Correct us if we are wrong, but this pandemic doesn’t seem to be an ideal situation for…well, anyone and everyone. As challenging and unfamiliar as the last 8 months have been, the reality is we are now deep into our “new normal” with uncertainty for when the chaos will settle. Rather than complaining or wondering when we will be back to “normal”, we want to emphasize the importance of focusing on what you can control.
Yes, we are the mothers of college students. This time has been especially hard on college kids, who have settled into their new lives only to be told they have no choice but to move home and relive their high school days.
As college kids return home for Thanksgiving, we thought it could be helpful to hear advice and outlook from a college student, minus the tension and frustration that might come from a conversation with one of your own children.
That’s why we’ve enlisted Brooke – a junior in college – to share a little bit about her and her peers’ experiences during the pandemic.
Hi! Brooke here – writing in to offer some insight as a student living at home due to the Coronavirus. I was home from college for months, was finally allowed to go back and now I am home again. When I arrived home at the end of spring-break, all I came off the plane with were some summery clothes, my computer, and a lot of fear about the months that lay ahead. Now that Thanksgiving is here and cases are surging all over the country, it feels like the beginning of the pandemic all over again.
In order to make this piece as helpful as possible, I decided to send out a survey so that when writing, I could cover topics and offer suggestions that I knew not just I, but others deemed useful as well.
Based on the survey I distributed, college students expressed that the most challenging aspects to living at home included:
- Limited social interaction
- Loss of independence
- Finding quiet spaces to do work
- Experiencing boredom
I can resonate with all of these challenges, but instead of going into detail about my loneliness or how noisy it is with my sisters and parents all studying and working from home, I am going to briefly share how I worked through these challenges and how you might too be able to get past them.
- Limited social interaction
- Plan themed brunches/dinners/etc. with family. These activities give us something to look forward to and offers a nice change from our typical day-to-day quarantine.
- Host virtual hangouts via Zoom with college or home friends (send an evite or Paperless Post to generate excitement – we used the “what to bring” feature to add some humor).
- Meet up for pre-class coffee – make some coffee and Zoom with your friends before virtual class, as if you were meeting up for coffee like you would at school.
- Plan socially distanced picnics with friends from home. It might seem awkward but getting out of the house and seeing friendly faces is so much better than nothing!
- Loss of independence
- I highly suggest long walks – you have complete control of where you go and how long you are gone. I recommend listening to a podcast – it passes the time and allows you to clear your head.
- Make a schedule and stick to it – back at school I had autonomy over my days, and I do my best to translate that to quarantine.
- Do your own grocery shopping like you would at school – this also provides a chance to get out of the house and pick your own meals.
- It’s okay to need a night to yourself – the extensive family time sometimes calls for a solo early dinner or takeout in the car – it’s normal to need some alone time to be our best selves around family.
- Quiet spaces to do work
- If you have an important meeting, presentation, etc., let your family know ahead of time when it is and where in the house you plan to be for it. I suggest mentioning it at dinner the night before, and sending a reminder text first thing the morning of.
- I have found that bringing my work out on the balcony or sitting at a table out by the pool gives me the personal space my house lacks.
- Since some businesses have started to reopen, an outdoor coffee shop is a nice place to get work done.
- Experiencing boredom
- Use this time to catch up on rest – I mean how often do we have nothing going on? Think of it as a reset!
- We all have that growing list of movies or books that we never get around to watching/reading – now is your chance.
- Exercise – set realistic goals and change it up. It’s fun to push yourself and we finally have the time.
- Learn how to cook – in the past few months I’ve watched videos and researched recipes. After years of complaining, I finally learned and now have the kitchen skills I need as an independent adult.
Parents!! This one’s for you – I asked my peers what they would want their parents to keep in mind. Most responses entailed:
- Let us have our space
- When cooped up in a house, we need as much space as possible especially if we want to be productive. It helps if you knock before entering our rooms or provide warning if you plan to turn a quiet space into a loud one.
- Don’t treat us like we are still in high school
- We have lived on our own for some time now – we are capable of making our own food, doing our own shopping, etc. We love being cared for but want to be allowed to make decisions for ourselves like we did at school.
- We are no longer used to coming home from school to an interrogation of what classes we had and what we learned – of course we are happy to share to an extent but sometimes talking about online school or how we filled our day just highlights how abnormal it is.
- Don’t give us a hard time – we are adjusting to this just as you are
- We’ve often been told to calm down or asked why we are in a bad mood. Given the situation, it would make sense for us to be upset at times. This isn’t exactly how we expected from our college years and some of us were supposed to be leaving for study abroad, doing in-person internships or
- Some of us are also told we are not spending enough time with family – yes, we love our families but sometimes we want space, and a break from extensive family time seems necessary at times.
I also asked peers for tips to make life feel as normal as possible, and here’s what I got:
- Enjoy the outdoors
- Drive around and try to see friends (safely of course)
I highly recommend all of these – and I’ll emphasize (again!) number 3. The days feel so long if you don’t plan them out with others and even just yourself. Know what you want to do and make sure you do it.
And last but not least… some things that we can take out of this pandemic:
- We are so lucky to live the social and eventful lives we do, and now we know not to take them for granted.
- Being alone does have its perks and sometimes, we need more alone time than we allot for ourselves at school.
- The glass is always half full if you look at it that way – don’t forget to enjoy the opportunities and experiences in front of you while you have them.
There’s so much that has gone into this quarantine, and so much that will come out of it. I’ve only skimmed the surface – and of course these are only opinions (of which everyone is entitled to their own). Wishing everyone a safe and healthy return to normalcy – sooner than later of course!
by Brooke Kenerson
Photo Credit: Chicago Tribune