Peer-to-Peer Advice for Navigating “College Life” During the Coronavirus
By Jacob Connell
For many college students leaving their campuses, life at home can be quite confusing and rocky. As a college student, I find it tough at times to reconcile the independence that I have at school with the lack of freedom I maintain at home. My daily routine is uprooted, my surroundings are vastly different, and my social life is greatly changed. While this transition may breed conflict and loneliness, these can be mitigated by taking a few simple steps.
1. Share your schedule
It is important to clearly communicate to your family when you are busy and when you are not. A family member accidentally interrupting a class, meeting, interview, or even just a call with friends creates tension that is easily avoidable. I would suggest making a habit of adding your events to a shared family calendar (if your family uses one) or every morning sending a quick summary of when you will be occupied that day. Effectively communicating when you are available establishes a boundary with your family and ensures that your time is still your time.
2. Create your space
Frequently, families rearrange furniture and room layouts as students leave for college and younger siblings grow up. If you’re like me, this means coming home without a workspace to yourself. So, get creative and find a space that you can claim and curate as your own. I dug out an old desk from storage and set up in a corner of the basement and bought an inexpensive desk chair online. Organize your space as you would at school and liven the space up with flowers, pictures, or posters. With no school library to study in, I find having my own dedicated workspace at home signals to my mind that it is time to work when I enter that space.
3. Don’t sweat the small stuff
Frequently when I return home, I notice myself getting annoyed at small things that my parents might do. For instance, whenever my mom reminds me to do my laundry, I can’t help but feel peeved because, after all, I’ve lived on my own for the past two years and know when I need to do my laundry. It feels as though it is an encroachment upon my independence that I’ve developed at college. It’s important to not give too much weight to these instances. They are never as deep as they may feel. My mom isn’t trying to encroach, she is just doing what she has always done when I’ve lived at home. Learn to let the insignificant irritations pass through you because they’re never worth the energy spent.
4. Do your part
Helping out with some errands (doing the dishes, walking the dog, getting groceries) is not only kind but also provides some structure/filler to your day. I find that when I am home from school I struggle to fill my time with productive activities. Helping out with chores is a perfect way to stay out of those YouTube rabbit holes and maintain momentum throughout your day.
5. Don’t be a stranger
While it may sometimes be tiring or disappointing to return home, especially if it is unexpected, take advantage of the opportunity it presents! After living separately for an extended period of time, an active effort is required to reconnect with those we grew up with. However, the effort does not need to be massive. Simply reaching out to a high school friend you’ve drifted apart from and grabbing a coffee or taking your younger sibling to sports practice is a great starting point. Most importantly, be sure to participate in family nights, whatever that may look like; because you don’t know how much it means to your family. Yes, life at home may seem slow or boring compared to life away at college, but as with anything, you should always look on the bright side of life. Just remember to communicate, get creative, and be kind.
Jacob Connell is finishing up his sophomore year at George Washington University—from the safety of his home in Shaker Heights, Ohio.