As we prepare for an unprecedented first semester amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, we thought it would be prudent to gear an Ask the Gav’ toward our freshmen. Every few weeks, we’ll ask several Gavel members a question, and collect their responses for your reading pleasure! This time, we asked:
What advice do you have for freshmen about embracing, and enjoying, a socially distant semester?
I’m not quite sure anyone’s really qualified to be giving advice seeing as this is going to be incredibly different for all of us. But admittedly, the time-honored advice of getting involved in campus clubs or student organizations early on (in order to get to know people of course), that piece of advice should still be valid this time around. Club E-Boards and OSI [the Office of Student Involvement] have been working pretty much all summer to ensure some sort of student experience remains in the age of COVID—whether that’s through virtual meetings, smaller discussion groups, or outdoor socially distant activities. And there should be plenty of nice folks willing to talk about a club they’ve thoroughly enjoyed at this year’s Virtual Student Involvement Fair if you’re interested. So yeah, even if you’re a bit hesitant, and you’re not quite sure how social groups can exist in a socially-distant environment, I’d recommend you still give these student orgs a shot, ‘cause from what I’ve seen, they’re really giving it their all.
Honestly, so many people, especially at BC, put a lot of pressure on the “work hard, play hard,” culture. They make it seem like parties are the only time you’re going to have fun. Trust me: they’re wrong. Most of the time parties are either boring or you don’t remember them. Just focus on creating that core group of friends for your freshman year and take your first semester to bond! You have four years ahead of you, don’t try to force all the experiences in at once, especially during a pandemic. 🙂
My advice to the Class of 2024 is to spend time outside! I worked in northern Minnesota all summer, and there was a surprisingly large number of activities that could be done outside while still remaining safe. Find someone to go on a walk around the Res, go to the ocean, have a picnic in Boston Common, or go to an apple orchard when fall rolls around! Doing activities and having social gatherings outside is a great way to keep yourselves safe while also being able to meet people and have fun!
Return to your roots. Without the usual tailgates, Mod parties, and club events, any formerly cherished free time in your schedule may be daunting to fill. There's plenty of fun to be had with friends and roommates—watching movies, cooking, playing games (Catan, anyone?)—but this is also an opportunity to learn how to not only tolerate, but even enjoy complete solitude. Think back to when you were a kid; what's something you used to love, something that kept you occupied for hours on end? For me, that was reading stories and making art, both of which I've done more of in the past few months than I have in all the years since I left elementary school. Be open to making new friends and participating in any of the classic college experiences that are still allowed, but don't underestimate the value of alone time in keeping you happy, healthy, and sane!
Emma Butler-Vanderlinden, Opinions Editorial Assistant
My advice for making the most of a socially distant semester is to be proactive. Going for a walk around the Res, setting up group Zooms, or eating lunch on the quad are all great ways to stay connected and meet new people. Take advantage of the Student Involvement Fair and join an organization that fulfills you. Send the first text, submit your club application, and show up to office hours—I promise you won’t regret putting yourself out there nearly as much as you will regret not trying in the first place.
I’m sure I’m not the first person to tell you this, but your first semester of college is unlike any semester you will have in your college experience, and significantly unlike any semester anyone who has come before you has experienced. But, there’s a silver lining. You may have been looking forward to the typical college experience of meeting tons of new people, going to parties, finally being free of the watchful eye of your parents, and for most of us, getting to explore a new city, state, or all of New England. But for a lot of people first transitioning to college, trying to balance all of this on top of the demanding workload and time commitment college requires can be overwhelming. Many students struggle to find a balance, either investing most of their time in their relationships and forgetting what they came to college for in the first place. Conversely, many fail to take advantage of having a clean slate and thousands of potential new friends who are just waiting for an introduction, and become consumed in their work. Use this socially distant semester to practice your time management skills and establish healthy, responsible habits that are going to help you be a more successful student over the next four years, without the distraction of going out with your friends constantly in the back of your mind.
In addition to that, I look forward to developing more meaningful relationships with my close friends, as opposed to constantly trying to befriend everyone we meet. Coming to college is admittedly scary—you don’t have the support systems you’re used to having and probably don’t know many people—and it’s not uncommon to feel like everyone else has these thriving social lives while you just have a small friend group. But when next summer rolls around, you’re going to wish you could spend more time with your few close friends, and there’s no better time to develop those relationships early on.
Finally, learn to embrace quiet nights by yourself. We get so caught up in school and maintaining a social life, and even just spending time with a few close friends, that we sometimes forget about ourselves and our own wants and needs. Don’t be afraid to take time for yourself, and do something that you love to do that you normally don’t do with your friends. Read a book, watch a movie, play a new video game, play an instrument. Boston College boasts that it creates an environment that develops the whole person. Spending some time alone allows for plenty of reflection, and embracing the fact that at some point this semester you’re probably going to find yourself alone in your room with nothing to do; take the time to remind yourself what makes you you, regardless of what anyone else thinks.