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Unprecedented Times: Dealing with COVID- 19

"You can always call people and ask them to go on walks with you! Making an effort can go a long way, and there's no shame in asking how someone's doing for example. You might be surprised by the responses you receive."



As you begin life post-Vanderbilt, explore the insights and advice from recent young alumni who have been navigating COVID-19 socially, and professionally.

Get dressed every day and take a walk before starting work in the morning. It will help with a routine and get your energy flowing. ’21

Network hard; it takes extra effort and people recognize it. ’18

Don’t be afraid to get on the phone or Zoom. Sometimes a question is too hard to explain over email and you will feel a lot more connected with your teams if you see their faces and hear their voices. ’20

I’ve been living with my fellow AmeriCorps VISTAs in this transition! This has provided both challenges and benefits, as we’ve been living, quarantining, and working together in pretty close quarters. Nonetheless, if a situation like this is possible, I believe it is certainly better than living and working alone and being completely isolated. ’20

You can always call people and ask them to go on walks with you! Making an effort can go a long way, and there’s no shame in asking how someone’s doing, for example. You might be surprised by the responses you receive. ’19

I had to onboard remotely. My advice is to schedule some time for one-on-ones with your new teammates so you get to know them. Also, I would ask my manager to meet once a week for maybe the first month to make sure you’re on top of what you’re supposed to do. ’16

Schedule “coffee chats” with colleagues because the typical coffee-room chitchat no longer exists. ’19

It’s simple—don’t be afraid to ask questions and reach out if you need it! Do what you need to do to ensure you are best set up for success. ’20

Be prepared to be flexible and keep track of the names of individuals who are there to assist you and their contact information. ’17

Don’t be afraid to reach out to your co-workers, even if it’s harder than it would be in the office. ’20

Make time to hang out virtually (or in-person if you can) outside of work hours whether that be texting, FaceTiming or setting up Zoom calls. It is definitely tough not seeing people in real life in those first weeks as the casual chatter in the office that helps us bond is reduced, but as we move into this new remote reality even post-pandemic, it is important to get those habits together now. ’18

An engineer’s first years are all about mentorship and learning how to do the things asked of you. If you have to WFH, make sure you’re pushing for amenities like a home office, screen sharing with other engineers to learn software, and frequent one-on-ones with teammates (not just your manager!). Honestly, I would avoid WFH if possible unless you anticipate a heavy software focus. ’18

Set up as many Zoom meetings as possible. Even seeing each other through a screen is better than not at all, and screen sharing can help you learn. I started a new job April 2020, completely remote for my first year so I had to adjust majorly. Ask questions and send in drafts of your work for your co-workers to check if you’re new since they won’t be right there helping you. If your company is doing any in-person events or has optional days in the office, go. Happy hours are a great way to meet new co-workers. Get a second monitor and mouse from your company if you can; it’ll make it so much easier to work at home. If you can have a designated space for your desk that’s not where you like to hang out, it’ll help you separate your work and home lives better. Even though your computer is there all day, resist the feeling you have to work at all hours. Treat it like you would the office; stay late if necessary on some days but don’t be working in the middle of the night (unless you’re someone who prefers to work at night and can do so with your job). Working remote can be great for this if you can do this; it’s nice to have a job you can adjust to your body clock. ’17

I always get anxious trying a new fitness class in person (barre, yoga, etc.), but doing free online workouts on YouTube is an easy way to try something new without any pressure! I’ve actually built my confidence enough with yoga that I plan to join a yoga studio once things reopen. ’18

Get a Pelaton bike. ’18

Set aside time each day/week for yourself—work out, take a break from the screens, go on a walk. ’16

I fell in love with yoga and Pilates through YouTube videos. Many of my classmates and I have also enjoyed taking advantage of the many parks in and around Nashville. I try to take a walk every day, if I can. It seems minimal and often like not enough, especially compared to my old gym schedule, but it is *something*. A lot of folks, I believe, are also becoming Vitamin D deficient as a result of never leaving their home. A little fresh air and sunshine can make a huge difference in whether or not I have a good or bad day! ’18

Going on long walks, hikes, and bike rides is always refreshing for me. I don’t really enjoy indoor workouts, although I miss swimming, so I’m avoiding those at all costs. I’ve had virtual happy hours with friends where we play games and chat. Also, I started learning new things like tai chi. ’19

Game nights are nice. There are a bunch of games that are free, too, that you can play with friends. You can do movie watching together now since there are tons of apps that sync your screens. I know some people have done online workouts and yoga. I just synced my workout schedule with friends so we can keep each other motivated. ’19

As odd as this may sound, TikTok dances are not only fun to learn, but they are also a great workout! Whenever I’m feeling a bit unmotivated and don’t necessarily want to go to the gym or do a workout from one of the apps on my phone, TikTok is my saving grace. There is always a new trending dance to learn and the catchiness of the songs brings me so much joy. It’s a 10/10 recommendation! ’20

Establish a workout routine and make yourself stick to it. After a few weeks, it’ll be programmed in your brain for good. ’20

I have found virtual conferences, meetings for professional organizations, and casual Zoom calls to be essential in helping me build and maintain professional connections in the first few years of my career as well as balance between my job and my personal life. ’17

Make sure you set aside at least an hour of your time to do some sort of physical activity. This could be walking outside, riding a bike, etc. Make sure that you aren’t just sitting indoors all the time because that can really take a toll on your psyche. I’ve started jogging and challenging myself to do different distances or walking new routes around my neighborhood. Things that can be done in line with the current health guidelines. ’19

Make time to workout and eat healthy. The better your body feels, the better your mind feels! ’18

Explore your new city or find new things to do in your hometown. ’21

Part of the challenge for me is winter activity. It snows up here, and it can get absurdly cold. Get good gear and try to still enjoy the outdoors. I’m currently learning to cross-country ski, which has really helped. ’18

Hit the gym! Get a dog and go for walks. Go hiking or do stuff outdoors when it’s nice. Make staying active a priority. When I first graduated and started work, I’d prioritize my workouts, so even if I was swamped at work, I’d pick a time to log off, workout, and then I’d come back to it later if needed. Working out over lunch is super easy if you’re remote, and if not you can grab a quick walk over your break or find a gym close to work. Find a workout you like, and you’ll be more likely to go do it. Workout classes like Orangetheory can be great because they’re hard, quick, and charge cancellation fees if you cancel within a certain amount of time, so it forces you to actually go and not skip out. ’17

Join a sports league or club in your city if you can. Great way to meet new people and stay active at the same time. Several of these are open to people of all skill levels. ’18

Work out, take walks, make free time (it might be difficult, but always make time for yourself!). ’21

It’s definitely tough, but don’t wed yourself to grandiose goals or routines. Thirty minutes here and 30 minutes of activity, whether it’s yoga or running or lifting or whatever else, goes a long way. ’20

Get a gym membership with a limited number of classes per month. It will encourage you to remain committed since you must either use or lose classes that you’ve already paid for. ’20

Setting an alarm and treating the day as if you were spending the day on campus was helpful in navigating the scheduling changes that have come with online classes. Schedule time away from your computer to give your eyes a break so that you can come back and focus on each lecture or assignment. ’17

It’s really hard, honestly. A lot of campuses are still closed, and if you’re like me and not big on libraries, a lot of alternatives aren’t open with seating yet. Create a study space that’s different from your relaxing space. In my apartment, that means keeping the kitchen counter for studying and eating, the couch for relaxing, and my bed for sleep. Get into a routine even when it’s tempting to take more breaks while you’re home. ’19

Even if you’re not required to, have your camera turned on during class. It helps to keep you accountable to paying attention instead of scrolling on your phone. ’18

Get ready for your day as you would if you were going into the lab. Put on the clothes you would wear, do your hair, makeup, etc. as you normally would. Keeping those routines helps with productivity. I also have a large whiteboard in my apartment, like I would in the lab or the classroom! ’18

There have been pros and cons. It’s nice not having to walk out to an 8 a.m. but just get out of bed and turn on my computer. Email your professor and TAs if you have any difficulties and try your best to attend office hours. It is easy to zone out during class, but most classes are recorded so you can always go back and watch anything you might have missed. Try to message other students if you don’t know anyone and find a group to work with. ’19

Don’t make your study space the same place where you sleep. Have an area specifically set aside for working or move to a different area so that you won’t be distracted. Also I try to ask questions on Zoom so that I don’t get too distracted, bored, or burned out. ’19

Set boundaries for yourself and others! You have to make a deliberate effort to separate work from home life—if possible, have an isolated work/study space to make this easier. ’19

Use your personal calendar to keep up with school. I put all my assignments, deadlines, group project meetings, etc. on my personal calendar and made sure to look at both my personal and work calendar on Sunday to prep for the week and make sure I know what to expect. It can be tough managing so many commitments, but you are a ’Dore and you can absolutely handle it! ’18

Keep connected with your friends and classmates, even if meeting in-person is not possible. We’re all in this together, so even if you’re an introvert, don’t be afraid to get to know people, even if it is just a few people at a time. Quality over quantity! ’21

Optimize your workspace. Make it functional and peaceful so that you can be as productive as possible. ’20

Give yourself grace. This is a new and challenging time for everyone. Don’t beat yourself up if you feel as though you can’t perform at your absolute best. If there’s anything I’ve learned from this pandemic, it’s to take time to rest and to make sure that your mental well-being is prioritized. ’20

Believe 50% of what you see, and none of what you hear, in the various forms of media. ’17

One thing that was hard for me with COVID was feeling like my life was “stalled,” like I wasn’t working toward anything. I decided to work toward my physical fitness and getting better at my foreign language skills, with the goal of being able to hike and travel once COVID is over. It can be so hard to feel productive, but just accomplishing one small task a day can help mental health immensely! ’18

Extend the same grace to yourself as you do to others. We are all doing our best to make things work! ’18

Always be yourself, be kind and loving, and have faith. We are here to make a difference and improve our world. :) You’re here for a reason. :) If all you can do some days is something small, then that’s good enough. Try your best to stay engaged with others and focused on schoolwork even though it’s super hard. If you need help or are struggling, you are definitely not the only one. I think most people are struggling, at least in some way, so you aren’t alone. ’19

You have a phenomenal education, and you are prepared to succeed and adapt to all of the challenges that you have and may encounter. Give yourself space to feel all of the very valid emotions that have come with the major life changes this year and seek help if you are feeling overwhelmed. ’17

Try not to spend as much money as I do on food delivery. ’20

Remember that there are people who care about you; stay in contact with friends and loved ones; avoid looking at the news 24/7; try taking up a new hobby such as journaling to help you process your feelings during these times. ’19

We are all going through a massive lifestyle transition, and it is OK to feel unbalanced at times. This is new to all of us and you are not the only one, so make sure to connect with your network as a source of support. ’18

Keep an open mind. Focus on solutions, rather than problems. ’18

Don’t let compassion fatigue become compassion erosion. ’19

People love you and care about you. Everyone wants to see you succeed, and more people than you think are happy to help you achieve your goals. Keep your head up and don’t be too hard on yourself. You’ve gotten this far; don’t give up! ’20