Connecting with classmates online

There’s no doubt COVID-19 has thrown a spanner into the works this year. And now that we’re all studying and working online, it can seem a lot harder to connect with classmates and friends. MyLaTrobe caught up with three students who’ve spent a solid Semester online already to gather their insights.

Here’s what Ha Nguyen (Master of Public Health and Health Administration), Jayde Lillico (Bachelor of Psychological Science and Biomedical Science), and Menu Gopan (Master of International Business) had to say.

How did you make new connections with classmates while learning online?

Jayde: I took a leap of faith and started a study group. Also became more active on message boards and in chat groups. I was also just casually interacting with other people in my classes where there was a chance to do so.

Meenu: Making connections through virtual platforms was quite challenging. My first approach was to connect through the LMS but I only got a few responses. Also, getting to connect with 25-30 participants, from one subject out of 4, seems quite difficult and it depends on the other person’s approach. From my experience, the best way to connect through online classes is to see who’s active and contributing to other’s views. These groups of people are truly looking to grow connections through learning and sharing ideas with each other. I figured out that there is no better platform to get connected other than LinkedIn. I was delighted to meet some like minded people which I consider as the best thing could ever happen during this time.

Ha Nguyen: As I am very keen on studying, I always to attend every ZOOM session I can. During these sessions, we have a chance to discuss a particular issue in breakout room and that was how I was able to ‘make’ new friends. Besides, I always try to prepare well before class by completing the reading list, then actively contribute ideas or ask questions. That sometimes draws the attention of some of my classmates and we might connect.

How have you stayed connected with previous classmates and friends?

Jayde: Again, leap of faith. I message previous people during some free time. Just dropping them a small “Hey, you’re you doing? How’re you coping?” is a good start. You’d be surprised at how quickly/many people happily get back to you.

Ha Nguyen: I luckily have had a small group of good friends (some Aussies and an international student), so we have a Messenger group where we keep texting and checking in with each other all the time.

Are there any practical things you’ve organised with friends to stay connected?

Jayde: I’ve organised specialised chat groups; some to share memes, some to share woes, family chats. Then that’s coupled with regular ZOOM sessions with different groups. Sometimes it’ll be a lot of us playing trivia or drinking games or something online. Other times it’ll just be myself and my best friend doing our own thing but having ZOOM open – as if we’re chilling together like normal.

Ha Nguyen: We regularly have ZOOM chats. Recently we had a ‘girls’ night’ talk and we had fun for nearly 3 hours just by seeing each other on the laptop screens, gossiping about stuff and dreaming about food that we would like to eat when this lockdown nightmare is over. Otherwise, we still keep sending texts, memes on Messenger and Snapchat.

What have been some of the challenges during this shutdown period when it comes to feeling connected with others?

Ha Nguyen: I’ve actually been through a depression and it ain’t fun, particularly at this time. My sleeping pattern has changed significantly, I barely sleep at night and my diet plan has fluctuated too. But I have a very good partner who is patient, listens to me and cheers me up. Otherwise, those words of positivity and life advice are noted and well-intentioned but it really does not work well on me.

It’s a fundamental basis of life, that we humans want to connect and get connected. So I guess it’s good to keep in touch with each other and check in. I’m lucky to have family, relatives and some good friends who understand my situation and keep checking on me everyday. I am so grateful.

If you’ve feeling lonely or isolated, what are some steps you might take?

Jayde: Pretty simple – reach out. If you’re feeling the lonesome bug, chances are a friend is too.

Meenu: During the initial days of shutdown, I was feeling quite depressed without a job and clueless about spending time in the coming days. After a week, I felt if this is going to control me, then my life will be in a miserable state. In fact, what I have learnt was even though we get support from family and friends, at the end these emotions are within us and we are the only ones who have an absolute control over it. During such scenarios, I make sure to keep myself engaged.

I would like to share some of the steps I have taken to stay positive during shutdown days which might be helpful for you all!

  1. I made sure to keep myself fit and healthy by following 40-50 minutes walk, followed by 20 minutes yoga and meditation.
  2. Another way I had tried to stay positive was by reading books which could bring a good impact and reflect our perspective towards situations that we come across in our life.
  3. As an international student I personally think we need to open ourselves to more opportunities beyond University and explore the maximum we can from a country like Australia. This thought has helped me to participate on a Leadership workshop organised by ‘Study Melbourne‘ which had almost 200 participants across different Universities and helped me to learn about leadership, how to stay active and confident in front of such a big group and share our views. In fact, this has helped me to stir up some community spirit where the shutdown has made me feel lonely.
  4. The most exciting part was getting active on LinkedIn which was something new to me. I learned new skills through a few courses on LinkedIn Learning and even did a virtual internship from a suggestion I got from one of my connections. This has helped me to get some insights from my seniors and other connections on approaching a career path. I find this platform is the best for people who are keen to learn, make connections and grow career.
  5. As time goes, I started feeling bit isolated and made me feel bit lazy to accomplish my day-to-day activities. So preparing a ‘DAILY PLANNER’ has helped me to stay active and disciplined towards achieving my tasks irrespective of my mood swings.
  6. Getting involved in internships virtually make us quite active with random meetups and this gives a feel of togetherness. Currently I have undertaken a Work Integrated Learning subject as an elective and started a position of ‘Online Program Officer’ as an intern with La Trobe Business School by getting associated with Dr. Geraldine Kennett. I truly enjoy each meetups with her and her team. It gives a feel that I have some group of people to motivate and brings productivity during such tough times.

University support services

We’re here to support you to feel connected and find support in a way that best suits you. Request a call via with the University’s check-in service and a member of the Wellbeing Team will be in touch to see how you’re going.

Counselling is free for all La Trobe students, and our Wellbeing team has put together a guide to looking after your Mental Health and Wellbeing during COVID-19.

There are lots of social events, peer mentor online meetups, workshops, buddy programs and more available throughout the Semester. Make sure you’re following MyLaTrobe on Facebook and Instagram to see what’s coming up, as well as the LTSU. Your weekly student email on Monday’s will have the most up-to-date opportunities to connect.