I hope you all got to have a bit of a rest over the semester break. It’s been big, hasn’t it? Can you believe we’re halfway through the semester now? Nah. Time is weird.
Most of us have also been home now for longer than we were on campus this semester and while, hopefully, you’ve started to settle into something of a routine, some of the harder parts of isolation might be starting to hit – particularly the social part of social distancing!
For many of us, this sudden lack of social plans and regular contact with others is – to put it lightly – becoming a real bummer. I don’t think I really paid much attention to just how connected to my own communities I was, and how important they are to me, until this all hit.
One of the most genuinely shocking and upsetting things for me back when this all started was seeing the Flinders campus so empty. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen it this empty – except for that week between Christmas and New Year during my PhD when, for some reason, I kept coming into my office. Flinders is usually such a vibrant and happening place and it’s where I developed the most important friendships and communities that continue to be a massive influence on my life.
For you, these communities might be your sports team, your bandmates, your gamer buddies, your fellow parent-students, or those from the same country as you. So, given that these communities can be so important to us, how can we make sure we stay connected while in iso?
David Williamson: Three Ways to Connect
It’s difficult at this time when we can’t be together – especially within Oasis where a lot of the things we do are about connection, human relationships and supporting each other. But I want to talk about how we can stay connected during this time of the pandemic. There are three things that are important about being connected: being connected to ourselves, being connected to each other, and being connected to a higher purpose.
1. Being connected to ourselves
This means thinking about our identity, and within that, thinking about how we’re travelling at the moment. What are the thoughts and feelings that come up at this time? We might feel things like fear and anxiety, and so this is a time to pause, recognise those things, and have some kindness and compassion for ourselves.
We might notice something that brings a smile to our face and acknowledge for a moment the gratitude around that. It could be the birds in the trees, or the crickets in the grass. We can use these to become grounded and recognise what’s going on within ourselves on a day to day basis.
2. Being connected to each other
This is probably the one we’ve all thought about a lot: how can we remain connected to our friends, our families and people we study with, especially when we can’t be physically together. The term right from the start of this pandemic that I’ve really appreciated is that it’s not social isolation, it’s physical isolation, or physical distancing. We want to be socially connected, so finding ways to do that is really important.
Find ways to connect with the people you normally would in your everyday life. If you enjoy having coffee with someone, do that! Make a coffee, ring them up and sit down to chat. If you play a sport or have a hobby or a musical instrument, find ways to connect on that level. In the university, it’s pretty obvious that we’re not face to face anymore, so reach out via email or other forms of technology and check in with people you’d normally spend your day with. It’s a good way to keep up the rhythm and intentionality about your everyday life. Sticking with the normal things that we do is really important at this time.
3. Being connected to a bigger purpose
For some, being connected to a bigger purpose might be their faith or religion, for others it might be how it is that we serve our ideals, what we give to other people, and our sense of purpose in the world. And all of this extends beyond us: what is it that we really want to achieve in life? For many of us at university, this might be fulfilling our study goals. So it’s important to remain connected to
what is really important beyond this moment. So that might be thinking about the end of the year, or to two or three years when you graduate, and thinking about you can do to stay connected to that purpose of reaching those goals, and doing little things to help you achieve that.
If it is a faith or spirituality that you’re part of, remain in connection with those communities and traditions. If it’s through service to others and volunteering, it might be how you can continue to support those needs within community.
Ali Barnes – How Can you Contribute to your Community?
Community is so important and at a time when we can’t connect on campus, I wanted to give you a perspective to think about that you may not have considered before: how you can contribute to your community. So, rather than connecting with those around you and receiving from them, how can you contribute to and value add to the community around you?
1. Who is your community?
So first you really need to think about who is your community? Who are the people around you that mean the most? For me, it’s my family who I live at home with, and my family who are also self-isolating. Beyond that I have some close friends who are really important to me and I consider part of my valuable community.
2. What would you like to see on social media?
The other thing I’d like you to consider is what are the things that you’d like to see on social media? What messages would you like to see that would connect you with others, that would uplift you and make you feel positive and motivated. Then, I challenge you to post them yourself (if you’re not already!). What kinds of posts could you put up that would do the same for other people? Create the content you want to see yourself and put it up for other people to be inspired and uplifted by.
3. What small things can you do to create successful habits?
I’ve been reading a book recently called The Slight Edge by Jeff Olsen. It’s been really inspiring to me because, basically, it encourages us to be successful by doing small, seemingly mundane things everyday. These common practices, when we’re doing them again and again, become our habits and that then becomes our success. I find this really valuable and I encourage you to do the same. That might mean waking up in the morning and writing a gratitude list: what do you value and what do you appreciate at the moment? By starting your day this way, you’re setting yourself up to see your day through that same lens.
4. How can you connect with someone daily?
The same goes for another point that he makes: connect with someone. As you sit down at your desk to study, rather than getting straight in, think of someone you want to send a positive message to and text them to tell them how grateful you are for them, or something you really like about them. If you were to receive that message, that would really uplift you, so why not do that for someone else? If you do it every day, that’s seven people a week that you’re reaching out to and making feel better!
5. How can you contribute kindness?
The last thing I’d like you to do, is think about how you can contribute your kindness further. What might that look like for you? Some people I’ve seen on social media have been shopping for their neighbours. In my neighbourhood, that’s not necessarily realistic, so rather than feeling guilty about not doing it, I’m trying to find ways that I can contribute that are meaningful to me and meaningful to the people in my community. This could be as simple as going down the street and giving someone a big smile, saying hello, or complimenting them as we walk past (at 1.5 meters!), and just trying to be a positive influence in my community, whether I know people or not.
This can also be through social media, which is super important at the moment, and any other interactions that you’re having online. How can you contribute to those conversations meaningfully to create a sense of community that is connected?
By doing this, you can connect with other people and bring kindness back to you as well. There’s some research by Sean Baker, ‘The Happiness Guru’, who says that when we engage with kindness and give to other people, what we get back is more than what those people receive themselves. So the value of being kind actually returns to you double! We’re not doing them with those selfish intentions but, hey, if you’re doing some kind acts and its coming back, how amazing is that?
I caught this in my neighbourhood the other day. Small acts can have big impacts!
Thanks so much to David and Ali from Oasis for sharing your tips for staying connected with us. In the interests of knowing our communities and connecting with each other – here are some of your stories! I’m so happy to introduce Natasha, Siddeth and Mengyu to you all!
Student Voices – Natasha Barnes
Hi everyone, my name’s Natasha I’m a Medical Science student here at Flinders. I’m also involved in The Rural Health Society, Medical Science Society, I’m a uni ambassador and a uni council member. I was born in Scotland and, fun fact, I also lived in Asia for a number of years.
The communities I belong to are my friends and family, student societies, Oasis and the overall student and staff community here at Flinders. I’m staying connected through online communication: I’ve had Zoom meetings with the different societies I’m involved with; Skype calls with my family and friends to check how they’re doing. It’s really comforting to hear someone else’s voice and know they care about your health and wellbeing, especially if you might be isolated or a bit more vulnerable at this time.
The challenges of social distancing have included some loneliness and feeling disconnected, but changing my outlook has helped me maintain a positive mindset. I choose to view this period we’re in as an opportunity to reconnect with myself, be more in the present moment, take care of my mental and physical health and do some good deeds, rather than it being something that might make me feel a bit alienated.
Student Voices – Sideth Chhin
Hi, my name is Sideth Chhin. I’m from Cambodia and am taking a Master of International Development. I enjoy my study very much because I learn new things all the time and have made a lot of friends from different countries. So far, I’ve really had a great experience living in Australia. Australia is so beautiful, I love being here!
As an international student I would say my communities are Cambodian Australian Award students who came to Australia in June 2019, Cambodian students and Cambodian people living in South
Australia, and international students with Australian Awards who came to Flinders in June in the same batch as me.
We’ve created different groups with all these people and once in a while we post things in these groups like the food we’ve made at home, we ask how we are, and sometimes we want to share new policies or updates from our own countries or about Australia in general. That’s how we stay connected.
Student Voices – Mengyu Yi
Hi guys, Mengyu. I’m doing a Bachelor of Finance and this is my final year and final semester. I’m from China and I’m part of the Chinese Association. For our Chinese Association, we are buying some masks and sending them to Chinese students because masks in stores are limited. Some students can’t buy masks everywhere, and so we make online forms to collect their information like their phone numbers, names and home address, and arrange a group of people to deliver the masks to them.
Hopefully the virus can disappear in a month and we can study on campus in the future!
Thanks so much to everyone who participated today and shared their tips and their stories.
Remember to reach out if you need to. There’s the Flinders Online Hub and Flinders Support Network with links to student support services. Oasis is developing an online space, so watch out for that and, in the meantime, do be sure to check out the FUSA@Home Facebook page. There’s all sorts of cool stuff happening over there, like movie nights, gaming sessions and trivia.
That’s it for another week! It’s that time of semester, so next week I’ll be talking to you about how to stay on top of your assignments.