Before leaving for spring break last year, nobody that I talked to thought that we would end up completely online a week later and that we would be going to school virtually for the rest of the spring semester. Over the summer, cases rose and campuses nationwide made the tough decision on how to hold classes: completely remote, in person, or a mix of the two. Either way, this fall is unlike any other. Although this is a mostly virtual semester for many students, there are still ways to both adjust to the change and help it feel more like “normal”.
1. Decorate your space.
One of the easiest ways to help adjust to classes this fall, whether you’re on-campus or taking classes from home, is to decorate your space and make it feel more comfortable. My roommate and I have been spending a lot more time in our dorm room than we expected due to social distancing and capacity rules, and one of the first things we wanted to do was make our room a comfortable study space while also giving us the ability to hang out and relax in between/after classes or on the weekends. One of the additions that we made was putting up these LED lights to help with keeping the space well-lit and a bit more fun than the regular room lights. We also may or may not have bought a beanbag chair as well because we had plenty of space to add fun accessories.
2. Get involved on-campus.
Many campus groups, such as Fraternity and Sorority Life (FSL), University Program Board (UPB), and Intramural Sports (IMS) have changed their programming to align with COVID-19-related rules and restrictions and made it easy for students both on and off-campus to still be able to participate. Clubs have also moved a lot of their programming online, from virtual radio station training to Beekeeper’s Club meetings via Zoom (and virtual HerCampus meetings!). Many on-campus groups still want to be able to create and execute programming that works around COVID-19 health and safety policies and is making it their prerogative to still have a voice on campus this fall. By getting involved in a group, you are less likely to feel isolated, no matter where you are taking your classes, and you have a fun activity to look forward to.
3. See your friends.
I cannot stress this enough: reach out to your friends, and make plans! The first week I was back on campus, I wanted to see all of my friends from last year and I immediately felt like things were closer to normal. Last weekend I went to the Burlington Farmer’s Market with my roommate and our shared friends and we had a great time catching up, hanging out, and generally just enjoying each other’s company in a safe way. If you’re new to campus this fall and haven’t found your group yet, spend time getting to know your roommate (if you have one) or your floormates, and see if people want to plan socially distanced outings. A hike onCamel’s Hump, swim at Lake Champlain, or bike ride around town are some of the easiest ways to spend time with others outdoors and give you options to exercise at the same time!
4. Reach out to your professors or advisors if you feel lost or overwhelmed.
If at any time during the semester you feel stressed out, lost, or overwhelmed with the curriculum, don’t be afraid to reach out to your professor! Chances are, they are also trying to adjust to a virtual semester and will understand what you are going through. Most professors didn’t think that this is what the fall semester would look like either, and are more willing to work with students to help them succeed. In addition to professors, your college should have a tutoring program through the tutoring center if you need extra help in a specific class, and the writing center is always available to help with writing assignments! Your advisor might also be able to help you figure out a good school-life balance, so they are a great resource if you ever feel like you’re swamped by schoolwork and have no time to relax. Many advisors are running virtual office hours, which means that you don’t even have to leave your dorm to meet with them (an awesome bonus!).
5. Be flexible with what happens.
One of the most important things my mom said to me before I moved back onto campus this fall was that this semester was not going to resemble anything normal and that I should be ready for whatever comes my way. School policies on gatherings, common spaces, and social distancing are always changing and evolving, and sometimes that might mean that something you were really looking forward to might not happen. If that happens to you, it’s important to recognize that this semester is anything but normal and that all you can do is be flexible with what happens. By recognizing ahead of time that this semester won’t be like any other, you will likely be able to enjoy it more, and take advantage of the opportunities that still exist despite the circumstances.
Fall 2020 is going to be a semester for the history books, and while taking a 200-person course from your dorm room or childhood bedroom instead of a lecture hall is a very different experience, there are ways to help make the adjustment easier. By keeping an open mind, making time to hang out with your friends, and getting (or staying) involved on-campus, the transition from in-person to virtual learning will be easier.