Opinion: A Semester During Covid-19 is a Chance to Expand Your Comfort Zone
For most college students, the past few months of quarantine, social distancing, masks, takeout and Zoom meetings have caused opportunities for face-to-face interaction to dwindle to a bare minimum. We were plucked out of our routines and social lives by a pandemic that has killed over 175,000 Americans. In addition, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention already reports a sharp increase in depression and anxiety symptoms among college-age Americans, largely due to the unknown second effects caused by the pandemic.
While we bring these new challenges with us into the new semester, I still believe it is possible and necessary for students at Liberty University to have a fulfilling academic and social life.
Unfortunately, many of the hallmarks of the Liberty experience have been cancelled. Most athletic events, in-person Convocation, Scaremare and Commencement have been put on hold for the foreseeable future. Large gatherings of all kinds are strongly discouraged by the CDC and avoiding them has been proven by researchers at the University of Texas at Austin to be one of the most effective ways to stop this virus. This semester will traverse new territory, so getting out of our shrinking comfort zone becomes more necessary than ever.
What exactly does that look like under COVID-19?
Campus may look and feel different, but Liberty still offers many of the same opportunities for students to serve the community, join student-led clubs, participate in campus activities and engage academically. Boasting over 100 student-led clubs catering to a wide range of interests, activities and identities, anybody can find like-minded people with which to connect. Maybe your time in quarantine inspired a love of gaming, running, programming or any other range of activities that at least one club on campus can accommodate. For me, returning to a consistent exercise routine pulled me back from a very unhealthy quarantine sleep schedule and eating habits (rather than the “Freshman 15,” I might have gained the “COVID-19”).
This is an understandably difficult time to return to “daily life.” Some of us have had enough time outside of our comfort zone simply by existing as both Americans during a politically tumultuous time and Liberty students during a transitional moment in our school’s history. Branching out and discovering new diversions from the situation at hand may be exactly what some of us need, but not everybody experiences trauma the same way.
Instead of getting out of our comfort zone, maybe we should expand our comfort zone. Now is not the moment to take on more than we can bear, so by expanding our comfort zone, we can properly adapt to the unprecedented circumstances. We can still nourish our interests, fight for the causes close to our hearts, connect with loved ones and reconnect with those who have been distant. We can still join a club, interact with new people (safely!), intellectually engage with our course materials and build relationships with our professors. We can still do the things that make the Liberty experience rewarding while keeping ourselves and our community safe and healthy.
Given the state of the world, nobody can guarantee that we will not face academic hardships, anxiety or spiritual adversity during this unique semester. Despite these challenges, I believe the students at Liberty University are fully prepared to expand their comfort zones and face this semester head-on.
Austin Gaebe is an Opinion Writer. Follow him on Twitter at @AustinGaebe.