Preparing for a Return to Life on Campus

By the SMU Digital Marketing Team

In the past 20 months, Singapore Management University (SMU) has rapidly pivoted its highly anticipated annual events, such as FOMO (or Freshmen Orientation Moves Online), into virtual initiatives. It has also accelerated its move to incorporate blended learning into its interactive pedagogy, with a combination of remote and face-to-face learning opportunities. As the pandemic situation evolved, SMU also pulled out all the stops in preparing the campus for a return to in-person learning, with extensive precautionary measures to safeguard the community.

With full on-campus learning on the horizon, we reveal insider tips from Amelia Leong, Year Three, Yong Pung How School of Law; Tan Teck Wee, Year Three, Lee Kong Chian School of Business; Trevor Ng, Year Four, School of Computing and Information Systems; and Germaine Lee, Year Two, School of Social Sciences; on the top lifestyle changes students can adopt to prioritise their health and safety as they continue online learning for now and prepare for their return to campus in the coming months.

 

Being a freshman during Covid-19

 

“When life gives you lemons, make lemonade,”

 

The seemingly never-ending changes in restriction measures can be unnerving for students, especially those who are just embarking on their university studies. It is understandably frustrating having to start one’s freshman year with remote learning; a recently published study on how the pandemic disrupts university teaching and learning discovered that whole person development achieved through social presence is lacking when we rely mainly on online learning.

However, that does not mean that freshmen should simply give up on any form of social interactions.

“When life gives you lemons, make lemonade,” quips Germaine.

“This might be an old cliche, but I feel that this adage has helped to make my Covid-19 semesters more bearable. Most of what the uni has to offer are still there after all, albeit online, so make the most out of virtual activities: Sign up for the different one-off activities organised by the student clubs if you aren’t already in a CCA, as they can be fun and make for good breaks from studying.”

She also suggests registering for industry-based talks as they can provide some clarity on future professional pursuits. Furthermore, Germaine and Teck Wee also recommends embracing all forms of interactions, even those that are virtual. For example, online events and classes may include time spent in breakout rooms, which present the chance to get to know one’s peers. Simple ice breakers like asking about a classmate’s day or what their classes are like can possibly lead to new friendships and camaraderie.

They both also encouraged freshmen to join various camps and activities held by co-curricular activity clubs, or even run for positions on student committees to hone leadership skills and gain greater exposure to different tasks and experiences.

“As difficult as it is, try to make friends whenever you can,” says Trevor.

“It’s super easy to close yourself off given the current circumstances, but realise that your university experience will not be as enjoyable without such interactions.”

 

Returning to in-person lessons

 

“After all, Covid-19 is here to stay for some time,”

 

Regardless of when students can resume in-person learning, it is essential to keep to the prevailing safety measures set by the authorities as the Covid-19 situation here transitions from its pandemic status to a more manageable endemic one. Besides wearing a mask at all times, except during meals, Amelia suggests keeping within a small circle of friends such as one’s classmates to create a sort of social bubble, and limiting unnecessary social gatherings to a minimum. As Teck Wee says, “If you are feeling unwell take the necessary steps to see a doctor and protect others and yourself.”

In addition, with some families grappling with financial worries in the Covid economy, remote learning has become a significant source of stress for students who may not have a conducive learning environment at home or who face technical issues, be it with the internet or their learning device. With most of the local population vaccinated, a return to classroom learning holds benefits that far outweigh the risks.

“Honestly, I’m looking forward to coming back to school,” says Trevor.

“I belong to the camp supporting the approach of treating Covid as an endemic, whereby infection rates are less of an issue. I would prefer that the authorities limit infection through physical separation and staggered classes.”

His views about entering an endemic, where the virus is relatively constant and displays largely predictable patterns within a population, are echoed by Germaine.

“Rather than shy away from physically returning to classes, I think that it is better to slowly allow classes to be held on campus again,” adds Germaine.

“After all, Covid-19 is here to stay for some time, so if it is going to be endemic, we should start to learn to live with it and simulate normal conditions as far as possible.”

 

The way we were

Ultimately, the SMU seniors are nostalgic for student life pre-Covid, from being able to bond with fellow students over the successes and challenges of a school day, to not being able to get out of the house or enjoy the city campus.

“I miss the feeling of having classes with my classmates in the seminar rooms — there’s just something about the atmosphere that is different from remote learning and cannot be easily replicated online,” shares Trevor.

“Although I had fun during virtual activities, some of these would undeniably be a different experience. Games during camps, for example, had to be customised to be played over Zoom, which meant that games that required running or walking around had to be compromised, so sometimes I do wonder if such events might have been bigger and better if held physically.”

For both Amelia and Teck Wee, the ability to hang out with friends to study, watch movies and eat together both in school and around school, is something dearly missed. As he says: “I’ve missed the many food spots I used to frequent with friends!”

 

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