LSA sophomore Sree Anumolu thought staying in her apartment in Ann Arbor after classes were moved online would be fun. However, as more of her friends started to leave, she decided to return home as well.
Anumolu has obsessive-compulsive disorder, which she said can affect her productivity and well-being. She told The Daily having a community and staying busy with school helps her to manage OCD triggers, but social distancing prevents her from using socializing as a coping mechanism.
“My OCD has been really bad for the past two years, but this year started getting a lot better because I just talked to my friends about it and just tried to actively forget about it,” Anumolu said. “Trying to get out of the habits and being with people helped a lot. I remember compared to freshman year, I became much more social this year because I just knew that having a strong circle was what I needed to get out of it. For classes, I made sure I kept myself busy because if I keep myself busy, those thoughts don't come to me.”
Music, Theatre & Dance freshman Payal Parida said she saw her friends on campus every day and the lack of social interaction has been the hardest part about leaving campus.
“I had my friends, we would spend 24/7 together,” Parida said. “I would not go a day without seeing them and they were pretty much like my second family. So having that be completely cut off like, so abrupt, was extremely hard. You realize how important social interaction is and as a human being, isolation is so difficult, at least for me.”
Christine Asidao, associate director of community engagement and outreach for Counseling and Psychological Services, and Todd Sevig, director of CAPS, told The Daily in an email how CAPS is offering virtual and phone appointments to those experiencing anxiety due to social distancing. In addition to tele-counseling, the organization put together a Mental Health Care Package to encourage students to find creative ways to fight boredom.
“We are trying to reframe ‘social distancing’ to ‘physical distancing,’” Asidao said. “We want students to stay connected socially, albeit virtually, because that is crucial to maintaining and improving our mental health.”
Engineering freshman Nishanth Reddy said though the setup of his classes has been mostly the same other than being online, he misses the social interaction of being on campus.
“Not walking to class, talking to my friends in-person (and) studying with them in the library are things I miss, for sure,” Reddy said.
Productive spaces, such as libraries, are also not options for students to study without distractions. Engineering freshman Zachary Goldston said he preferred the basement of the Duderstadt Library. Goldston said there is an adjustment to doing work since returning home.
“I was able to focus best when I had my own space in the Duderstadt Library in the basement. I was able to focus for hours, get some really good studying in, get my homework done and even some side projects for clubs and stuff done as well,” Goldston said. “Being at home is definitely a transition from where I’m used to just sleeping and relaxing … I try to make myself study in other places around my house so that I don’t feel like I’m cooped up all the time.”
To occupy her time, LSA freshman Xinyi Wang talks to members of the Taekwondo club, a student organization she is a part of. Wang is from Shanghai, China and stayed in the dorms for two weeks after classes went online, returning home recently. She said she experienced all of her friends leaving campus until she was the only one left. Through all of this, Wang said the Taekwondo club is continuing to stay social through individual activities and that has helped her with the adjustment to campus.
“We have a 14-day challenge that people can just do every day,” Wang said. “It's hard to keep up with the challenge a lot, but it gives me a feeling that I’m still able to hang out with my friends. It just feels good.”
Wang is also part of the Residential College and said her professors have been supportive throughout the whole housing process.
“All the RC teachers have their phone number and emails available in case anyone wanted to contact them,” Wang said. “This just makes me feel really warm and I know that these teachers really care about us and how we really feel.”
The RC is making efforts to make students feel like they are still in East Quad from their own homes. RC students have set up a GroupMe chat called “RC Love” where they send memes and pictures to cheer people up. They also started the “Quaranzine” — a Google folder where students can submit writing and multimedia content — and Virtual Greene Lounge meeting through Zoom.
Esha Biswas, student affairs coordinator of RC, said the RC started these initiatives to help the students cope through hard times.
“We just want students to feel like even though they are not physically in East Quad, we want to still have that sense of community that East Quad gives us,” Biswas said. “It's hard to go from being in a community where you're in the same building with your friends and you have classes in the same building and office hours with faculty and you have academic services and advising appointments all in the same building … To go from that to being completely isolated from your RC network, to being scattered all across the country and all across the world.”
Anumolu said she wants people to remember they are not alone in feeling down during strange times. She said finding resources to cope through social distancing will help people get through this time.
“No one saw this coming. We should all try to do the best we can to make sure we don't relapse … But I just want them to know to continue staying strong,” Anumolu said.
Daily Staff Reporters Jasmin Lee and Varsha Vedapudi can be reached at email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org