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Terae Walters

Communication, Art + Technology › Communication › Media Relations
Co-operative Education › Local Co-op

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Two people sitting at a table with masks on.
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Courtesy of the SFU Image Library
Struggling with being back to in-person classes after COVID?

We have reached a time where being among other people is a possibility again. As you initiate or continue your education as an SFU student, there are a lot of important things to consider when returning to campus. Although this is an exciting reality, it helps to be aware of new protocols and how to continuously be respectful in shared areas. Space requirements may vary but there are general ways to approach in-person meetings, lectures, tutorials, greetings, and overall participation. 

These are complicated situations that can bring about feelings of anxiety for those who feel unprepared. Adjusting to new ways of communicating has been an ongoing issue since the start of the pandemic and implementing new rules can add stress or anxiety. It’s important to note no matter what comfort level you are at, that everyone moves at their own pace. We must always remember to respect the personal space and values of everyone around us. Keeping up with protocols and what people are comfortable with can be a bit tricky, so hopefully we can ease your mind with a few important tips, tricks, and reminders. 

Large Scale Activities

It is always safe to assume that you must follow all current provincial laws or mandates in terms of social distancing and mask-wearing. If you are unsure about specific protocols, make sure to check relevant emails and read the signs on doors upon entering different rooms. For events such as large-scale lectures, it is important to stay safely distanced from those around you. With a high volume of students, it may be more difficult but still just as important to respect everyone’s personal space. Although you might be familiar with your own level of comfort, you must understand that the people around you can feel very different. Wearing your mask and staying distanced when required, is the ideal way to make sure everyone feels safe. 

Although something such as participating in meetings and being physically present is expected to be quite standard, it has still drastically changed since the start of the pandemic. People have become less attentive due to the increased time spent around technology. Many students have become accustomed to watching lectures on their laptops in the comfort of their own homes. Returning to large in-person lectures can be quite a shocking adjustment. We are no longer allowed to get up and go to our kitchen for a snack, or watch TV while our professor talks in the background. We can no longer skip out on class and watch the recorded lecture whenever we want. It is important to provide your undivided attention for in-person lectures and push any distractions to the side. 

Smaller Scale Activities

During recent times, it is especially important to be careful and aware when attending smaller scale activities such as tutorials, smaller class discussions, or any circumstances that involve multiple people in a confined space. People’s safety and comfortability should always be a number one priority, and we must respect everyone’s individual needs. University is meant to be a place to learn and build community, therefore we must come together and make sure any event happens in the safest and most efficient way possible. Even if one person is uncomfortable with something, you must respect their wishes and accommodate them.

Because we are used to Zoom meetings, things have changed a bit with the introduction of in-person discussions. Although it may have been easy to check your phone, switch to another tab on your laptop or wear sweatpants during a call, this isn’t the case anymore. As mentioned before, respect those around you. Pay attention during meetings such as tutorials because it is much more obvious to a speaker when someone in the room right in front of them is distracted. Dress accordingly to your dress code, ask about rules in terms of eating food, put all devices away, and take notes. Some of these tips may seem obvious, but it is surprisingly easy to form bad habits while working in a virtual world for so long. =

For gatherings such as public study spaces or common areas such as the library, being aware of your surroundings is especially important. For a tutorial where you might only use your personal tools the entire time, there is a much higher risk of transmission with high-touch surfaces such as a library table. If an area requires that you sanitize anything that you have touched, make sure to do so. If you can avoid sitting in a crowded room, try your best. 

One-on-One Meetings

How we greet someone is something we don’t normally think about because it’s just a way of life. The pandemic has complicated things that we previously took for granted, such as a hug or a handshake. It has become much more difficult to navigate situations like these, and people might be confused as to how to react. Nevertheless, we must continue to learn to adjust. As of right now, handshakes are perfectly acceptable to skip out on because of the direct physical contact that it involves. In exchange, a friendly verbal greeting is always the first go-to you should lean towards (with a mask on of course). Make sure you always smile, appear friendly, keep your head up, and maintain eye contact. If someone attempts a physical greeting that you are not comfortable with, politely decline. Whether it’s a casual meeting, tutorial or interview, the ways in which you present yourself to others is very important. First impressions are very lasting. For further information on interview etiquette, check out this article.

Going into someone’s personal area such as an office or small personal room means it’s extremely important to respect their space. Some people spend an entire day in their office and even eat food or take off their mask. Because of this, we must be very careful with how we approach these situations. Don’t take off your mask, avoid unnecessarily touching surfaces, and always respect what they’re comfortable with. It is possible that people will verbalize that they are comfortable with you not wearing a mask, but if you are unsure, always make sure to ask ahead of time. 

Interviews can be a very intimidating process and is a very good example of an important one-on-one meeting. Although these tips are mainly focused on school-related circumstances, interviews are still a common occurrence for young adults in university. For those of you who haven’t had an in-person interview since the start of the pandemic, it can be very scary. With so many things that have changed in the past few years, it is still extremely important to stay focused, respectful, and professional. You want to appear as your best self and make sure you are as prepared as possible. Make sure to follow all social distancing guidelines/ mask mandates unless the interviewer says otherwise. If remote work is a possibility for your position, inquire for a video interview. Times are still complicated, and everyone understands how different the pandemic has made normal social interactions. Don’t stress or over-think things, the most important aspect of any interview is to always be yourself!

Dealing With Post-Pandemic Anxiety

With major lifestyle changes come feelings of stress. The number one thing to remember is that developing anxiety during these times is completely normal and acceptable. No one should ever feel bad for feeling overwhelmed when being introduced to things they aren’t used to. Mental health is always something that should be put as a high priority no matter who you are. How you balance your life and the things you do is very important.  

Coming back to school or work can mean new assignments, exams, deadlines, etc. Making sure you have an organizational system set in place will help you keep track of everything that is important. Write your tasks down, put deadlines in a physical or online calendar, and organize your work in a separate folder on your computer or laptop. Searching for something you need and not being able to find it can cause major unneeded stress. These simple tips can help you avoid developing more intense anxiety and overall assist in a much smoother transition through your professional life. 

As you move through your SFU experience, things can move very fast. As we continue to adjust to the new ways of life mid and post-pandemic, it is helpful to slow down and stay organized. Think about how in-person gatherings have changed and how you can do your part to make the overall transition easier for everyone. The most important thing to remember at the end of the day is to be patient and accepting because everyone moves at their own pace. People need to be kind to each other now more than ever so we can make it through this together. Best of luck! 

Author

Terae Walters

Communication, Art + Technology › Communication › Media Relations
Co-operative Education › Local Co-op

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