What to Consider When Going Back to School During the Pandemic

As we all watch the news and check our email inboxes for the latest updates from our universities, we are still wondering: what will going back to school look like this fall? Many schools have already made their decisions about whether they will hold in-person classes or return to a virtual schedule, but that still doesn’t bring a strong sense of safety or security. Still, all students must make the best decisions for themselves. To assist you in your considerations and preparation for a return to campus (or to the virtual classroom), we’ve compiled a list of what to consider for going back to school:

Safety of your living situation

In the age of COVID-19, when we say “safety” of living situation, we mean: what is your ability to social distance and minimize use of shared spaces or living resources? If you’re living on-campus in student housing, find out what safety measures your school is taking to ensure your space is properly sanitized. If you’re living off-campus in an apartment building, talk to the management company. Aside from the obvious mask-wearing, consider how you can utilize these shared spaces or resources during times where there might be lower usage so you can maintain a safe distance from others when possible.

Safety and practicality of your classroom or study space

Similarly, safety measures will likely decrease the number of spaces where you are able to study, and how you’re able to attend in-person classes. If you’re virtual, try to find a private space in your home for studying, free of distractions. For those attending class in-person, get information from your school, as well as your individual professors, about how they will ensure you can attend class as safely as possible.

Access to healthcare and other health-related resources

We can’t talk about health and safety without also considering what your access to healthcare services will be like. Make sure you know where the closest health clinic is, as well as its hours and what services it provides. It’s important to know where and how you can get tested for COVID-19 in the event you feel you were exposed to the virus. Some schools may also require that you sign up for health insurance to attend school, so make sure you look into the best plan for your needs.

Communication with family and friends

With so much uncertainty, it’s important you’re able to stay connected and informed throughout the semester. Your school will be able to provide you with WiFi or Internet, but for all of those times you need to make a call, a text, or you venture off campus, be sure you have reliable phone service to keep your family or friends updated as to how you’re doing. Having a U.S. phone number is especially important in the event of an emergency, as it will allow you to contact your school or the services that you need. Make sure you are signed up with reliable phone service ahead of the semester so that you can be safe as soon as you step foot onto campus.

Participation in social activities

Starting school inevitably means meeting your classmates and other students, and wanting to spend time with them. Given restrictions on gatherings – which varies by state – you’ll need to be conscientious of not only the rules in your local community, but on your campus and at your school. Have honest conversations with your friends about prioritizing safety. It might seem as though things are safe in your on-campus bubble, but gathering in groups is still a risk, and you and your friends may need to rethink how you plan to come together and socialize.

Going back to school should be an exciting time. Normally, a new semester brings anxiety or stress stemming from things like the new situations you’ll encounter, adjusting to new professors, and meeting the expectations of the curriculum. However, this year, as a student, you’ll have to grapple with the unknowns and uncertainty that comes with starting the semester during a pandemic. While it certainly can be scary to think about, if you arm yourself with information and knowledge about how to keep yourself safe, you can still have a successful semester. Just remember that doing your best is sometimes enough, and that you have other students in your community that will be facing the same challenges.

Safety, Studying, and Self-Care While Social Distancing

During these uncertain times, one thing is incredibly certain: your health and safety must be top priority. Communities are listening to health authorities and making the best decisions they can to protect the health of those who inhabit their community to prevent the spread of COVID-19 — and that includes your university. It’s important that you, as students and community members yourselves, also listen to the advice and recommendations of authorities to keep yourself safe. While we certainly are no such authority regarding COVID-19, we do want to provide support to our own campusSIMS community during this stressful time. By now, you’re likely practicing social distancing and have transitioned to online classes, so we’re offering a few suggestions on what you can do while you’re staying at home:

Know the facts and protect yourself

The United States’ Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) can provide the most up-to-date and accurate guidance for protecting yourself and preventing the contraction of COVID-19. The most important things to know seem to be: wash your hands (often), and stay home and avoid close contact with others, especially if you are sick. Even if you are not sick, you could still contract the virus and pass it along to others, so we all need to do our part in keeping our community safe.

Resist the temptation to overdo it on eating and drinking

We know that being at home and in close proximity to snacks and drinks may invite the urge to indulge, but everyone should still try to maintain healthy habits as best as they can. Having a balanced diet is a great way to maintain a healthy immune system and stave off illnesses. However, it’s okay to have those less-than-healthy items in moderation, especially if a little indulgence provides some cheer.

Get some sleep

Another important healthy habit to preserve during this time is sleep. Even though you might be operating on an adjusted schedule with online classes (or even cancelled classes), you shouldn’t necessarily spend that time staying up late. Restful sleep allows your body to recover, and again, is a great way to boost your immune system. Avoid too many late nights, and try to limit screen time to ensure you’re getting all the rest you need.

Delineate between study space and hangout space

You might be living in limited space as you engage in social distancing, but it’s still a good idea to try to designate space for studying and doing work that’s separate from where you hangout. A great example of this is to avoid using your bed for doing work. Resist the temptation to stay in bed in your PJs and do homework. If you can, set up at a desk, or find a way to convert shared space (couches, chairs) into a more productive area. This allows you to better focus on your work and not fall behind in your course load.

Maintain structure to your day

Without the traditional commute to and from your dorm room to class, you might feel like all of the hours are blending together. We recommend creating some more structure to your day outside of class time, especially if you’re stuck in a dorm room or in limited space. Consider blocking off chunks of time for different things: an hour for lunch, an hour for studying or class prep, a half hour for self-care, etc. In doing this, you’ll break up the monotony of living and operating within a small space, and still maintain some productivity.

Subscribe to news alerts

Staying up-to-date with what’s going on in the news is important during this time period. Make sure you’re subscribed to a trustworthy news source both locally and nationally, and that you are receiving all important university emails and announcements. They will be able to relay the information you need to know to stay safe. However, you should remember that it’s okay if you need a little “break” from the news and updates sometimes. With so much information – and so much of it scary – you might want to designate a specific time to check on updates so that it doesn’t constantly feel like impending doom all the time. Preserving an optimistic outlook is not only good for self-care — it’s actually good for your health.

Practice self-care

Like we said, things are a little scary right now. As much as you need to focus on your physical health, and protect the physical health of others, you should not neglect your mental health. Uncertainty can breed anxiety, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed and nervous. Try to practice some self-care habits. There is plenty you can do while at home that allows you to focus on yourself. Meditation is a really great way to do this, whether guided through apps or by simply setting aside time to focus on your breathing. Other things you can do include: reading a book, having a cup of tea, doing yoga or a workout at-home, watching your favorite movie or TV show, calling or FaceTiming with a friend or family member. Do what you can to focus on yourself mentally and physically right now.