Augusta University grad says “COVID-19 changed the way I view public health”

From the WRBL Internship Assignment Desk

This story was produced as part of the WRBL 2020 Summer Intern program

Eric graduated from Augusta University on May 9th via virtual ceremony.

FORSYTH, Ga. (WRBL) — Recent Augusta University graduate Eric Ussery had begun to apply for graduate programs and entry level jobs just before his spring break in early March.

Then COVID-19 and the Shelter in Place order came into effect. Job postings were now being left open for the forseeable future and courses were being moved online completely.

For Ussery, the job hunt immediately became even more difficult, as the hiring process had almost completely halted. “I wasn’t expecting it. I was preparing to go on interviews before graduation. It all just kinda stopped,” Ussery said.

The social distancing orders began to change the landscape of daily activities for everyone, and the cancellations of graduations and major events shifted to an online experience that some found pleasing.

Ussery and roughly 70 other Kinesiology majors graduated from Augusta University in early May virtually, a first for the university. “It didn’t matter to me, walking across the stage was more for my mom. I enjoyed the freedom of that part, at least,” Ussery said.

Kinesiology, the study of the mechanics of body movements, allowed Ussery to focus on the science behind holistic wellness; something Eric has been long invested in. “I lived in the gym. It’s my favorite place to be, that’s why I plan to go into grad school for physical therapy,” Ussery said.

The former football player decided on his career path after an injury in high school left his abdominal muscles detached. “A teammate punctured my pancreas during practice, and it required surgery a lot of therapy. I didn’t know how much went into developing a plan to repair muscles,“ Ussery said.

Ussery, who trains with friends and gym owners three to four days per week, said that social distancing forced him to think outside of the box. “I started watching [social media] influencers and how they market their programs. Even the free ones,” Ussery said.

He continues to share his free workouts with fellow Instagram users.

 For the Bibb County native, the limited ability to interview personally led him to pursue graduate school even further.

“Hopefully in the next year or so, the smoke will be clear, and I can get back into the job market. No one is really taking the risk right now of bringing new people in. COVID-19 changed the way I view public health,” Ussery said.

Ussery hopes to take advantage of the waived GRE requirements and enroll in a graduate program close to home. “It’s been a blessing and a headache. I’m thankful that some schools are adjusting for us. It’s been a difficult enough for all of us,” he said. While he still plans to use his kinesiology degree in the future, Ussery doesn’t intend to pursue physical training full time. “People are always asking me to train them, and I’m thankful that they believe in me that much. The gym is my therapy, so I like sharing tips with others,” Ussery said.

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