One Graduate School student’s experience of social distancing
Last week, we spoke to Anne Stella, a first-year student in the Social Studies of Gender program from Kenya. As all of Lund University has transitioned to temporary distance education and promoted social distancing, we wanted to hear how some of our students have been adapting to this new way of learning – and life in self-isolation. Here is what we learned about her experience.
It was about 2 p.m. on a sunny weekday afternoon as I dialed into yet another Zoom meeting. It seems like we’re using Zoom for everything these days. More than just meetings or lectures, Zoom has even become my new norm for Sunday fika and even the first virtual birthday party I’ve ever been invited to.
Anne Stella was soon online and I instantly noticed the poster board behind her, a requiem for the kind of travel that became unavailable to us all, overnight. “I was initially in denial,” she noted when I first asked about how this experience has been for her: “I was so desperate for things to be normal. But this one is as personal as it is global.”
Anne Stella is currently taking Graduate School’s Fieldwork course, which she says is going okay, but that she misses the classroom experience. Adapting to a new way of life, especially so quickly, is no easy feat. So how is she managing it?
“I had to come to a point where I accepted that things are different, and no one is expecting me to be normal. Once I had that idea, making the changes got easier.” She began with taking a day or two to do nothing and transition, before starting fresh: “I moved the furniture around in my room. I was reading in a different place, by the window where the sunlight is really nice. I needed space for a new workout routine. I needed to show myself that things are different now.”
Understanding her natural impulses also made a huge difference for her. Knowing that she is a morning person, she continues to get up at 6 a.m., making breakfast and starting her day like she would if she were going to campus. She likes her afternoon naps, so she’s treating herself to those each day as well. “I heard someone say to treat yourself like you’re recovering from surgery – be extra nice to yourself right now. Be extra nice to other people too. So that’s what I’m trying to do.”
Limiting her time reading the news was also a turning point for her. She explained how in the beginning, she was watching everything – following each news update as they came. But the anxiety from that just wasn’t productive. She now gives herself just 30 minutes per day to read or watch news, and then turns it off for the rest of the time. “It’s important to know what’s happening, but not to get obsessed,” she noted.
All of this time at home has given her time to be social in new ways, as well. She and her class from her undergraduate degree started getting together on a group video call on the weekends, which she says has been really fun. She also attends church digitally and even had her first virtual holy communion.
Her advice to students in the same position is to: “take time to make a routine. Just take the time to know that this is new, like when you move somewhere or start a new job. We need to just sit down and know: ‘This might last longer than I think, and I need some order in my life.’ Think about yourself and how you work effectively, and build your new routine around that. Pay attention to your spiritual and emotional needs, and save time to meet them. You can be flexible with yourself, but start with a plan. We have to know that just like every pandemic, this is going to end eventually.”