Staying connected with friends and family while social distancing

In light of the recent stay-at-home order placed on the citizens of Illinois, new challenges regarding social connection and interaction are affecting students and faculty of universities.

Both students and faculty must adjust their expectations for one another during this difficult time. For many, the new online format for classrooms presents a wide-range of challenges that were largely unforeseen during the implementation of the stay-at-home order.

Having a functioning campus with an abundant social atmosphere is one of the most essential aspects of maintaining an active university culture. 

Beyond the social climate of the university, there are many classes which require face-to-face interaction. In many cases, face-to-face interaction among students and faculty is the most efficient method of instruction.

Discussion-based classes rely on the voices of students and their teachers coming together for lively debate and conversation. Art studios help students hone their craft, with the guidance of professors and lab assistants. 

Science labs provide visual learning for students, showing examples of how our universe works. 

Being cooped up at home and sitting at a computer on Zoom or Blackboard with classmates does not offer the same feeling as an engaging and enriching classroom environment. However, this is the predicament students at SIUE and other universities across the country are facing. 

However, dire circumstances call for dire measures to be taken. Without much of a choice, both students and faculty must adjust to the changes in classroom structure and operation. The transition to online schooling has been complicated for many professors, several unaware of how to use online platforms like Zoom for lectures.

With the social atmosphere being drastically changed by Illinois’ stay-at-home order, students are forced to discover new ways to connect with one another socially.

Senior art education major Mallory Bugg, of Fairview Heights, Illinois, is finding a way to balance work while maintaining social distance from their friends. 

“Meeting people in person now is something that I can’t really do anymore,” Bugg said. “Even something as easy as getting a cup of coffee can’t be done. I still see my work friends at Target, which I sometimes feel bad about because of what we’re supposed to be doing. The hardest part is not seeing the people I would normally see in person.”

Junior environmental science major Maya Sante, of Edwardsville, has noticed a lack of interaction between friends during this difficult readjustment period.

“I’ve done a lot more FaceTiming than I have before and less people have reached out,” Sante said. “I think we’re all trying to figure ourselves out. I’m FaceTiming the same people consistently, but I’ve also heard from people a lot less.”

Senior psychology major Brian Lowe, of Edwardsville, a self-described extrovert, used to have a significant part of his student life revolve around seeing his friends constantly, but now he can’t.

“I made a habit of surrounding myself with people, socializing, hanging out with friends all the time,” Lowe said. “I used to go to my friends’ apartment [in Cougar Village] at least every Tuesday and Thursday, sometimes on weekends, too. Now, it’s a lot of my girlfriend and I spending time together, trying to avoid going out. The decrease in face-to-face interaction is the biggest thing.”

With classes all online, it can be easy for students to fall behind in routine and take care of themselves, especially when everyone is ordered to stay indoors unless for necessary trips. 

Bugg, Sante and Lowe all had tips for fellow students who may be struggling with social distancing and quarantine regulations, especially with the new use of Zoom and Blackboard to keep up to date on schoolwork.

“Try and stay motivated,” Bugg said. “Reach out to your professors; they all respond very quickly. They want to help us; they are just as confused as we are. Keep in communication and go outside. If you’re stuck at home, go outside for a little bit everyday. It will help.”

Sante said she has rearranged her whole apartment to pass time.

“I’m trying to do busy chore work,” Sante said. “I’m also watching new movies. I can’t stand to be bored. For online classes, definitely go to Zoom office hours and stay more on top of your emails. The professors are in the same boat as us. Don’t isolate yourself; your professors are more understanding than you think they are.”

Lowe said social distancing has brought the positive aspects of social media to light.

“Now is the perfect time to flex its good side,” Lowe said. “Social media is a double-edged sword and a lot of people, for good reason, have targeted the negatives. In the midst of social distancing, we can express socializing while being distant and things being quite close.”

If you feel low during social distancing, go to SIUE’s Counseling Services’ homepage for resources. 

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