Fall is almost here, and it will definitely be different than anything we’ve faced before. With the recent move to distance delivery for most classes, many students may be frustrated, anxious or upset. In these challenging times, we have to remember the importance of supporting those around us and maintaining the communities we have.
Ellen Taylor, vice president of student engagement, said that with limited opportunities for connection between students and peers, we need to be proactive about making those connections ourselves and keeping our community strong.
“The informal, easy, organic, serendipitous ways of connecting just are much less likely to occur when we’re all doing our best to stay home and stay healthy, ” Taylor said. “It takes more intentionality, it takes more effort … It’s especially important to find ways to connect.”
Similarly, Brian Shuffield, executive director of student involvement, said that building and maintaining community is still an important part of each student’s college experience despite unusual circumstances.
“The Cougar community is even more important maybe this year than ever because there are so many restrictions and so many challenges based on this pandemic,” Shuffield said. “I think everybody just needs to support each other.”
Many students this semester might not even be in Pullman and are choosing to stay home to avoid potential exposure to the virus. Doing classes at home can be hard, especially when you have to share a house with your parents and siblings. However, there are still ways to support yourself and your friends, even if you are far apart.
One great way to check in on those who you are used to being around is a weekly Zoom call. Talking face-to-face, even digitally, is more personal than communicating through text and can be a great way to help support friends that might not be having the best times of their lives.
Checking in on friends and supporting those we know can help everyone out and also keep a sense of the community that we cherish in college. While it is now a lot harder to maintain that community between students and staff, that doesn’t mean it has to stop.
To add to that, we might be feeling isolated without the opportunities for socialization we have become used to. To combat this, Taylor suggested simply texting your friends occasionally to let them know you are thinking of them. These small acts might seem insignificant, but they can do wonders to help everyone feel supported.
Another important part of the college experience, especially for first-year students, is meeting new friends. For the students who have decided to still attend WSU despite distance delivery, making new friends might be a challenge. However, there are still ways to find friends and meet new people.
Shuffield said student involvement is one of the main ways students can meet new people in a time of remote learning.
“To engage in [student involvement activities] is still so important because it’s going to be how students get to meet other students and get involved in those out-of-the-classroom activities that so many people are used to doing,” he said.
Shuffield specifically mentioned the Emerging Leaders program as a great way for students to get involved and build community.
The opportunities for student engagement this fall can be beneficial for students to stay happy during the semester. Student clubs and organizations offer outlets for students to find like-minded individuals in a fun, supportive environment. These opportunities, though mostly online, can be the solutions students need with the challenges ahead.
Taylor said that though the semester will be significantly different than before, there are still opportunities for students to meet new people and build community.
“I would encourage [first-year students] to take advantage of every opportunity that there is … [Meeting new people] is not going to be at the picnic, it’s not going to be down the hall in the residence hall in the same way,” Taylor said. “But student involvement is still really working hard making platforms for student organizations to connect.”
Supporting friends, classmates and even staff members is essential during these trying times. Building and maintaining a community is more important than ever. As we all make our way down this unfamiliar path, we need to remember to look out for one another to keep everyone safe, happy and healthy.