How college students returning to campus can fight social isolation

Posted at 3:19 PM, Aug 27, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-27 15:19:08-04

The return to college campuses have been uneven. Some schools are pushing forward with a mix of in-person and remote classes. Others are switching to remote-only instruction to start the year.

But, when students move in their dorms, social distancing will still be the rule, and that will leave many students, especially first-year students, with few connections and at risk for social isolation.

Eastern Michigan University will start the fall semester virtual.

"We're supposed to move in this weekend and now we won't move in until the end of September," Becky Hall said. She'll be living in a single dorm room.

"There's not a lot of opportunities to meet people because all of my classes are online.

Je'naiya Tims is also an incoming freshman at Eastern Michigan and will be starting school online.

EMU is adapting to new realities. Kendal Brown is the coordinator of orientation programs. She said the traditional 3-day orientation has been re-imagined and expanded to three weeks, a concession for the coronavirus.

EMU devoted a week on building community among the students virtually and on-campus.

"We still think that you're able to connect and build relationships with people, even if you're having to have some physical space between you," Brown said.

To help make those connections, new students are broken up into small virtual groups.

"Facilitate discussions and answer questions for new students. And that also facilitates connections between incoming students with their peers," Brown added.

Isolation can affect students on any campus, and the Univeristy of Michigan has several suggestions

– Maintain a routine
– Practice good sleep hyggiene
– Connect with others virtually
– Take time for yourself
– Your feelings are valid

Becky and Je'naiya say the relationships they're building in orientation are helping them feel connected.

"I do appreciate everything that they're doing, they're still giving us an orientation, a way to meet people where to learn things about campus," Becky said.

"We have our own little group chat where we sometimes we get on the call, we talk and I feel like we're all going through the same thing," Je'naiya added.

But both say nothing beats making connections face-to-face.

Additional Coronavirus information and resources:

Click here for a page with resources including a COVID-19 overview from the CDC, details on cases in Michigan, a timeline of Governor Gretchen Whitmer's orders since the outbreak, coronavirus' impact on Southeast Michigan, and links to more information from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, the CDC and the WHO.

View a global coronavirus tracker with data from Johns Hopkins University.

See complete coverage on our Coronavirus Continuing Coverage page.

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