By Chloe Walker
For those students who never imagined they’d be spending their student days in isolation, a new challenge is to remain as social as possible while observing social distancing rules. Many young people are suddenly needing to find creative ways to stay connected despite being quarantined alone or in shared accommodation.
Here are a few practical ways to reach out and connect while still staying safe.
Be creative with video calls
Zoom, Skype, Houseparty or even Facetime are just some of the many platforms that can give you some semblance of face-to-face access with friends or family under lockdown. Students face enormous pressures trying to juggle their studies as it is. It goes without saying that cultivating a healthy social life is a necessity, not a luxury, and can go a long way to supporting your mental health.
While many of us are a little wary of long phone or video calls, the benefits are clear once you get used to the awkwardness. It can be helpful to imagine that friends and family are likely experiencing stress and uncertainty at this time as well, and that an earnest attempt to reach out for a friendly chat will almost certainly be appreciated. Set up a weekly call with friends, or if a one-on-one chat doesn’t appeal to you, why not watch a film ‘together’ as a group or preparing a new recipe for a modified dinner date?
Spare a thought for your roommates
It might not be ideal, but some of us may be stuck in quarantine with people we’re not particularly close to. Now’s the time to reach out and strengthen those relationships. If you live in shared housing or with roommates, you probably already have your hands full juggling the practical aspects of living together.
There are plenty of clever tools out there to help you manage the boring details like splitting bills (use a shared Google doc or calendar to keep track of electricity, gas, TV licenses or broadband without any drama, or have everyone install an app like Glide or Splitwise on their phones) so you can focus on keeping things friendly.
To keep things fun, organise a mini ‘house party’ – quite literally – and spend some time on board games, cooking, quizzes, online games or even really out-there activities, like online karaoke or a group yoga session. The idea is to loosen up, have fun and get to know your housemates — you may be surprised at how much you all have in common, especially during this chaotic time.
Think outside the box
There’s no way around it: lockdown is difficult and places frustrating limits on certain freedoms; students in particular may find themselves feeling very alone. All the more reason to find new ways to join up with others! Give a new twist to murder mystery nights, role playing games, a virtual pub quiz, or fancy dress and cosplay events – all online, of course. Give an ordinary book club a remake by adding some innovative new board game elements or dip your toes into the vast and frankly bewildering world of the Sims 4 Discovery University — which arguably simulates plenty of that ‘uni experience’ you may be lacking during lockdown.
Try to be productive
You could kill two birds with one stone and use upcoming assignments and projects as an excuse to get more sociable. Form a study group, journal club or simply a casual group where you commiserate over a challenging course on WhatsApp. If mixing study and social life isn’t quite up your alley, you could try sharing any of your pre-lockdown interests with fellow students. Just because you’re in quarantine, it doesn’t mean you can’t participate in a crafts group (share finished creations on social media) or a joint writing club where you share and critique one another’s fiction or poetry.
Challenge friends and family to learn a new skill, experiment with a new recipe, do something to keep fit, use hidden talents or participate in community projects. Simply creating a blog or reading others’ can have you feeling more connected to others – you may even discover friends further afield than you might have if you’d been restricted to your own college or university.
It’s understandable that students can feel a little isolated during lockdown, but there are always ways to connect with others if you’re willing to be creative and use the many free tools available. It may take a little adjustment to connect virtually rather than in person, and a degree of effort is needed to maintain connections with others, but the benefits of a healthy social life are always worth it — now more than ever.