your daily activities besides your phone and school. Physical activity will offer another outlet and escape for the insanity of what we’re living in right now.

And nobody’s glow-up needs to be some intense weight loss or muscle gain. Nobody needs to be the most positive person in the world. A real mental and physical glow up can just be feeling better about the activities your body can do, maybe lifting a box that was too heavy before, or running a minute longer than you used to be able to. It can be smiling a little more every day, laughing with friends a little longer. It’s the little victories that encourage us, and make for moments of happiness in the wake of this pandemic, that will truly get us through it.

“Selena: The Series” Review

The first teaser trailer seemed promising. Red lips and feathered bangs in the iconic purple jumpsuit worn by the late Tejano music icon during her last concert in 1995 at the Houston Astrodome.

The series itself, however, was not as promising.

The Netflix original, “Selena: The Series,” tells the rags to riches story of Selena Quintanilla, known as the Queen of Tejano music and one of the most successful Latin artists of all time. Despite the title and synopsis, the show treats the Mexican-American pop icon as more of a side character than the main character of her own story.

Created by Moisés Zamora and executively produced by Selena’s father (Abraham Quintanilla Jr.) and her sister (Suzette), stars “The Walking Dead” actress Christian Serratos as the iconic singer. Ricardo Chavira stars opposite as her domineering father, who robs his daughter of a normal childhood to fulfill his broken dreams of becoming a successful musician.

Credit: Netflix

While the opening prologue reveals a young woman on the cusp of her career, worried that moving up means leaving her bandmates and siblings behind, there aren’t many other personal moments like this in the rest of the series. At least, not for Selena.

This was my biggest problem watching the series back in December because it felt like Selena did not have a voice. It felt worse when I remembered that her father and sister were involved. They let her sing, but they didn’t let her speak for herself. 

In a Twitter thread from Maria Garcia, who spent the last year examining the life and legacy of Selena for the podcast Anything for Selena, she explains why devoted fans are disappointed with the series. 

She points out that this sense of protectiveness over Selena’s image rarely has to do with her legacy. Rather, it deals with the fact that she became a symbol for Latinos in the United States during a time when the Latino population was viewed negatively, specifically in 1995 (the year of her death).

Selena continues to remain a symbol remembered for her lively personality, her laugh, her confidence and humbleness. I felt none of this in the series. If anything, it felt like watching a ghost of Selena’s actual character. It also hurt to know that there was potential.

In a heartwarming scene, Suzette feels her contribution to the band as the drummer isn’t important until she’s stopped by a young fan after a concert in Mexico and tells her she wanted to become a female drummer just like her. Suzette gives away her drumsticks and walks away with newfound confidence. I adored this scene and wished Selena had moments like this as well, especially since she’s supposed to be the main star of this show.

Credit: Cesar Fuentes Cervantes/Netflix

In a more cringeworthy scene, Selena’s voice starts to deteriorate after countless nights on tour and her family can’t seem to stop using the word ‘ronca’ (which means hoarse). At first, it was cute but it quickly became excessive to the point where you could take a shot every time someone used that word to describe her voice.

All things considered, the series isn’t terrible. It is watchable and I’d recommend fans of the late Tejano pop star to give it a chance but understand this first season feels like it should have been called “Abraham and A.B. Quintanilla: The Series,” rather than “Selena: The Series.”

“Selena: The Series” is available to stream on Netflix.