A month before school started, I knew only three other students starting their first year at U of T. I feared that there would be classes where I would know no one, and that, consequently, I would be missing out on the friend groups and the solidification of long-lasting relationships that usually come with first year.
In short, I anticipated that online university would be very isolating.
Now, three weeks in, I’ll be honest — I spend the majority of my weekdays at a desk in a room learning asynchronously or listening to live lectures where the only evidence of other students is the spam of messages in the Zoom chat — if the professor hasn’t disabled it.
However, like with any experience, you get what you make out of it, and connecting with others is probably the best way to get a lot out of anything.
Surprisingly, I’ve made quite a few friends, and I’ve compiled a list of ways that you can obtain a healthy social life while attending Zoom university.
Be engaged in breakout rooms
We have all been in that one breakout room where every other student has their camera off and their mic muted. It is incredibly awkward, and in addition to not being able to connect with anyone, you don’t really learn anything either.
It is hard to get through to someone when you are muted and are simply a name in a rectangular box on their screen.
The simplest way to make friends is to turn your camera on. Once one person turns on their camera, the rest follow and you’ve broken a layer of ice. Turn on your mic, introduce yourself, and eventually, everyone is chatting about where they are from, the classes they are enjoying, and how they have been coping with Zoom university.
Exchange emails or social media handles, and now you have a contact in your class!
Message the people you add on social media
Simply following people on social media doesn’t lead to an automatic friendship. Staying in touch is important. You can message them about a common class or just school life in general.
Like any real-life friendship, online friendships require effort, and it can be hard to remember to initiate conversations when people aren’t right in front of you.
Study in virtual groups
If you’ve added people on social media from a breakout room, you can simply reach out and ask them if they are willing to set up a call where you can study together. Study groups are a great way to meet people you can relate to, and the conversation will always flow naturally because you have a topic of focus for your call.
Furthermore, virtual study groups can simulate the atmosphere of studying with others at the library and will help you both academically and socially. If you have had a hard time adding friends on social media, join a registered study group. I have made tons of friends in my registered study group for biology!
Participate in online extracurriculars
Clubs are a great way to meet people. I know lots of students who have written off clubs this semester because most — if not all — are operating online. However, think of it this way: even if they are virtual for the time being, what better way is there to meet people with the same interests as you?
It can be hard to truly express yourself online, and that’s why it feels as if there are tons of social barriers. However, remember that making friends can only help you feel more connected during this time, and although it may take some effort, the steps are simple and can be very effective in the long run.