Remote classes are not an ideal learning method for anyone, but this does not mean you cannot have some fun with it. Beyond adjusting academically, adapting socially to remote learning is a whole other ballpark. Reaching out to strangers online is a challenge to be conquered.
One of my classmates recently told me that they were asked on a date through a Zoom private message during a lecture. Another told me that someone reached out to them by guessing their university email address. While some students clearly have no qualms about messaging someone they saw in a Zoom lecture—or even shooting their shot—most of us find making friends with people in their online classes intimidating.
Under normal circumstances, students could easily turn to the person next to them in a lecture and bond over common ground, such as the course material, fashion, or a shared interest. However, Zoom classes make it more difficult for such melees to occur, especially with pre-recorded lectures, seas of blank screens, and no opportunity to chat before or after class. Attending small group conference sessions can provide some much needed social interaction, but there are still usually over a dozen people in the room. The randomized breakout rooms have potential to foster natural conversations, but generally descend into a painful, awkward silence. Still, when the breakout rooms close, there is no way to simply turn around and get the contact information of the person you were just talking to. Thus, it can be hard to go from in-class to out-of-class friends.
With that said, for some students who are either unable to come to Montreal this year or confined by restrictions, meeting people through lectures is one of the only ways to make friends. Personally, I am doubly disadvantaged by being both a first year student and someone living at home. Luckily, connecting with peers over shared academic interests online has lessened the feelings of isolation.
The most important thing to me has been overcoming the fear of being perceived as creepy. Before remote learning, it may not have been as common to receive a Facebook or Instagram direct message out of the blue from an unknown user without the preamble of an actual introduction. Though it is understandable to feel uncomfortable contacting someone unfamiliar on social media, most of us have both sent and received more of these messages amid the pandemic than ever before. It is important to realize that, especially in quarantine, many students have not lost their love of meeting new people. If you have a great conversation with someone in a breakout room, it is completely normal to look someone up on Facebook and reach out.
Amélie Guillemette, U0 Arts, is in a similar situation to mine.
“The only way I was able to start talking to some people is through the live Zoom classes, so if teachers don’t have any of those throughout the semester, it’s pretty much impossible to start interacting with people and to have something substantial to talk about,” Guillemette said. “I was lucky that in the first semester I had three classes with live Zooms and with people that had a lot of the same classes [….] But it’s still much harder than if we were in person.”
By paying attention to the people in your classes, you can build relationships. Although it can be uncomfortable at first, most students that you reach out to are more than happy to make a new connection.
Spending at least two semesters of university with classmates scattered across the world is certainly disappointing, but it is still possible to build friendships. Most importantly, it is about having an open mind and being kind to yourself and others. Remember that everyone is in the same boat, and do not be afraid to venture outside your comfort zone.