The vast majority of classes this year are being held online, due to the worldwide pandemic in which we find ourselves. Although U of T’s decision to cancel in-person classes is necessary to stop the spread of the virus, it also leaves students scrambling to find connection within the constraints of virtual learning.
I, for one, truly thrive off of the connections and relationships that I build in my classes. As a result, I’ve had to work a little harder this year to find friends, build connections and feel like a vital part of the university community.
Here are some of the ways that I’ve managed to form strong bonds and build friendships this year.
1. Clubs, Clubs, Clubs!
This past semester, I joined three clubs, two of which are designed specifically for Black racialized U of T students. As a Black student, it can be easy to feel disconnected, lost and underrepresented in traditional classroom settings. However, the friends that I’ve made at these clubs have been a vital aspect of my year, and have encouraged me to continue to invest in school activities and events.
You may be asking: aren’t virtual clubs a waste of time? Nope! There are still plenty of ways to get involved with the Student Life clubs. While virtual meetings may be more taxing and less motivating, they still help to meet peers and like-minded people.
2. Health & Wellness Peer Support Groups
Last semester, I attended a drop-in session with a trained student peer and it was honestly extremely fun. Initially, I’d been a little skeptical about how helpful speaking to a stranger could be. However, less than five minutes into the session I found myself opening up about life at the University of Toronto, my career goals, exciting, future aspirations and more.
I specifically loved that the support was one-on-one, drop-in and completely confidential, and I believe it’s a vital resource for students who may be struggling to build connections, or who just need someone to talk to.
3. Connecting With People In My Residence
I live in off-campus housing and I’ve discovered that there are still plenty of ways to meet peers and fellow university students, even if the meetings are all online. This year, I’ve made friends while doing laundry, cooking and going for walks around town. While it’s not currently possible to meet up with these friends physically, it’s definitely true that Whatsapp, Facebook Messenger and iMessage are allowing for connection and interaction where there previously was none.
4. Reaching Out To Classmates
As a quiet and introverted person, I’ve found it extremely difficult to make friends in the past. That said, I really pushed myself out of my comfort zone this year by reaching out to classmates through the chat section of Zoom and BB Collaborate. This fact, has honestly saved my grade last semester and helped me meet so many interesting and like-minded students who were also navigating online/virtual learning for the first time.
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