The pandemic has seen an increase in loneliness and isolation for many: young people transitioning from secondary school to college as well as students who are dealing with a gaping hole where their social life once was. It is very easy to feel like you are alone in college at the moment which can make productivity and motivation really tough.

I was struggling to see how to keep social when I was unable to meet up with friends or go to society events. However,  I made a big effort to try and go to some online society events and engage with new people.

Societies in all colleges are working so hard to try and maintain their status as a positive outlet for students. Their committees and leadership have come up with innovative ways to make people feel a part of a community despite being off campus. It is not quite the same as previous years but there are definitely lots of options for social events so don’t quit on your favourite society just yet.

A way that I have remained active is attending some social events for hobbies I already have. Some colleges have things like knitting societies or gaming societies that you can go to because you would be doing that activity anyway but this way you get to chat to other people with the same interests. The society shares resources and ideas which is a really positive way to connect with people without the scariness of small talk because you already have something in common!

You also don’t need college societies to stay social during the pandemic. I was so over the Zoom quiz by December but I have felt a newfound appreciation for it recently. My friends and I have made some with old embarrassing photos of each other and others with niche topics that we consider ourselves experts on. Despite having done quizzes before, everyone is in need of some carefree time with friends at the moment and quizzes are a good way to do it.

I also have a standing study session with some friends. Online learning can feel so overwhelming when you have no way of telling how you are doing or how to manage your time. Having a time that you set aside to study or go through something together allows you to learn from your peers and have a constant in your timetable. We go through lecture presentations together sharing notes or papers we found on a particular area and answering questions as we go. 

Another way I have tried to keep involved in college life is trying new things. It seems weird to be in a society with people you may have only seen virtually but I joined Niteline back in August and have made some amazing friends despite only knowing what they look like from their shoulders up! Getting involved seems rather daunting but societies are so eager to have some fresh faces. Joining a society or socialising with friends not only helps you to remember you have support but also helps you show support to others with your company.  

Society events do not have to be large undertakings that eat into study or make you feel under pressure. They can just be a coffee with some likeminded people. The act of chatting to someone about anything at all when you are feeling a little lonely can be so helpful. I often go to events and even if I don’t say much, I enjoy feeling a part of a conversation. Sometimes I make my morning coffee and pop along to a society event so I know that I am definitely taking time out to truly take a break rather than typing an essay between sips. 

I really surprised myself by enjoying online exercise classes too. At first I stuck to some tried and tested YouTubers but a friend asked me if I wanted to try an exercise class hosted by the college and it was so much better. The instructor took the time to talk us through all the steps and critiqued our form. Even when I had my camera off, it was really nice to chat to my friend afterwards and talk about what our favourite moves were or how sore our abs were!

Finding society events online is a little bit challenging especially as a first year because you are not sure where to look. Most colleges have a main website or list of the various societies that they have. Societies tend to have their own Facebook and Instagram pages too which give details of upcoming events, who their committee are, and what they do. It is worth having a quick search on social media for a society around one of you interests or something you want to try. 

Whatever your interest or passion is, make sure to not let it go just because of Covid. It is so important to stay connected and motivated during these times so why not try a new society or show up to a society event. You could make a new friend or even just break up your day a little. I am so glad I have had great organisations like the ones in my college to make me feel included in college life even from a distance. 

Trinity Societies

UCD Societies

Maynooth University Societies

DBS Societies

RCSI Societies