1. Reach out to your community
Finding things to clean out and donate — food, clothing and other essentials — helps your space feel cleaner, and you can feel good about leaving a small positive impact on the Charlottesville community. But, don’t stop there. Volunteering is a great way to keep in touch with the U.Va. and Charlottesville communities and is especially needed during the pandemic. Organizations like Madison House and United Way of Greater Charlottesville provide great online resources for how to volunteer and help the community — plus they offer virtual programs to volunteer remotely.
2. Get crafty with creating
Creating content with friends can take some time and logistical communication, but when you aren’t as physically close, that’s kind of the whole point — and it can be a great way to find something out about your friends that you didn’t already know. Put your brains together and make something other than a 40-page study guide on Google Docs — a curated playlist of your favorite songs over the years, a story about two friends when they meet for the first time, a TikTok compilation of all the embarrassing videos you have of your friends. With technology filling in a lot of the current social gaps, creating something with someone can be pretty significant and rewarding.
3. Utilize green spaces
The great outdoors are some of the only places where you don’t have to worry too much about mask-wearing and social distancing — there’s so much more room for activities. Finding a path to ride or a trail to hike can be a great way to stay active with friends, but it’s just as important to simply get out for some fresh air. Places like the Lawn and its gardens, Mad Bowl, Arts Grounds and Lambeth are great for picnics and outdoor study sessions — or just kicking back and relaxing.
4. Zoom calls
Okay, okay, hear me out. Zoom calls, FaceTime calls, etc. are actually a pretty effective way to retain some semblance of social contact. The possibilities are endless — karaoke nights, watch parties, Dungeons & Dragons sessions, political debates, study groups, potluck dinners, CIO meetings, and there’s probably some great original ideas that haven’t been tapped into yet as well. However, I understand that screen fatigue — or, more specifically, Zoom fatigue — is a real thing. For solutions to those ever-present problems, see numbers three and eight.
5. Send care packages
This one is especially fun because you don’t need to rely on the postal service to send gifts to your friends. Order your study buddy some delivery for your online class or drop off a Cook Out milkshake in front of your best friend’s building — just don’t forget to tell them about it so your shake doesn’t get snagged. Whatever you leave, big or small, can show a lot of love and make someone’s day that much better.
6. Tap into your inner tech sav
Technology basically relies on the Internet as its social vascular system — gaming companies have been using wifi to connect players across the world for over a decade. Playing online games with friends isn’t quite the same as touching base in person, but it definitely keeps you connected. Recently, I learned that fitness and smartwatches can actually sync with your friends’ devices and compare your activity to each other. If you can’t be physically close with your friends, why not try your hand at some friendly step-count competition?
7. Keep up with social media
I know this one is a little cliche, but it goes deeper than checking stories on Instagram and keeping your friends updated on Twitter and Facebook. As we’ve already seen, social media has increasingly impacted society and modes of communication for the past several months, with more space being created for people to speak out about issues or personal beliefs. More than ever, it’s important to delve into the media to listen to the voices of our communities and bring out our own voices as well.
8. Be a little traditional
Personally, I’ve always found texting to be a little overwhelming since it’s so easy to be talking to many different people on various platforms for a wide range of reasons — the content can become all-consuming. That’s why phone calls go a long way — taking the time to talk to someone rather than typing over text or instant messaging can be much more fulfilling and foster a more personal and intimate connection with someone who might otherwise stay a distant friend.
9. Make a quarantine group
While I do support the idea that wearing face masks, practicing social distancing and washing hands often are pretty effective by themselves, it’s never a bad idea to exercise a little extra caution and isolate your contact to select people. Try making a quarantine group — establish a group of friends with whom you can be in closer contact with, such as your housemates, who would only be in close proximity with the same people — to create a little social normalcy while still being careful.
10. Be considerate of your community
The U.Va. community isn’t exclusive to Grounds — it extends to the family members and loved ones of students, faculty and staff that live in Charlottesville, in the United States and across the globe. Exercising health and safety cautions can seem aggressive, but it’s important to remember the people who our community members might be traveling back to and how the pandemic has or could affect their lives. Wearing masks and practicing social distancing will continue to impact the social systems within the University community, but it ultimately helps us stay close to our friends and peers by proactively keeping everyone healthy, safe and on Grounds.