Pandemic poses challenges to social lives for DMACC students

Health Sciences major Emily Anderson studies at Smokey Row coffee shop in Ankeny, where she often meets in-person (but still safely) with friends. Photo courtesy Emily Anderson.

Even as some places around Iowa and the nation begin to open up and return to normal, students still feel the effects of the deep lack of socialization accessible to them.  Our very own DMACC students reported that maintaining a social life is difficult in the midst of pandemic-related safety measures and the lack of in-person classes. 

Rose Vanderlinden, 20, of West Des Moines is a freshman studying education. She said, “It feels like [my group of friends] are just doing the same thing every time we go out . . . it’s just going to parks.” 

Although this is sometimes not ideal, Jason Bocarro, a professor at North Carolina State University, encourages outdoor recreation with others, especially if they are struggling with social distancing. In an article from March on the NC State website, he says that it is a safe way to get out of the house and overcome feelings of isolation; it can also help with stress, depression, and anxiety.

However, this isn’t a solution for everyone. Socialization still remains difficult for students whose friends attend different colleges. Because students are holding parties and large gatherings despite restrictions, droves of students are being quarantined as a result. Unfortunately, even those who did not attend a party may also be quarantined, if that student possibly came in contact with an infected person. 

In Rose’s case, a handful of her friends were confined to their rooms because of a possible COVID-19 exposure. Rose was disappointed that she could not visit her friends. She remarked that other people’s choices are affecting her and others right now. “It’s awful. I wanted to go see them this weekend, and I think it would probably end up being fine… but it just doesn’t seem like a great idea right now.” 

Along with maintaining current friendships, students are also struggling to meet new people. Before the pandemic, students were able to socialize with classmates through study groups, in-person classes, and student organizations. Because of COVID-19 restrictions, these encounters are now either heavily restricted, virtual, or completely non-existent. 

Emily Anderson, 19, a third-year student in the Health Sciences program from Waukee, said, “Some of us have tried to form a study group, but nobody really participates. It feels like life is cancelled.” 

Recently, her student worship group, The Salt Company, had to switch to going fully virtual. They were meeting in person for worship until this past week, when several leaders tested positive. 

“We were following the rules, wearing masks… masks were required. But it still happened.” She is frustrated about the situation but hopes to be back in person soon. Most of the group is quarantining at the moment to make this possible. 

Although DMACC is not holding in-person events, they are hosting virtual student life events, available through the school website. Students were asked if they attended or would like to attend these events. Rose Vanderlinden said, “I wasn’t even aware that those were happening.” She did not have any interest in going, since classes are already virtual and is tired of doing everything online all the time. 

The students are excited about the first things they want to do once restrictions are lifted. Emily said, “I can’t wait to get food at one a.m. Everything closes early now.” She later commented that Taco Bell would be her first choice of late-night food. 

Rose said, “I want to have normal classes again.” 

Socializing is difficult at this time but not impossible. If you need some suggestions for safe activities to take part in, then look no further: 

  1. A socially-distanced picnic in the park
  2. Netflix Party — you can watch your favorite shows at the same time as your friends while chatting virtually!
  3. Get an online pen pal through PenPalWorld.com. However, remember to be safe online since they are strangers!  
  4. Explore local restaurants and support them by ordering takeout/curbside. 

Check out this fall’s virtual programming of DMACC’s Student Activities. The next events are on September 28th. Find them here: https://www.dmacc.edu/events/Pages/ankeny.aspx

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