There is no way to deny or downplay how much COVID-19 has affected every possible sector in the last two months. It has certainly greatly transformed international education and our day-to-day routine at JCU.
Some of our JCU students started leaving at the end of February. Study abroad programs and universities in the United States started call their students back home. Others decided to leave on their own accord, pressured by their families when the virus began to spread. When the Italian Government declared schools should be closed, half of our student population was still physically on campus.
Still, we carried on. The closing happened the weekend before the start of Spring Break, and in one week, the University prepared itself to continue engaging and working with students remotely.
I am very proud of the entire JCU community for the way we responded to the situation. Of course, it is not the same as being on campus, where we can see each other every day, or have lunch or coffee together, or have impromptu meetings with each other to discuss events and projects, but it’s something. Many institutions were forced to close altogether, but we’re fighting as hard as we can to stay together during this difficult time.
We’re lucky to live in an age where we have the tools to stay in contact every day with a variety of options. We even get to choose what platform we want to use, and that is something I certainly do not take for granted.
As the Student Activities Coordinator at JCU, I’ve always felt proud of how close the Student Services Office is to our students. There is nothing like having all of the student leaders popping into your office every day just to say hi, asking how you are doing, or sitting with you to tell you how their day is going. It’s priceless. Nothing can replace the human interaction we achieve through being together physically in the same place, on the same campus, but for now, it’s more important than ever that we maintain our connections – albeit digitally.
Student Services has organized online activities and events – both live and asynchronous – to accommodate our students’ diverse schedules and needs, taking into account that they currently reside in a dozen different time zones. We started offering virtual office hours. We’ve hosted trivia games, workouts, cooking classes, meditation sessions, interviews with notable alumni, virtual tours, competitions, and so much more. Our incredible clubs and organizations soon took initiative and started doing the same, providing activities and refreshing discussions on their platforms.
It’s hard work, but it’s absolutely worth it. Students are staying engaged. They’re staying together, even if they’re apart, and that is the most important thing. We receive messages from students and colleagues alike every day, thanking us, saying that our efforts are making them feel a little less alone in this situation. And that is why we do what we do.
We must preserve our unity, our sense of community, now more than ever.
Student Activities Coordinator at JCU