Far from the nest: feeling like a Hopkins student while you're not on campus

I may be the 1,038th person to tell you, but Hopkins is officially online this semester.

What a ride these past couple months have been. From filling out a housing form to buying new school supplies, many of you were ready to come to campus. For that experience to be taken away three weeks from the start of the semester must have been difficult, and I empathize.

I can’t imagine that doing classes from home is how anyone would have expected starting the supposed “best years of their life” when they put in their college apps. Whether it’s a spotty WiFi connection or other personal factors, home might be far from the ideal place for learning.

And beyond the academic downsides to having classes on Zoom, staying at home strips away the social interactions that are at the core of a positive college experience.

This semester, there will be no late night conversations with floormates or “study” sessions with friends at Brody Learning Commons. There will be no in-person office hours or home football games to attend. Nothing but virtual measures to try to make up for these losses.

So this begs the question: is it possible to feel connected to a place you are not physically living?

Understanding that everyone’s homelife is different, I still want to offer my advice on how to feel like a Hopkins student, which is to do whatever you can within your means to be engaged.

As vague as that may sound, let me explain.

The most obvious route to making some sort of connection to campus would be to join a club or organization. This link lists every one of the 400 plus groups on campus and also keeps track of upcoming virtual events.

While I can’t speak for every organization, I would find it hard to believe that any group would turn away interested first-years. And on behalf of The News-Letter, I will say that we are a welcoming group and would love to have more writers.

If joining a group isn’t your thing, consider obtaining a remote internship or research position.

SMILE will post internship opportunities, and ForagerOne will do the same with research.

On the academic side, staying engaged might also entail meeting with your professors outside of class time. From my experience, many professors are more than happy to meet with you during scheduled office hours, after class or by making an appointment.

Just as a caveat, don’t go to office hours for the sake of doing it. But asking questions on relevant material would make for fruitful conversation, and making connections with faculty could never hurt.

Furthermore, I advocate not skipping class too often, even when it’s a cold Tuesday in November and you have a problem set due that day. It is good practice, I believe, to be able to get a hold of participating in a college classroom. Plus, when’s the next time you’ll be able to do college from the comfort of your bed?

Last, take advantage of social media. Join that Class of 2024 Facebook group you might have not already joined. Maybe even make a post about yourself. Join that GroupMe chat, even if you don’t know everyone in it.

I understand that these routes might not be viable due to barriers such as differing time zones and a lack of quiet spaces at home. I hope this advice of being engaged will not be boiled down to something along the lines of “pulling yourself up by the bootstraps.”

So I want to end on a note of empathy and encouragement.

“Unprecedented times” has been the buzz phrase of the past few months, but there is some truth in it. Never before in the past century has there been a college class having to start college online (with the exception of online programs, of course).

As a result, you face unique challenges in trying to feel like a college student while being separated from that college. It would be delusional for me to try and pretend like all these actions will fully compensate for not being on campus and make it seem like you are actually there.

But I hope that while everyone else is figuring out ways to move forward — from the administration to professors to students — you won’t be discouraged from taking the steps within your means to be engaged, and you won’t let being at home take anything away from feeling like a Hopkins student.

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