What College Students are Doing to Remain Safe and See Their Friends

Being a college student during a global pandemic is something that none of us ever expected. College is already a stressful time, as we navigate through living away from home for the first time, taking difficult classes, making new friends, and dealing with time management issues.

Now, many students’ classes are fully online which makes meeting new people even more difficult. 

College is not just about the academics. There are so many benefits of networking in college–not only do you need friends to maintain good mental health, but you could also be meeting your future bridesmaids, future husband or wife, lifelong friends, and future co-workers or employers. A huge part of college is making these valuable connections.

A huge part of college is making friends. (Twenty20 @alexandrahraskova)

Students are struggling with tough decisions about socializing

Right now many students are facing the difficult dilemma of when and whether it is safe to socialize with others. Students are worried about going out and socializing and risking disciplinary action from their university or catching Covid. 

There have been several cases of students being suspended for violating their school’s rules on social gatherings. It is not a normal time and large parties are a thing of the past (at least for the time being). Most students agree that partying during a pandemic is not the best move.

Teens crave the social interaction that college is supposed to provide

For years teenagers dream about what life will be like in college. It’s a fresh start for most people and a way to reinvent themselves. We picture waking up early and rushing to the dining hall to meet our fellow dorm mates or classmates. We picture going out to different restaurants on the weekends and going to parties occasionally. Now, none of that is possible and a lot of college students crave social interaction and feel lost in this world of isolation. 

What college students say about socializing

There are differing opinions among college students. Some think it is okay to socialize in person, while others think the best option is to make new friends over Zoom. Here are some opinions from college students: 

I think that people should not be socializing right now. Everyone wants to be seeing their friends, but it is not fair to people who have jobs or have friends or family who are immunocompromised. I don’t think it is worth it or fair to be meeting up in big groups right now.

– Maddie Wilson, junior at University of California, Santa Barbara 

I feel like college students should limit socialization during a pandemic — going out for essential things like groceries is fine but for other stuff, it’s more socially conscious to limit interactions to a small “pod” or “bubble” of others to reduce the chances of passing on Covid-19.

– Irene Chen, senior at University of California, Santa Barbara 

Only socialize with friends you trust and always be prepared to take precautions and take responsibility when something happens.

– Chi Nguyen, junior at Arizona State University

I think the dilemma of whether to or not to socialize mostly applies to freshmen. As a senior, I’ve already had the “college experience” for 3 years, so I’m not bothered by not socializing with other students during this time.

I would rather stay home anyway. For freshmen, this is a time where they’re supposed to be making new friends and socializing with other students and professors but it’s hindered by Covid-19. So in that regard, they’re not getting a real “college experience.”

However, there are other ways of socializing with students and professors that don’t include meeting in person, like Zoom or online office hours. I’ve personally dealt with this issue by attending only online lectures (I did have the option to go in person for a few select classes this semester).

Also, I’ve had limited contact with friends (some of my friends are immunocompromised, so it’s safer to stay away).

– Madi Long, senior at Arizona State University 

I think it’s okay to socialize because we have to be realistic about our current situation. Our current situation is that we’re basically prisoners of our own home and that we don’t really go out except for groceries or to run an errand once or twice a week, so we have spent a lot of time alone.

I think that it is a reasonable request to want to socialize with other people and to get human interaction beyond roommates or family. However, in terms of gathering together, I think there should be some safety protocols such as not gathering with more than 20 people and wearing masks if that’s possible. Before and after and whenever you are eating, it’s important to wash your hands.

I have seen people and socialized with them because I need that interaction and I also prioritize my mental health. There’s a lot of differing opinions and debates on whether students should gather and talk to other people or resort to technology to do that and for example, my roommate and I have differing views. That is a source of conflict between us and it’s strained our relationship as roommates.

Overall, I do feel like college students should socialize with other people. This is my senior year and I’m not going to waste it just sitting in my room waiting for Covid-19 to leave. Life goes on. I believe you can go see your friends and be around people if you take the correct precautions and get tested often.

– Amber Li, senior at Arizona State University

I think it is okay for students to socialize as long as they are respectful of social distancing, avoiding large groups, and mask policies. I think it’s also very possible to socialize on video chat. I recently attended a birthday party on Zoom and it was nice to talk to others and it was great seeing that others were being mindful of the pandemic.

I think it also is super important that students at school are mindful of the current pandemic and abide by school policies since students may influence other students to start socializing if they see that others don’t seem to care about the policies. For example, if I see that my friends are all hanging out together, I might also want to start hanging out with people because I see that other people are doing it.

– Rebecca Li, senior at University of California, Berkeley 

I think it is okay for students to socialize with other students as long as they’re safe and following guidelines such as wearing masks and making sure each person has had/has no symptoms.

– Saskia Jacobson, junior at Arizona State University 

I’ve been socializing to an extent, but only with people I know have been safe and not in large groups or anything and if I don’t know if people around me have been safe, then I’ll always wear a mask. I think it’s fine to socialize if you take precautions and don’t party or go out in large groups and follow CDC guidelines.

– Jordan Taylor, junior at University of California, Santa Barbara 

Create a social bubble to minimize risk

Students are torn about what to do but after months and months, it feels like the pandemic may never end, and at a certain point, we can’t just remain in isolation forever. Humans are social creatures and need interaction to stay healthy.

One potential answer is to create small groups or a “social bubble” in which you only hang out with the same people. Here are some steps you can take to safely establish your “social bubble.” 

A social bubble during Covid-19 is a small group of people who you hang out with. It is always the same group, to minimize the risk of spreading the virus. Those who are immunocompromised should limit their interaction and keep the social bubble especially small.

Make sure that each person in your social bubble is upfront about who they are interacting with, and how many different people they are hanging out with. You might want to also set ground rules because certain people will have different ideas about social distancing. You want to have fewer than ten people in your social bubble.

The idea of a social bubble is that you are all only in contact with each other and no others. So, if one person in your group is out partying all the time, that defeats the purpose of the bubble. If everyone is careful and following the rules of the bubble, you should be able to interact with each other freely. It is still important to be cautious and wear a mask when possible. 

Forming a social bubble is an excellent way to alleviate the stress of risking catching COVID-19 while still being able to hang out with friends. Fo college students, this is a great option. You can even do household social bubbles if there is another household or apartment that you and your housemates are close with. 

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Students Give Best Advice on How to Cope With Loneliness in College

About Madeleine Korn

Madeleine Korn will be a senior communication student at UC Santa Barbara. She was an intern for United Airlines in both 2018 and 2019, where she was involved in projects to improve the customer experience. This past year she was advertising director for The Bottom Line newspaper at UC Santa Barbara. She loves writing and creating videos and is very excited about being an intern at Grown and Flown.

Read more posts by Madeleine

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