Building Community During A Pandemic
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Student Life

Building Community During A Pandemic

What I've learned-- and why I think leadership is more valuable than ever right now.

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Building Community During A Pandemic

When I applied to be a resident assistant for my dorm last year, I had no idea what this semester would entail. A majority of the job relies on building bonds with residents and encouraging to get involved with everything that campus has to offer, which is already difficult enough without a pandemic in the midst. First year students would much rather party with their friends and bask in their new found freedom than listen to an RA tell them about the resources that the library has to offer. When you add almost half a year of social isolation to the mix, and you are left with a bunch of 18 year olds who want nothing more than to do everything that their parents warned them against growing up. Shocker. As a second year student, I understand why so many freshman have felt compelled to ignore any and all guidance against throwing and attending large group events. Being an RA has made me realize how much young adults rely on each other, especially right now, and how far so many people are willing to go to find the sense of normalcy they felt before March. Parties and large group events are also where some students seek out their niche or their "people", and without in-person classes or club meetings, there are individuals who might feel like their long-awaited college transformation is being put on hold. Right now, a lot of people are just looking for a community or a team- and this year, providing that experience looks a little bit different.

During any normal semester, building community could look like organizing a movie night for residents in a lounge area, or hosting a program that allows residents to learn about campus while enjoying a snack and mingling with residents from other floors.But right now, different approaches have to be taken. In the past few weeks, I've had to find way to build relationships with my residents and encourage them to build relationships with each other from a distance. This means that hall mates aren't allowed have sleepovers in their friends rooms and the normal sense of "home" that most people associate with their dorms has been disrupted. So, along with enforcing policy, I also feel the responsibility of encouraging the people around me to be responsible while still enjoying their first real taste of freedom.

Something I have realized is that months of social isolation makes everyone seem cooler than they actually are. It doesn't matter what we have or don't have in common, if you ask me to take a leisurely stroll across campus, I am DOWN!!! This is something that I feel like is really important to take advantage of while we still have it. We value human connection more than ever, and now is the perfect time to dive into intentional conversations that build relationships with the people around us. That can look different for everyone, but I just like to think of this as a "free trial" period for friendships. Obviously, not everyone is going to want to be your friend, but most people are willing and open to accept new ideas because Tik Tok is only funny for so many consecutive months before scrolling becomes monotonous and sad. Plus, everyone now has a common issue to make awkward small talk about! So, as someone who can have a huge impact on so many people, (am I an influencer?? FINALLY) I'm trying to become creative and tap into more creative ways to appreciate being around others while still keeping distance. For large groups, obviously, there are many zoom calls and long walks in nature, but there's also the perfect excuse for rooftop picnics and photoshoots and planning out our bucket list trips when the world goes back to normal. I think it's important to keep in mind that, while it's so so easy to romanticize the future, especially when times feel borderline apocalyptic, the present moment is vital. We need to appreciate the moments we're given right now, because the bonds we build right now are the basis for our future plans to travel, eat, explore, and dance from less than six feet apart. Something also tells me that the communities we're building right now will be stronger than ever in the coming years, because if we can survive a pandemic with the people around us right now, we can survive just about anything.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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