As many schools and universities announce their plans for classes this fall–either virtual or in-person or some mix of the two–students across the country are wondering how they can be the active, involved campus participants they were last fall if they’re logging into classes via Zoom and meeting with classmates on a Canvas board instead of the dinner table. 

As someone who had stayed in touch with the college community from afar, and as someone who did a graduate degree all online, I want to offer 4 concrete tips for staying involved on campus even when you’re not there–which is perfect for a virtual semester, when you’re studying abroad, or simply need to reconnect but cannot be there in person. 

Sign up for every email list you can

When I was a freshman in college, I signed up for way too many email lists. If I was remotely interested in something, I gave them my email, and I would get emails from teams I never joined and groups I never met with for the next five years until my school email expired. however–The benefit of that was knowing what was going on in every corner of campus. I could drop into a great guest speaker if I heard about it through email, or sign up for a volunteer shift when they were short. 

Since email is going to be so important this fall, go ahead and sign up for all the email lists that might interest you. You never know what they’ll have to offer! Plus, in this day and age, it’s pretty easy to just delete emails or unsubscribe if you don’t find them fulfilling. 

Have “virtual dinner” with friends

What I missed most when I left college was the nightly dinners with my friends where we would sit for two hours, drinking tea and eating double helpings of dessert, talking about life. It’s hard to do that when we’re all stuck in our houses in different cities and states. 

Try having ‘virtual dinner’ with friends where everyone logs onto a Zoom call or Facetime while they eat dinner/drink coffee/snack/etc. It’s not a perfect system to watch other people eat, but it imitates that connection that so many of us are missing these days, and it’s a great time to catch up–because everyone’s eating dinner. 

Read your student newspaper & contribute your thoughts

Did you read your campus newspaper before this whole thing started? Well, I bet you read it a lot more now–it’s a great central place for reporting on campuses big and small, and reading it (even virtually) will help you stay connected. Not only will you read about happenings, be introduced to new ideas and upcoming events, but you’ll also be ahead of the curve on any major changes coming down the pipeline. 

Plus, if you’re passionate about something–and looking to grow as a writer–you can also contribute to the paper! Fired up about an issue affecting students? Write an op-ed! See if they publish letters to the editors, poems, etc. 

If you’re still near campus, get off campus

While some of us will be doing virtual learning far from their college campus, many people are local to their colleges, even if they won’t be living on campus or reporting to a specific classroom. For those people, I recommend using this time with libraries closed and dorms shuttered to explore the area off campus. Try going to a coffee shop or restaurant you might not otherwise–because it’s a longer walking than the dining hall. Try volunteering at a nearby soup kitchen or shelter that might be sorely lacking volunteers with so many students gone. This is a great chance to A) connect with other students still in the area B) grow as a human being C) Explore new parts of your ‘college area’

Aryssa D
FFL Cabinet Member