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Last semester was a highly stressful period for many university students all over the world. I stay on campus with a couple of my friends, and we lived each day with the knowledge that we could be sent home any day. When the email finally came for us “to stay at the College or leave to go home,” my friends and I reluctantly chose to shift out and hunker down at home. We viewed the measures as painful but necessary, and we promised to stay in touch during the lockdown.
RELEVANT POST: Finding the Positives in Lockdown
For me, campus housing is a huge part of the university experience. It is a hyper-social environment where I am constantly surrounded by friends and acquaintances. I remember feeling down and dejected whenever I had to dine alone in the massive dining hall. It just puts me in such a bad mood that I cannot explain! Strange, right?
There are student-led activities every evening and there is much excitement pulsing through the building every day. I even hosted a floral arrangement workshop that was filled up within forty-eight hours!
If you have not figured it out by now, I am energized by the people around me. I thrive on social interactions. The transition to online lessons in light of the lockdown was bound to be difficult for me to adapt to.
Fortunately, I have amazing friends who continued to demonstrate that they cared through small gestures that were still permissible in a lockdown. Today, I would love to share some of my tips for how to stay in touch during a lockdown (or while social distancing).
1. Study over House Party
While some people are against studying with friends to avoid distractions, I believe that a good balance of studying in solitude and with friends can help prevent burn out.
One benefit of staying together on campus is that we will never lack a study buddy at any time of the day. There is always somebody around who does not mind studying together.
In the spirit of social distancing on campus and elsewhere, we can no longer sit around a table and study together. At the very least, it is not advisable by the health authorities. Suddenly, libraries and cafes are no longer places where we can grab a coffee, settle down, and work for hours at a stretch.
While we were on lockdown last semester, my friends and I turned to House Party, a video-conferencing app, for our online study sessions.
We chose to use House Party over Skype or Zoom because of its interface for Macbook. All of my friends appear as adjustable circles and they are superimposed over whatever I am doing on my screen. My friends are still visible even as they are hard at work in the corner of my screen, and yet, the interface feels unobtrusive.
Overall, the interface minimizes distractions while allowing me to ‘study’ with my friends online. I swear by online study sessions with my friends, and they make late-night cramming sessions much more bearable!
House party study session with friends. Photo by author.
2. Offer to send food items to friends
Fortunately, food delivery services remain in operation during a lockdown over here in Singapore. My friends and I got into the habit of ordering lunch for one another as a surprise. Sometimes, we may warn the other party not to buy lunch, but we do not disclose the order details.
Since life in lockdown becomes a routine that repeats day after day, surprise food deliveries add an element of fun and excitement. The feeling of opening the door to find a delivery food bag hanging at the gate warms my heart amid a lockdown!
3. Have a meal over Zoom with friends
So, I just received lunch that my friend ordered for me. What do I do next? Well, I would get onto Zoom and consume my lunch while chatting with my friend!
Just because we are living in the age of social distancing does not mean that we should stop conversing over meals. Talking to a flat-screen is different from having someone seated across from us, but it is better than sitting alone at home for sure.
4. Prepare care packages and courier them over
Preparing exam survival kits or care packages are some of the best ways to show our friends that they are on our minds. We may not meet up as often, if at all, but that does not mean that we do not care.
Care packages include an assortment of items that the gifter thinks will comfort his or her friends. Nearing the end of the semester, care packages give recipients the motivation to press on for the final lap. Each item is meticulously chosen to serve a purpose, and I believe that the recipient will feel the sincerity behind every item!
Last semester, my friend couriered a bag of coffee capsules, Korean tea bags, and a hard yoga ball over to me. The package arrived a few days before my exam when I least expected it and it fueled me to reach the finish line.
Exam care package from my friend last semester. Photo by author.
5. Send random messages out of the blue
In Singapore, government officials call it ‘safe distancing’ instead of ‘social distancing.’ I thought it was odd to make the distinction at first, but I began to see the merits of the choice of words several weeks into the lockdown.
‘Social’ in ‘social distancing’ implies a temporary break in communications. However, physical separation to prevent the spread of COVID-19 does not mean that we cease to speak to our friends and relatives. It just means that we have to be innovative and more willing to find ways and means to stay in the loop.
Quarantine fatigue begins to kick in several weeks into social distancing or a lockdown. We become more restless and impatient to get out of the house and resume our daily activities.
As the pandemic persists into the fall and most of our lessons shift online, our friends will probably have similar sentiments too. Therefore, we should step up our efforts to reach out and check in on our friends.
Sending messages of encouragement whenever our friends come to mind is one way to stay in touch. Even a simple “How are you?” or “How have you been?” is a great conversation starter!
6. Host online games night
Besides the games that are available on the House Party app that I mentioned earlier, there are other websites to play party games as well! I came to know most of them when I served as an orientation group leader to the incoming freshmen over the summer.
Just to name a few:
Create an invite link on any of these web-based games, hop onto Zoom or Skype with your friends, and launch games night after a long day of online lectures and tutorials!
7. Watch shows together with Netflix party
From my experience, It is a little wonky to get it to work perfectly, but for the most part, playback is smooth and the chatbox integrates well with Netflix.
To recap, the following are some of the ways I stay in touch with my friends during a lockdown or while social distancing:
- Study over House Party
- Offer to send food items to friends
- Have a meal over Zoom with friends
- Prepare care packages and courier them over
- Send random messages out of the blue
- Host online games night
- Watch shows together with Netflix party
Given that my classes are one hundred percent online this semester, it is going to be another period of isolation, and these methods will continue to come in handy. I long to return to campus and to be part of a vibrant student community again. Heck, I was approved on a first come first served basis to stay in an apartment with five other awesome people!
Unfortunately, the pandemic has complicated physical interactions, but that does not mean that I will give up on maintaining contact with my friends. As much as I hate the situation, I believe that social distancing is necessary to protect our loved ones.
Here’s to another semester of Netflix watch parties and online study sessions. It will take a lot of effort, but I am sure that we can tide through thisdifficult period together. pandemic together even while apart.
So, how did you stay in touch with your friends during a lockdown or while social distancing? I would love to know your thoughts!
About the Author
Ming Qian is a Singaporean undergrad blogger and freelance writer. He writes about blogging and life as an undergrad on his blog. When he is not writing, he is probably watering flowers on Animal Crossing, reading a book, or binge-watching Keeping Up with the Kardashians. Oh, and he is currently pursuing a degree in Economics.