As the University of Tampa community approaches yet another uniquely challenging school year, it may be difficult for both new and returning students alike to find ways to be social while keeping themselves and others around them safe.
So much time has already been spent in a global pandemic, yet case numbers continue to rise once again, creating quite the dilemma for students who may not be sure how to return to being social in a way that keeps everyone as safe as possible.
It’s understandable that students may feel a bit nervous stepping back out into social life, especially those who may have suffered from the disease already, are immunocompromised or live with someone with pre-existing health issues.
With the new school year just getting underway, it is important that students feeling nervous are aware that there are still plenty of ways to have fun this year, and countless ways to be social while staying safe in these trying times.
It is also important, however, that students who are eager to return to their social lives and the incredible events and nightlife Tampa has to offer know that there are ways to do what they want in a responsible fashion.
While there is no way to fully protect against COVID-19 in a social setting, there are certainly ways to lessen the chance of the virus spreading. Wearing a mask in public, even if not required, is immeasurably helpful, as is keeping a distance when in group settings.
While topics like vaccinations are understandably controversial to some degree, there is an unnecessary stigma attached to things like wearing masks and social distancing. Wearing a mask may not be the “cool” thing to do if not required, but it could end up being the difference between spending the weekend out doing fun things with friends and spending a miserable time stuck in quarantine alone. For that reason, throwing on a mask should be a worthwhile endeavor.
Another idea that has been much scrutinized since the start of the pandemic is virtual events. While some may argue that in-person social events are decisively better than anything conducted online, at the end of the day, a connection is a connection. The virtual world can be an incredible place to meet new people and create friendships that will one day lead to all of the in-person memories one could desire, so don’t view any online events as a waste of time.
On top of masks, social distancing and virtual events, students worried about COVID-19 should try to seek out outdoor events. Choosing to hangout with friends in outdoor areas of campus rather than in dorm rooms can greatly reduce the risk of spreading disease to other people. There are also plenty of off-campus outdoor areas to consider such as the Riverwalk, local beaches and downtown Tampa.
For students who are new to Tampa, or returning students struggling to reinvent their social life in this “new normal”, there are plenty of amazing ways to connect with people. The University of Tampa offers a ton of networking events and activities, specifically during the first few weeks of the semester. All of these events ranging from WOW (Week of Welcome) Informational Sessions to Silent Disco nights are listed on the university’s website with more details, dates and locations.
As students likely know better than anyone, there are few better tools in the modern day when it comes to connecting than social media. Instagram and Facebook specifically can be phenomenal tools when it comes to seeking out events, looking for things to do in the area or just meeting new people. Making group chats with students who share interests or live in similar housing can be a great way to meet people and experience new things.
With so many great options for social activity in the area, students are bound to have a busy schedule this semester. It is important that students remain social, but also continue to closely monitor their own health and the health of those around them.
It may be tempting to go out even when feeling a bit under the weather, but remembering that any precautions taken to ensure everyone’s safety will soon lead to a much brighter, less-restricted style of living should be enough to ensure that small sacrifices like getting tested or staying in for a night will eventually pay off.
The thought of being social again in a world still not fully normal can be scary, and the options for keeping one another safe may not seem like the most fun ways to live out this school year. Keeping a positive attitude and accepting that this semester will look a little bit different will be extremely helpful when trying to find ways to have fun and enjoy this school year.
There is still a whole world of opportunities and a countless number of people to meet, you just have to be open to looking wherever you can, however you can.