By: Katie Ottaggio, CSP Engagement Operations Manager
Each month the College Success Program hosts a webinar with topics of interest to students who are blind or have low vision. This fall we are taking on the ways in which COVID-19 has altered the landscape for students in all facets of life: academic, personal, and professional. This month, CSP Mentor Brilynn Rakes talked with two of our other Mentors, Maureen Hayden and Rashad Jones, about cultivating and maintaining a social life during a pandemic.
In case you missed it, here are the top takeaways from this informative webinar. You can also view this webinar in its entirety by clicking here.
Consider utilizing the ExTriCurricular theory.
If you aren't sure what kinds of activities to join, and you feel you can handle more than one, it's a good "rule of thumb" to join one academic activity related to your major, one activity that has a community service component, and one activity that you do for fun. During the pandemic, this model might not work for you in quite the same way, but it's a good rule to consider.
Moving from virtual to in-person meetings can be disorienting.
After months of interacting with your peers virtually, meeting them in person can be disorienting; they may recognize you but you only know them as a name and voice on a screen. When this happens, try diffusing the situation with humor, and don't be afraid to ask for extra verbal clarification for the next time you meet.
Define for yourself what you're comfortable with.
If you're concerned about group sizes, set your own personal limit on the number of people you're willing to socialize with. Identify what you're comfortable with when it comes to meeting with friends and peers both indoors and out.
Events are still happening; go out and find them.
One place to look for events is through virtual advertising and marketing. Follow your school via social media; you'll not only be able to see school sponsored activities but you'll also be able to identify the various student organizations that are running.
And don't rush to delete your emails. Your university and student organizations may use this channel to communicate the activities they're running and the guidelines they're following to make sure everyone stays safe. Find out if there are any student list servs you can join to ensure these messages make it into your inbox.
Word of mouth is a powerful tool as well. Ask your friends and peers what they're doing to stay social and how that's working out for them. Their input can help you decide if you want to pursue a certain activity or take it off the table.
Many social activities can be taken online.
Some organizations may have started online or remote activities well before the pandemic began. Others are attempting virtual for the first time. Here is a list of social activities you may or may not have considered doing online:
- Meetings with student organizations like student government
- Special interest activities like virtual game nights, book clubs, bible study, hobby classes like cooking and pottery painting, etc. These experiences can be done through an organization but also can be ones you create on your own.
- Virtual conferences and conventions
- Holiday activities like pumpkin carving or singing carols
- Family reunions, birthdays, and celebrations
Put some social activities on your calendar.
You may also want to consider scheduling your social activities. Many social activities used to be spur of the moment, but that isn't always possible in our current environment. Try scheduling an activity a few weeks in advance. It will make it easier to follow through and will give you something to look forward to.
Incorporate exercise into your life and make it social.
Whether you're working out at the gym on campus, your local YMCA, or online fitness classes, exercise is a great outlet during this time. If you want to do your workout in person but limit the number of people you come in contact with, consider a personal trainer. A one-on-one environment is good for tracking the people you're in contact with. Be sure to research what is available through your university as some colleges offer discounts for things like personal training.
Connect with others from the blind or low vision community.
Remember that there are thousands of other college students who are blind or have low vision and are also trying to figure out how to be social right now. Reach out and connect with them! Go to your favorite social media channel and search things like "blind cooks", "blind scientists", "blind musicians", etc. You'll find many people that share your interests.
You can connect with other college students through the College Success Program, too. This can be done through our exclusive Facebook group as well as our twice weekly Meet Ups (call in details are sent to members of the day of). You may also want to consider connecting with a CSP Mentor, who can help you with identifying social opportunities or share events and activities they're aware of. If you are not currently a CSP member, you can register for free here. To connect with a Mentor, please fill out this form.
Sometimes you need to put in a little work.
During this time of uncertainty, it's essential to reach out, connect, and maintain relationships. It can be daunting to try to figure out ways to be close remotely but it's worth it to maintain your friendships and sanity. During college, your academics are extremely important, but your relationships and experiences are equally vital, so find a way to make those happen. And, as all our panelists agree, they've never regretted getting on an online meeting to connect with family and friends.
Lean into this new world.
A year ago, none of us would have imagined we'd be dealing with a pandemic and the affect it's had on our social lives. But here we are! It's important to refresh and connect whenever possible. Lean in and embrace it. Don't hesitate to reach out to others. Relax and have fun!
And last but not least, don't underestimate the value of a good hat.
Many events have moved outside, and for those with light sensitivity, now is a great time to invest in a good hat. You can even use it to show some school pride!