Before the COVID-19 pandemic interrupted our lives and introduced us to distant learning, students looked forward to the learning experiences they found on campus. Interviews with a few students and professors from the College of Health & Human Services suggests that they are adjusting well to remote learning. Although it is nice not to have a commute to campus for classes or struggle to find a parking spot, to walk across campus in the rain, or wait in long lines for coffee, students do miss many of the in-person experiences of university life. Some students feel that it’s not the same and really miss the in-person learning experience. Being completely online can be a bit difficult and some students fear that they are not absorbing the information as much, compared to previous courses that they took in person. However, students find themselves adjusting to the situation and find that Southern is doing a phenomenal job in assisting students to get the most out of distance learning. Professors are even becoming more comfortable with the technology to help create a supportive environment for their students.
Students miss participating in on-campus events and enjoying the beautiful sights of the campus and nature that is around us. Those little walks from one building to another when the weather was nice was something that many appreciated. Students would run into familiar faces around campus and interact with people in between their classes or on their way home. Now students are finding new creative ways to stay connected with each other, enjoying new activities, and discovering new talents about themselves. It really helps to remain positive and to find a routine that works for you. Students have found that going on walks and setting up weekly FaceTime or Zoom calls helps them from socially distancing themselves completely and losing hope in our current situation.
Despite the new changes, students are working smarter this semester and finding new ways to manage their workload. Public Health senior Annie Ricupero shared, “I have found that making short to-do lists for myself for each week helps me to stay organized and on top of my school-work without feeling too overwhelmed.” By planning ahead and keeping track of due dates on assignments, and setting up a quiet designated work area, students are able to stay focused without being too hard on themselves.
Though many students miss being able to utilize Buley Library and all the in-person resources it has to offer, they are creating new routines at home and taking advantage of the library’s online resources, the Academic Success Center, and the other facilities. It’s also a good idea to take advantage of the virtual office hours for your professors. They are easy to access, and students finding the accessibility to be helpful, as they can still receive the one-on-one help they seek on assignments. Professors are doing their best to accommodate their students and helping students feel adjusted to their classes. Communication Disorders senior Annie Prusak said, “I always like to introduce myself to professors when I first meet them, and while I was able to do it this semester over Zoom, it isn’t quite the same as shaking someone’s hand.” You build a stronger connection with not just the professor but with classmates as well, as the first couple of minutes coming into the classroom enables students to create conversations with their peers.
Many students are finding it easy to follow the safety protocols – wearing a face mask, washing their hands, and using hand sanitizer – both on and off campus. Students mainly find themselves at home unless they need to go to work, classes, or grocery shopping. Though many students do not have access to campus, they find that Southern is doing a great job announcing what services are available to students and when and what events are being held, whether on campus or virtually. Professor Joseph Milone of the Recreation, Tourism, & Sports Management Department said, “staying connected can be as simple as reaching out to classmates to set up a study session or just talk. Reach out, get involved, and stay connected in some capacity.”
Though it is easy to feel isolated when classes are online, it’s important to think about your mental health. Students find that talking to a therapist every week has helped them work through their thoughts and feelings. You should also continue to strengthen your physical connections with your family members and peers as they are a great support system to have. Milone commented, “one tip to manage stress, which applies to everyone, is to step away from the computer when needed. Take a walk, get some fresh air, set up a chair outside to watch the birds, and get away from it all for a few minutes. The pandemic has given us an opportunity to rethink how we engage with outdoor spaces”. Overall, students are feeling lucky to be able to continue their learning from a safe environment where they can still get the help that they need and require, making this transition a better experience.