With the continuation of the COVID-19 pandemic, many students have stayed online through the fall semester. Safety is of the utmost importance during these unprecedented times, and the decision to learn remotely is extremely personal and varies from situation to situation. Whether for personal health reasons or the well-being of family members, everyone has their reasons. Saint Joseph’s University has done a stellar job in making sure that those learning online have access to Zoom to attend their classes and meet with professors and peers. Still, many online students have found it very difficult to stay connected and get the full college experience. 

Online learning has its positives and negatives, like everything else. One positive is that many families are able to save money on university room and board. If a student has made the decision to learn completely remote, then living at home often goes hand-in-hand. Another plus to online learning is how convenient it is. As opposed to in-person learning, which requires students to walk to classes on-campus that may be far from their dorm building, learning on Zoom can be within the comfort of one’s home. This also allows for more flexibility in one’s schedule. Students living at home can attend their online classes, and still work at their job, spend quality time with family and friends, and participate in hobbies they wouldn’t be able to otherwise if they were living at university.

Photo by Sydney Rose

However, sitting at home in Zoom class all day takes a toll on one’s mental health. We know that since the start of the pandemic, COVID-19 has caused general problems with mental wellness for many. According to a KFF poll from July, 53% of adults reported a negative impact to their mental health due to the virus. There have also been many reports of spikes in eating disorders, substance abuse, insomnia, and feelings of loneliness, depression, and isolation. For college students, these numbers are much higher.  After losing last spring semester to COVID-19 and now having to remain off-campus, 71% of college students have experienced an increase in overall anxiety and stress according to a JMIR study. One con of online learning is the amount of time students spend just staring at a computer screen. Blue light is damaging to the eyes, and a study by Jean M. Twenge and W. Keith Campbell concluded that high levels of screen time can lead to obesity, lack of exercise, lack of self-esteem, and overall lower psychological well-being, especially in adolescents.

So we know that for all the pluses of online learning, there are also detrimental negatives as well. Saint Joseph’s University wants every student to have a positive, engaging college experience.  To aid this, below are some tips and tricks on how to feel connected to the Saint Joseph’s community while remote. 

Group Zoom/FaceTime with friends

The days of virtual happy hours are not over! Thanks to modern technology, staying connected is now easier than ever. Grab (virtually) a few friends or family members and set up a time where you can all Zoom or FaceTime together. Catch up on exciting news, your favorite shows, funny moments, or anything that you want! Even though we have to stay six feet apart physically, we can all come together in the digital realm and have a nice time.

Go to all of your Zoom classes

Although it may be tempting to hit the snooze button and get an extra few hours of sleep, attending your classes is essential to your success. Also, it’s a great way to meet friends. Many on-campus students at Saint Joseph’s still have some classes that are all-online, hybrid, or hyflex, so you’ll be able to make introductions and get to know your classmates better. Zoom has become the new classroom, and you should take advantage of all it has to offer!

Photo by Sydney Rose

Participate in breakout rooms

We know how awkward these can be – sitting in silence just waiting for the professor to close the room. However, if you make the leap to unmute yourself and strike up a conversation, you could end up meeting some amazing people! 

Hawk Hill Productions’ virtual events

One of the great things about Saint Joseph’s University is a student run organization called Hawk Hill Productions. Hawk Hill Productions works to set up fun, now socially-distanced activities free of charge for their students. It’s a great way to stay connected all while having fun. Some of their virtual events have included mystery games, celebrity speakers such as John Mulaney and Jonathan Daviss, trivia night, and movie screenings. With all of these options and a great team that works hard to create enjoyable activities, there is something for everyone!

Email clubs/teams to get on their email list

Although you may not have been able to attend the activities fair in person, you can still participate in the clubs and activities that interest you. Go onto the Saint Joseph’s Clubs and Activities webpage where you can find endless sports, service opportunities, and much more. Clubs have their emails listed on the website, so you can reach out to the leaders and get your name on the email list to stay updated and in the loop. And if you don’t find something you like or think Saint Joseph’s is missing something, start your own club. It’s the number one way to meet new people who share your same interests.

Use social media to connect with classmates

You’ve heard it before – social media is your best friend. And it’s true! Even though you may have connected with your peers in class, continuing to build a relationship will be much easier through social media if you are an online-only student. Use Snapchat, Instagram, TikTok, whatever your heart desires! Technology is at your fingertips, so take advantage of it.

COVID-19 has been challenging for all of us in different ways, but the feeling of isolation has been universal. Staying connected is now more important than ever, especially during college when you want to meet people and have friends. We hope this article has helped give you some pointers on how to be apart of the Saint Joseph’s community without physically being there!

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