Staying connected during a pandemic is complicated. Social isolation not only keeps us physically apart from our friends and peers, but can also affect our mental health and ability to stay productive and motivated in our studies. In times like these, how much responsibility does USF have to facilitate ways for students to feel connected to each other and the larger University community?
Ultimately, forming and maintaining relationships is our personal responsibility and not the responsibility of the educational institution we attend. As individuals, we have the capability and technology to be proactive about finding people to connect and engage with. We can direct message a classmate on Canvas to exchange contact information or email our professors for our peers’ emails, even though it might be awkward. Despite the social challenges of remote learning, many students have been taking it into their own hands to organize get-togethers and online movie nights with friends.
When taking the initiative to make new connections and foster old friendships, it’s important we understand and utilize the resources we’re paying for at USF. There are many people whose jobs are to create a sense of “campus life” in the first place. The Department of Student Life sponsors the majority of student-facing and service-oriented organizations, which include (Get Oriented) GO Team, Greek Life, the Cultural Centers, and the Foghorn, along with the rest of Student Leadership and Engagement’s programming, clubs, and organizations. These groups at USF are working tirelessly to convert an entire college experience into a virtual format that students can participate in from home, or wherever they are.
Just look at your Dons email inbox. Every week, it’s flooded with newsletters containing fresh lineups of events for the USF community. While the sheer amount of events available might be overwhelming, the wide variety is necessary for hopes that one of them might appeal to someone’s interests in our diverse community. Though we might have been more inclined to spontaneously attend a lecture, performance, or movie night after hitting up the undercaf with friends on campus, the desire and will to check out the latest virtual event is understandably lower. We can’t deny that USF does a lot for its students and that we’re paying for a lot more than academics. Whether we choose to participate is up to us. That said, USF is actively creating virtual spaces to make this change easier, chugging along as a campus community, despite how distanced everyone is and how everything might feel in our remote setting. It is our responsibility to stay engaged, and even more, engage with each other. Reach out, practice being an adult in a world where you aren’t paying for your community. Because whether or not we choose to use it, this school is a support system, even if only through emails. Whether you’re graduating in one or four years, we recommend you make the most of it.