Keep Calm and Re-Open On: Tips on How to Readjust as You Return to Campus

Club+Rush+was+one+of+the+many+in-person+events+students+frolicked+to+after+on-campus+activities+were+cleared+to+resume.

Anastasia Ericson

Club Rush was one of the many in-person events students frolicked to after on-campus activities were cleared to resume.

Heather Sabol

Our society is tackling a huge endeavor — trying to get back on track after waiting out the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic from home, that is. And it is happening whether we are ready or not. Campuses may be reopening, but there is still a long way to go until things are fully back to normal. While the past year’s unpredictable changes called for heavy usage of coping skills, the bleakest of times should be over with, right? If you are having trouble adjusting to everything reopening, I can assure you that you are not alone.

In January of 2020, I was so happy about finally returning to campus — an actual college campus. It was the beginning of the spring semester, and after taking time off before ultimately deciding to continue my education, I could not wait to jump back in and immerse myself in all that my new school had to offer. I purchased my textbooks and bought a new backpack. I studied campus maps to learn where my classes were and where to park my beat-up Volvo. I met wonderful professors and even better classmates. Everything was fine and dandy — until the world changed.

Suddenly, there I was, sitting at home with a borrowed laptop, installing Zoom and considering whether I might try blue-light glasses. My backpack — tossed into the back of my closet — began collecting dust.

I found being thrown unexpectedly into a new routine particularly challenging, as I had been so excited to be back on campus. Then, while navigating the virtual learning world, plenty more difficulties surfaced, making me wonder if I even had it in me to succeed. With time, I learned that each of these challenging situations presented an opportunity to learn and adapt. Often, I was forced to step out of my comfort zone and do things I was not comfortable with, such as giving an online presentation. But with each new situation, my classmates, professors and myself all learned the importance of flexibility and forging ahead. Then, just as we were seemingly beginning to acclimate, it was announced that schools and businesses would be reopening.

Looking back, the past 18 months have probably looked different for each of us. Brenden Dowridge-Williams, a current HCC student, was enrolled in classes when things first shut down early last year. Like many others, he never thought he would have to implement ways to get through a global pandemic.

“During the first couple of weeks I thought to myself, ‘this is going to be very organized,’” he explained. “But as time went on, I realized how truly disorganized everything was.”

As of now, we have yet to fully transition into a clear post-pandemic era, and this may, unfortunately, be the case for the foreseeable future. At this juncture, a new normal is still in the works, and trying to find one’s own “place” as the world around us constantly shifts can certainly be overwhelming.

Dowridge-Williams summed it up perfectly: “Sometimes I’m happy that things are slowly getting back to normal, but sometimes I feel guilty for going back to school knowing that there is still a crisis on hand,” he said.

His thoughts further emphasize why it is so crucial that each of us remembers to take care of our own needs in the midst of it all. With so much going on in the world, I encourage everybody to take a step back from the chaos and take a break when needed.

To help ease your way through this next stage of the pandemic, I have compiled a list of three great strategies that can help you gain control (and maintain some sanity) as our first semester back on campus begins.

1. Update your supplies. Your school supplies do not have to be boring and drab. Staying organized, for example, can be much easier when your academic planner is covered in smiley faces or motivational messages. During the pandemic, many school supplies were cast aside as daily routines were restructured and obligations shifted. Try some complimenting pens or a croissant stress ball from ban.do (plus tons of other very essential home, office, and miscellaneous items).

2. Take a break. Try not to let school consume you (but do not tell your professors I said that!). If you enjoyed a certain activity during the pandemic, or perhaps discovered a new hobby, feel free to keep at it. Remember to step back from your work and take a break especially when feeling overwhelmed. Some ideas include:

  • Reading something other than your textbooks — for those who like nonfiction, I loved ABT Principal Dancer James Whiteside’s memoir, “Center Center.” Or, if you prefer fiction, I devoured Stephen King’s “The Institute” in less than a week.
  • Music. Need I say more? Triple J (an Australian radio station) has a series called “Like a Version,” with tracks like Urthboy’s Meg Mac cover that I can (and absolutely do) listen to on repeat.
  • Getting out (with a mask, of course), to a Ravens game, a concert, the aquarium (did you know HCC students can get free tickets?), campus events, anything! Pro tip: Find a calendar of student life’s campus events here!

3. Speak up. If you feel anxious or are having any concerns, do not hesitate to ask for help. It is normal to feel uneasy when things have been constantly shifting over the past year and a half. Take your time and figure out what works best for you, as you try to find your way back to normalcy this semester. Talk to your professors, your advisors, your classmates, your family, your dog…(and since not everyone has a dog, I will link some more resources below).

HCC Academic Support Services | 443-518-1320

  • Find info on student support services (TRiO), Ambiciones, counseling, and more.

HCC Student Life | 443-518-1420

HCC Wellness Center | 443-518-4950

  • Various therapies, referrals, education, workshops, and even an LGBTQ community “safe zone.”

NAMI Howard County | 410-772-9300

  • Info on various local mental health resources/support.

We Can Do This (COVID-19 Public Education Campaign)

  • Educational videos, articles, data, and other helpful resources and information regarding re-opening procedures, vaccine hesitancy, and more.

I hope that by sharing these tips along with some of my own experiences, you each can feel confident in your own abilities to keep moving forward. Have a great fall semester!