Pets relieve stress of online learning from home

For OCC students, pets have become more than just trusty companions. In the pandemic, they have become study buddies. Some OCC students' pets are Reese Valeriano's Lala (left), Brenden Magner's Vilkas (center), and Aiko (top right) and Kuma (bottom right), belonging to Phuong Lam. 

For students of Orange Coast College, adapting to 2020 has meant restructuring their education around the screens of home computers and mobile devices, and in some cases putting off needed classes until in-person learning can resume. For pet owners, however, remote learning has come with a silver lining.

“I wanted all my classes to be online so it works out very well,” OCC business major Phuong Lam said. “I would say [my pets] made things less stressful. I enjoy being home and being able to see them more.”

One might expect animal companionship to be a chaotic influence on academic performance. However, pet ownership is believed to lead to benefits relating to mental health, such as reduced anxiety and depression compared to non-pet owners, which is in line with experiences shared by students. 

“Overall, it has been less stressful,” OCC film and television production major Reese Valeriano said. “It’s a great way to destress and free your mind when it comes to schoolwork.”

Valeriano considers her pet Lala to be instrumental in keeping her stress levels low during remote learning, although skipping the commute normally needed to attend classes on campus has helped as well. And Lala, she has discovered, is also an enthusiastic classmate.

“Back in the spring 2020 semester, my dog would always sit on my lap and pay attention to the teacher,” Valeriano said in an email. “If my office door is shut, she will cry until I let her in.”

Far from disrupting Zoom classes, Lala’s perfect attendance has been largely taken in stride, aside from the occasional compliment to her pet’s adorability. 

OCC English major Brenden Magner shares a house with a dog, a cat, a hamster and two parakeets. Magner had initially been concerned about the possibility of background noise potentially getting in the way of lectures.

“I do my classes in my bedroom next to my parakeets and they like to talk when I talk so they’ll be quiet until I unmute myself and then start chatting. I get paranoid that my birds are annoying people, but most legitimately don’t care,” Magner said. “I’ve had classmates say that they really loved hearing my birds because it made them feel like they were outside or closer to nature. And I feel the same way.”

With pets unlikely to be welcome in campus classrooms in a post-pandemic world, the luxury is a comfort that pet owners are enjoying to the fullest. While there is no shortage of students and faculty members eagerly awaiting the day that OCC campus will reopen, for the pet lovers, the wait is at least not an agitated one.

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