A Place to Talk (APTT), a peer listening group, held its first in-person session since the beginning of the pandemic on April 4. The club will host in-person listening hours every Sunday from 2 to 4 p.m. in addition to typical virtual hours on Mondays through Thursdays from 8 p.m. to 12 a.m. and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
APTT Public Relations Co-Chair Rebecca Reed explained the club’s motivation for seeking a return to in-person activity.
“We feel that a lot of the time, even though resources are available, they’re not accessible to everyone because of a lack of knowledge,” she said. “Our goal is to provide as many modes of access as possible right now.”
The peer listeners hosted their session in one of the tents on Keyser Quad. In the tent, chairs are socially distanced and masks are mandated for all visitors and listeners. The location of the in-person hours is subject to change, and updates will be provided on APTT’s Facebook and Instagram.
Before the pandemic, APTT did not collect the names of students who visited its rooms. Now, if students want to attend in-person hours, they must email upon arrival. Their emails are only stored for contact tracing purposes.
During the pandemic, APTT has been operating as APTT-Z, the Zoom version of its typical peer listening rooms. To access the Zoom room, visitors must visit the APTT Blackboard page and fill out a form to receive the Zoom room information, which ensures confidentiality.
APTT Co-Director Kylie Sharron commended the peer listeners for their persistence in continuing the club’s operation during the pandemic.
“It was definitely hard to get the online rooms off the ground, but our listeners are very resilient people,” she said. “In any environment, they are more than able to thrive and support their peers really well, which has been evident throughout the past few months.”
According to Reed, the virtual listening sessions were still successful.
“Some might even be more comfortable visiting us online since they are in the comfort of their own rooms,” she said. “It was most different in the sense that we had to change our body language. When you’re talking in person and trying to convey that you’re invested, it doesn’t always translate over Zoom, so we had to train for that.”
Reed, who sat for the first in-person shift last Sunday, noted that it is also difficult to convey body language while wearing a mask. Instead, she relied on using her eyes and eyebrows to signal that she was listening.
Freshman Carter Brady sat for his first in-person shift since joining APTT. Brady said that he preferred the in-person format to the virtual format.
“It’s always better to build a connection in person. Having a physical presence is so much easier for us and the people who come in, and it takes way less energy than having to stay on a computer screen,” he said.
APTT planned to restore its in-person sessions since the school announced that it would operate in a hybrid capacity for the 2021 spring semester. After conversations with school administrators, the group’s application for in-person activity was approved.
Sharron credits the gradual reopening of APTT to the group at large.
“The executive board and members of the group who really wanted to sit a shift in-person and have missed out on the opportunity to do so were really the catalyst for this,” she said. “It’s really nice to get a sense of normalcy back, even if shifts are outside.”
Brady noted that during his first in-person shift, he had more listeners than in all his virtual shifts combined. He is optimistic about this step toward a more complete reopening for APTT.
“This expansion has been working really well so far, so hopefully we can slowly move back to expanded hours,” he said. “APTT is a really meaningful thing that is helpful to a lot of people.”
Correction: The original version of this article stated that students had to email APTT ahead of time to attend its in-person hours.
The News-Letter regrets this error.