Relationships are a staple of Queens University’s education and community ecosystem, where face-to-face meetings, chats and social experiences are seminal. So what happens to this community when a global pandemic forces a remote, online existence? Because the CDC forgot to add “debt” and “faltering friendships” to the list of coronavirus side effects, students have to get creative to get the college experience they paid those big tuition dollars for.
There are plenty of ways Queens students can create both professional and casual relationships on campus. Friendships, mentorships with professors and internships are just a few examples of interactions that were “in-person” until the Covid-19 coronavirus took the world by surprise this spring. How are students changing their game plans for these ever-so-important college interactions?
For classes, extracurriculars, and even social events, Zoom and RingCentral platforms have now taken over. Students pull up laptop monitors, iPad screens and even cellphones to have instant face-to-face contact with teachers and other students.
Cell phones come in handy as well. Students say that most conversations — even job interviews — now happen by phone, and friends rely on texting or calling each other to communicate. Students also use social media to stay in touch with the world around them and the people they know.
“I’m having to find new ways to connect with other people,’’ said Parker Manley, a junior psychology major from Lake Wylie, SC, “whether it’s Zoom or RingCentral, or phone calls.”
A pandemic does not only make creating relationships more difficult but maintaining them a challenge as well. In a series of interviews early this semester, of five students polled, all five said they had several relationships that had faltered because of pandemic-induced social distancing. Unable to meet in person at the cafeteria or pop in and out of dorms, friends try to catch up online. But scheduling those awkward video meetings is burdensome.
“It’s really hard to keep in touch with friends,” said Sylvanna Kinley, a junior creative writing major from Charlotte. “People have busy schedules now and it’s hard to make time for calls.”
When it comes to Covid breakups, relationships that were lost as a result of coronavirus stresses, students offer a variety of examples.
Some have lost important relationships like a significant other. One student said, “My girlfriend and I just kind of drifted apart and there was no fixing it.”
Some have lost casual relationships as well. “I had some friendships that were just getting started and they just kind of fizzled out after we moved off campus,” said Kinley.
Others have not lost any relationships. But they haven’t made new ones either. “I more frequently turn to close friends to share my frustrations about everything,” said Connor Whitson, a nontraditional student and Marine Corps veteran.
Methods of communicating with others have undeniably changed. Typical face-to-face interaction is a thing of the past so long as Covid-19 is in effect. When asked if they liked the new modes of communication, the answer was an adamant, unanimous “no.” Students said that they find it much harder to create and maintain communications using these new forms of connection.
It is difficult to make powerful and lasting relationships when there is no face-to-face interaction. Bradley Kenyon, a junior nursing major from Chapel Hill, NC, said that body language is a huge aspect of how he creates his relationships and it is much harder to connect online and over the phone. It is difficult to make time in a day-to-day schedule for online communication as well. This can easily lead to loneliness and isolation for students.
Key relationships for college students are the bonds they form with their professors. These bonds have drastically changed as a result of the pandemic. Online classes can already be a drag, but having a disengaged professor makes it worse. It is hard to ask questions on the spot in class because of poor Wi-Fi connections and fear of talking over the professor.
Though Covid-19 hindered relationships for students in a lot of ways, some students noted a few good things as well.
Those who are now living at home have had a chance to reconnect with parents, repair frayed family ties and rekindle high-school friendships. One student even noted that people are discovering new hobbies and interests while quarantined. This can lead to new relationships as a result of having new things in common with others.
“People are becoming more enlightened and finding new things they like while being stuck at home,” said Kinley. “I made a new friend who skates too.”
Covid-19 has changed the lives of the entire world. The whole of the Queens community has changed as a result, and many adaptations have been made. This new way of life has not been ideal for students, but they are living and learning through a piece of history. Perhaps the most important question of this school year is “When will it be over?”