Fresh Perspective | Setting up for success this semester

Fresh Perspective is a biweekly blog about typical college experiences made strange by the COVID-19 pandemic.

By Julia Smeltzer, Staff Writer

For many of us, 2021 was a year full of incredible highs and lows. It was another year amid an unpredictable pandemic which forced us to go through each day not knowing what the future would look like. However, we completed our first semester of in-person classes since March 2020, and that is something to celebrate. No matter how hard or challenging this past semester may have been for some, at least we got a sense of normalcy back in our time at college. As we go into a new semester, there are a few ways in which we can prepare ourselves for the weeks ahead.

Since classes are held virtually until next Wednesday, we all are probably stuck in our homes and dorms wondering how we can stay productive and organized in a time when virtual classes leave us in bed with Zoom open on our laptops. That’s why setting a routine is crucial. It doesn’t have to be anything crazy, but something small such as waking up at the same time every day, making your bed and planning your work for the day can make your day so much more productive. The start of the semester can be overwhelming for everyone, so a simple routine along with keeping track of your assignments in a planner can help diminish the stress of the first few weeks of classes.

The pandemic has proved to us that things can change at any minute. We don’t know what can happen in this new world we live in, and the future of the pandemic is still unknown. Just in case classes stay virtual and we have to shelter in place longer than we had hoped, we must have ways to safely escape from campus and give ourselves a break.

Despite the cold weather, walks around campus or in Schenley Park are a great way to remain socially distant while getting out of your dorm room or house. In a time of virtual classes it is so easy to become hermits within our own homes, and just getting out a couple of times a week can majorly boost your mental health and you may even find a new place around Pittsburgh you’ll love.

The past year and even last semester brought challenging moments for all of us, so it’s important to check in on our mental health. This past year I lost two family members which took a toll on my mental health, and I had to navigate how to grieve for the first time in my life. In a pandemic, we all may feel lost, hopeless and lonely. And the stress of classes added on top of that is a great weight to carry on our shoulders.

This semester, make it a goal to do something for your mind, body and soul every day. Whether it is eating your favorite food, talking to a friend or going on walks, you must put your mental health first. It is a lot easier said than done, but there are a lot of great resources at Pitt that can help you get through these unknown times. The University Counseling Center is a great resource that many of my friends use, and it is free for Pitt students. The Stress-Free Zone is also available to students. With guided meditation groups and other workshops, this is an environment to let everything go and relax.

My last piece of advice on how to set yourself up for a successful semester is to have patience. Be patient with yourself, your peers and your teachers. We are all going through problems that we might not want to talk about. Being in college during a pandemic is hard, but the fact that we are pushing through and making the best of it is good enough. If you fail a test, don’t get out of bed one day or are struggling with your mental health, just be patient with yourself. No one would have thought their college years would be in the middle of a pandemic, but here we are.

As we are all here for some sort of degree, nothing should take precedence over your mental health and well-being. So take time to adjust and find yourself and what works for you. It takes time to get into a groove, and if you fall out of that, give yourself time to figure it out. We are living through unknown times and we must take care of ourselves, and each other.

Julia Smeltzer writes primarily about mental health and college experiences. You can reach her at [email protected].