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Blog – Embracing the New Normal

By Mallory Evans

As it has for all businesses, groups and individuals across the globe, the current coronavirus pandemic is impacting the operation of residential colleges, such as UC. All of us within the college community are being called on to be exceptional in the face of exceptional circumstances. At a time in the semester when students would normally have been planning their last social outings before the Easter break, many instead returned home to be with loved ones. The residents and staff that remain at college are adapting their behaviours to maximise the health and safety of all. While physical distancing may be a way of life, for now, social separation certainly is not, and the UC community in fact remains as strong as it’s ever been, thanks to the hard work of college leaders and strength of spirit shown by our staff and students.

Together, Apart

As universities have largely transitioned online, UC has remained on top of the curve, while working to ‘flatten the curve’ of COVID-19, by introducing digital tutorials, consults and mentor meetings. This has meant that all regular academic and pastoral-care activities have been maintained online, or even extended, during a time when connection is needed more than ever. No matter where they are in the world, UC students can still access the educational and wellbeing support they need, while remaining engaged with the college community.

In addition to these online services, regular college operations on the ground are constantly being revised to meet the challenges of the situation, including increased cleaning and sanitisation of college facilities, adjustments to food distribution and the implementation of responsible social distancing protocols.

Online Bake Off
Online Bake Off

‘Whatever you do, do with a will’: Student Community Initiatives

College community leaders have also been busy innovating and have launched a new program of online community activities. While traditional High Table dinners in the dining hall are no longer possible, Student Club President, Jake Vernon Elliot, and Vice-President, Kathryn Hutchins, are keeping students up to date with college business through virtual High Table announcements, where they reveal a fun new challenge for students to get involved in every week. UC Snaps, a favourite college activity in which students recognise their peers’ good deeds by submitting anonymous compliments which are publicly shared at High Tables, have also transitioned online and continue to acknowledge community achievements while spreading positivity.

Students are being encouraged to interact directly with one another via online platforms and to get creative by making content to share with the college community. Group activities such as movie nights and bake-offs are being organised via zoom, so that students can still enjoy shared pursuits while maintaining a physical distance. Collaborative playlists have also been set up so that UC students can share their favourite music with one another, just as they would in the Junior Common Room. To encourage everyone to stay active during this time, the 2020 Sports Representatives have also been working incredibly hard to produce a series of boot camp-style exercise videos, which have become a huge hit with all members of the UC community, including the resident tutors!

The New Normal

Of course all of these incredible innovations and novel initiatives are creating an experience which is quite different to the college life we’ve grown used to, but that is precisely the point. In the coming months, we all need to make big changes so that we can weather this storm together, even if we have to be apart in the process. We must recognise that our normal ways of living will have to adjust to a ‘new normal’ way of living. More than anything, these new measures reflect the strength and tenacity of the college community, which we are so lucky to be a part of in a time when community spirit is needed more than ever. So, while we can no longer embrace each other, together we can embrace the new normal.