This article was developed in partnership with the Union of Students in Ireland (USI).
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed many aspects of our lives. For people who are entering their first year of college, one of the big changes will be that many of their classes will take place online instead of in person. This is called blended learning. The decision to move classes online has been made to help stop the spread of the virus within college campuses and to keep students and faculty safe.
If you are starting a new course, you may be wondering how you can enjoy the college experience and make new friends if you rarely get to interact with your classmates in person. Spending most of your time in college virtually can bring new challenges, but there are still ways in which you can connect and make new friends when only seeing them from time to time. Here are some suggestions of ways to make friends while blended learning.
How to make friends in college when doing classes online
Remember, everyone is adjusting to this new way of doing college – you are not alone. Here are some ways you can get to know people in college:
Talk to your class rep
Normally, at the start of the academic year your class will vote in a class representative who will then organise events for the class throughout the year and bring any issues the group may have to the Students’ Union. When attending college through blended learning, the role of your class rep might be slightly changed but they will still be there throughout the year to support you. From the beginning of the semester, they will organise events and help guide you through the new experience of blended learning. If you have any concerns or are feeling isolated or finding it difficult to make friends, speak to them and they can help you to become more involved in your class.
You will also have the opportunity to run for class rep if you would like to take on that role for the class. Being class rep can be a great way to be fully involve with your class and year, but it can also be a lot of responsibility so be prepared to put the work in.
Join a class WhatsApp group
Your class rep can set up a class WhatsApp or Facebook group to help you all meet each other and stay in touch. Actively taking part in that can help to make connections with others in the group. You will also be able to keep up with plans and activities that might be organised for your class, and be able to discuss your lecturers and assignments that are ongoing.
Join a club or society
The clubs and societies at your college will probably still run but may bring more of their events online than previously. You will have an orientation week at the beginning of the semester, although the majority of this will also probably take place online. During orientation week you will receive emails from your Students’ Union and probably from a variety of clubs and societies in your college, letting you know about upcoming events and how to get involved with them. If you want to try and make new friends, getting involved in a club or society can be a really good way to do so. As blended learning will be a new experience for everyone, the clubs and societies will be making an extra effort to come up with new ways to keep the club going and to help people socialise. As a member of a society you may also be able to get more involved and sit on their board. Becoming a committee or board member can be a lot of work, but it is also a great way to meet people and feel part of something bigger.
Join a team
The current COVID-19 restrictions allow for sports teams to meet and train so sports teams will still be able run in the new academic year. Joining a sports team will be a great way to make friends as you can meet in person and spend time together training. During orientation week you will be able to find information about the different teams that run on campus. Even if you may not have played much sport previously there will be some sort of team to suit everyone and they accept people of all standards. Get in touch with the team you are interested in and they will be able to let you know when training is and what you need to do to take part.
Take part in online events
During lockdown, people found new ways to socialise such as holding table quizzes via Zoom and playing games together online. If you want to make friends it might be a good idea to attend these sort of events or if no one is running them, that you organise them yourself. Your classmates will be in the same position as you so they too will be actively looking for ways to make connections with the people on their course.
Socialise within social restrictions
Before socialising it is important to check the most up to date COVID-19 restrictions, to make sure the information you have around socialising is correct. Currently, except for in County Kildare, you are allowed to meet and socialise with other people once you follow the Government’s guidelines on social distancing. This means that you are allowed to spend time with people from your course once you follow the restrictions in place.
Ideally, if you want to meet with a group of people it is best to spend time outdoors where there is lots of space so that you can stay at least two meters away from one another. If you get talking to people from your course you are allowed to go for meals and to pubs once you also follow the restrictions that are in place.
Currently, you are not allowed to have more than six people in a house at a time, this means that house parties are not allowed. If you are having people over to where you live, you are not allowed to have people from more than three different households in your house at once.
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