For the navigators: Romance and friendship as campus reopens

For now, we’re going to have to let go of our preconceived notions of what this Fall semester was supposed to look like.

As cuffing season approaches and Venus, the planet of emotional attachments and relationships enters the sign of passionate and courageous Leo, some may be feeling bold enough to shoot their shot with the masked-up cutie sitting three yardsticks away from them at Marston. But for the UF populace still confined to their homes, the desire to hit the streets grows unbearable. 

Even as a person thriving in perpetual singledom, I’ve caught myself gazing out my window this past summer like a heroine in a Brontë novel, longing for something more than the humdrum of everyday life. It'd be easy enough to hose myself down in antiseptics and skulk around Turlington Plaza searching for food, water, atmosphere or all of the above — but if there’s one thing I’ve learned throughout 2020, it’s how to manage my expectations.

I don’t mean to burst anyone’s metaphorical bubble, but campus isn’t the bustling, bike-addled, pseudo-metropolis we remember it being, which is making new relationships both platonic and romantic hard to come by. 

Emelia Ulrich, a 20-year-old UF instrumental music education and music composition sophomore, is having a hard time adjusting to the eerie stillness that currently pervades campus. Everyone within the college of music intends to follow the new safety guidelines, but standing six feet apart from her peers during practice is pretty strange, she said. 

“There aren’t a lot of music students in the music building at the same time, even if they are on campus,” Ulrich said. “So it does feel emptier.”

Ulrich feels that the welcoming ambiance within the college of music made starting out at UF easier, and the intimate classroom settings encouraged her to bond with the peers she works alongside today. In her eyes, everyone is still just as friendly, but I can’t imagine wearing masks and standing six feet apart from one another aids the initial awkwardness new students may feel. 

Unfortunately, meeting new people isn’t as simple as going to Midtown on Wednesdays and seeing where the evening takes you anymore. This is why, for Ulrich, class GroupMe chats possess newfound importance and shouldn’t be underestimated by students, regardless of whether their classes are in person or online. 

“You have to have more intent to create camaraderie among everyone around you,” Ulrich said. “If someone isn't super comfortable with social media, I would assume they need to get a little more control with it if they want to interact with people.” 

For now, we’re going to have to let go of our preconceived notions of what this Fall semester was supposed to look like. The only people you might get to know this semester are the same ones you’ve been dissociating through Zoom lectures with this past week. 

Pamela Mireles, a 26-year-old UF musical arts doctoral student, asks that if you’re considering venturing to campus even if you don’t necessarily have to, you recognize that your decisions affect those who rely on UF staying open for their education and livelihood. 

In general, if we want to be hanging out with friends, or even dating this fall, we’ve got to make sure we’re communicating openly and frequently among those in our social circles. 

“Just have communication with the people you want to hang out with,” Mireles said. “Try to be conscious that there are people who need to take care of themselves, so please be careful.” 

Mireles, in all her doctoral student wisdom, advises students looking to safely expand their social circles to join clubs, follow them on social media, and try to attend virtual events. Some of the student-run organizations have been doing a great job of keeping members engaged from a distance, she said. 

I understand we all have needs; I’m not the patron saint of celibacy. But we’ve just got to keep using the tools we’re lucky enough to have at our disposal to hopefully find new ways of connecting with one another. Who knows, if one thing leads to another, you could find yourself on a painfully awkward Zoom date with a fellow member of the underwater basket weaving society! No? Just me? Alright, fine, duly noted. 

 

Contact Lonnie at [email protected]. Follow them on Twitter @lonaald.

Avenue Staff Writer

Lonnie Numa is a staff writer for The Avenue. They are a senior English major at UF and have been at The Alligator since Fall 2019. They are an avid rollerskater and has been learning how to skate backwards throughout quarantine!