You’ve Left Campus. Your Classes Are Online. Now What?
Mounting concerns about COVID-19 have triggered college shutdowns all across the country. Whether your spring break was extended before eventual evacuation or you were asked not to return from spring break at all, chances are you’ve ended up in the same place as hundreds of thousands of students: far off of campus, at home.
These decisions were ultimately necessary for the sake of public health—and most college students understand this. We recognize that, during a global pandemic, the experiences that characterize campus life—namely, shared living and dining spaces—are simply not safe.
But it is possible to acknowledge the hazardous nature of these experiences while simultaneously mourning the loss of them. After all, they are at the heart of what makes college fun. Our academic lives depend on discovery through collaboration and conversation. Our social lives are born from close quarters, short distances.
Moreover, this sudden eviction poses a threat to the many college students who rely on their universities for stable shelter, food, and employment. And for students who may be returning to abusive, non-accepting households, the months ahead may feel incredibly lonely.
Regardless of background, it seems that nearly everyone is devastated about the trip home, the goodbyes to friends and settled routine. And so there is no denying that the next few months will be difficult. The good news is that there are always people around us (even if not physically—practice social distancing!) who are willing to help, and there are many things we can all be doing to help ourselves.
Use your university’s resources.
Contact your university’s Office of Financial Aid, as many are offering partial refunds, work-study income replacements, and support stipends for high-need students. You can also apply for relief grants, to be provided from emergency funds. Additionally, some schools’ mental health professionals and academic advisors are continuing to offer remote counseling.
Reach out to peers and alumni.
At my college, students created a public spreadsheet of resources—from help moving out to places to live—for anyone who needed it. If you have been displaced, there may be a current student with an extra bed for you. Check Facebook groups for resources like these.
Establish and maintain a daily routine.
It’s easy to feel lost and aimless with no friends around or classes to physically go to. Once you’re safely sheltered, keeping an everyday schedule can serve as motivation to keep getting out of bed. You don’t have to time your activities down to the minute (I tried this, and it made me less productive), but try to complete tasks that can soon become routine habits. Jotting down these few things to accomplish every day can reinstate your sense of purpose. And they need not be huge—brushing your teeth, eating a meal, and reading a book are all necessary routines that can be easily forgotten in times of depression.
Stay in touch with your friends and family.
Be sure to check on your friends and see how they’re doing. Don’t be afraid to open up to them, either; this is a difficult adjustment period. Luckily, FaceTime will allow you and your friends to lean on each other for support, even if virtually. And Zoom is useful for things besides class! Scheduling screen-shared movie nights with your friends is a wonderful way to simulate dorm hangouts.
Find things to fill the time between classes and homework.
Thinking about the past and the what-could-have-beens-had-the-semester-not-ended will only make you sadder…and that’s exactly what you’re going to do if you only go to classes and do your homework. Pick up new hobbies to avoid rumination. ‘Hobbies’ is loosely defined, too—if you’re getting into baking, great; but binge-watching an old show counts, too.
(Personally, I’ve been doing light exercise via Blogilates and compiling a Pinterest vision board for my dorm next year.)
This is a good time to remind you to be gentle with yourself. It’s okay not to be extremely productive. You don’t have to write the great American novel or get six-pack abs or start a small business from home. Do what you need to do to adjust.
Take care of your mental health.
The uncertainty of this situation as well as its sheer magnitude may mean you feel completely and utterly hopeless. If you’re feeling anxious or depressed or panicked, you can text HOME to 741741 to be immediately connected with a trained crisis counselor.
There will be days when you feel completely and utterly hopeless. It may feel like this is never going to end, and the return of school will feel all too far.
But right now, all you can do is stay connected with the ones you love and tell yourself that you can only control the controllables. The days may be slow, but they will be worth it. When move-in finally comes, when we are reasonably healthy and able, we will all see each other again, and it will be amazing.
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