• Amy Laskowski

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    Photo of Amy Laskowski. A white woman with long brown hair pulled into a half up, half down style and wearing a burgundy top, smiles and poses in front of a dark grey backdrop.

    Amy Laskowski is a senior writer at Boston University. She is always hunting for interesting, quirky stories around BU and helps manage and edit the work of BU Today’s interns. She did her undergrad at Syracuse University and earned a master’s in journalism at the College of Communication in 2015. Profile

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There are 18 comments on Dealing with Loneliness in College during a Pandemic

  1. While this is a great article, it is tremendously disappointing that BU has not made any personal effort to help freshen with this. Absolutely nothing. It’s sink or swim, so if you didn’t luck out with a roommate or hall mates, you are completely out of luck.
    Shame on you BU for Opting out of giving resources to this important issue and giving up on the mental well-being of your students,


    1. This is just not true. There are so many resources that continue to be available to support students, and new resources developed specifically for this time.

      Please note what just one office is doing that’s highlighted above. The Howard Thurman Center has regular events, book club, a quiz to help students identify their people and more…

      Staff are doing the best they can while also experiencing a pandemic.

      1. Based on what’s been said beneath, BU is simultaneously preventing socialisation with the threat of fines, and bemoaning that students don’t socialise. What help is “support” if BU undercuts said support at same time? Talk about left hand not knowing what the right is doing…

    2. I could not agree more. There are no efforts to help freshman meet people. My daughters roommate quit after 6 days and she has spent most of the semester totally isolated and alone. She has never even met her RA. The lock downs are way too restrictive and are detrimental to mental health.

  2. Thank you for drawing attention to this. It’s time that we allow the social aspect of college to happen. Stop writing kids up and punishing them. Educate. What happened to teachable moments? Mental health issues will effect more college students than COVID. For Elmore to suggest that parents can help is only true to a point. Most are hours away, and experience anxiety knowing their children are sad, lonely or worse not knowing when a child could cross a line to a darker place. This may only worsen during winter months.Face masks/coverings. Hand washing. Encourage activity & sleep. Allow them to safely enter adulthood. Parents have entrusted our children to be on campus. Inherent risks always exist. The virus isn’t going away. We need to adjust and learn how to live again.

  3. My freshman son is managing, but was disappointed to be dropped from the Snowboarding Club because he was “new” and they didn’t have room for new members given in person socializing limits due to COVID.

  4. We indeed need to adjust and learn how to live again.

    But, speaking only for myself here, there is only so much the humans employed by BU can do.

    Parents and the community want everyone to stay healthy and safe. Great! That means social distancing, masks, frequent testing, daily symptom checks, contact tracing, quarantine, and isolation if ill. It means no large gatherings and few in person events. Super! A lot of people (the burden falling largely on the Residence Life professional and student staff) are working around the clock to enforce these policies set by positions well above Res Life’s pay grade. (Conveniently, those setting the policies don’t have to risk their lives coming to the office daily or living with the students themselves. As every single person in Residence Life does.)

    This is what the experts say is needed to stay healthy from COVID. And it’s working.

    But then people want the traditional college experience. Friend gatherings. Club activities. Sports. Parties. Outings in the city of Boston. New friends. Exploration. Freedom.

    You can’t have it both ways at the moment. Zoom events are offered; the students say there is too much Zoom. We offer out door spaces; it is too cold. Staff seek out students as much as social distancing allows; people don’t want to introduce themselves to their own neighbors. Encourage activity and sleep; when have college students listened to anyone about sleep?

    What did you think would happen when you came to campus? This place is run by humans on the ground who love your students. We want nothing more than for them to succeed. But the virus does what it does. Students and parents need to adjust their expectations as well. Because as a person who has dozens of teachable moments with students every week, the day a few people have a gathering with no masks, the quarantine and isolation list goes up. We are, like every other place in the world, one large gathering away from a super spreader event. We must, without exaggeration, enforce these policies to keep the place open and everyone alive.

    Students need to step up. Yes, it’s hard. But we are in a social contract with each other right now. I, as a staff member at BU, will do everything I can to help you connect and stay healthy. And you need to comply with the policies in place to protect us all, and you need to move beyond your comfort zone to introduce yourself to people. There is only so much the institution can do; and believe me, the people on the ground are doing the best that they can with what we need to work with.

    1. I think the point is not that people want to violate the safety guidelines, or ignore the guidelines in order to gather with friends, participate in club activities, sports, parties, etc. Everyone has been making sacrifices right now just so we can have some semblance of normal, and I do not know of anyone who wants to erase all of the gains we have made just to throw an event with a large number of people. I think people are upset or dismayed because BU is being inconsistent and in some ways caring more on performative safety than actual safety.

      For example, I know that numerous clubs even when following BU’s guidelines are not permitted to allow any new members for safety reasons, even if the club only has 10 people showing up to practice and the maximum is around 20. I know people who were practicing sport outside with solely their roommates and told that it was unsafe and they had to stop, or face severe consequences that would not only affect them, but parts of the community that were not even involved.

      I do not think it’s fair to say students need to step up, as if we have not been already. I am confident that if you ask students what they do to keep themselves safe or if they have made any changes to their routine, they would tell you all the changes they have made in their lives to ensure we can stay on campus. I myself created a routine and schedule I maintain to the letter. I get tested the same time/day, go to the store the same time/day, have never been to another dorm room, have not been to a restaurant since March, only meet with the same four friends if at all, and it is exclusively always outdoors if we ever do. If I was asked to contact trace, I could do it all the way back to when I moved back on campus. And since club sports started again, I am being extra vigilent to ensure I am not participating in any other indoor club or activity in person.

      Is BU doing a good job so far? In terms of keeping numbers down and having a robust plan, absolutely, especially compared to our peers across the country. But where they lose people is when people cannot even partake in clubs or activities even when well within state and BU guidelines because Admin cares more for performative safety and not for the mental health of its students.

    2. Yes it’s me, I could not have said it better. Thank you for sharing everything I have been feeling.

      Staff are all working so very incredibly hard to support students. But there is only so much we can so in this pandemic. This year is not going to be a typical college experience (like any other year). It just is not possible. It’s going to be a bit different. It is not fair or equitable or just to ask folks to further risk the health and safety of the BU & Boston communities to provide even more in-person and “traditional” college expereinces.

    3. This is a shocking, shocking comment from a “BU staff member.” It’s incredibly cold from someone who obviously has no empathy for what these kids are going through — especially the freshmen. If this is the prevalent attitude at the school, no wonder the mental health system there is beyond overloaded and kids are reeling, right and left.

  5. Brave: having or showing mental or moral strength to face danger, fear, or difficulty : having or showing courage; antonym: cowardly, unheroic

    Thank you for calling attention to the plague of loneliness on campus, which has significantly affected my first-year student.

    You aptly quote “One of the best ways to combat loneliness, Fulford says, is to work at having at least one deeper relationship…” Why is it then, that First Years have had but one official BU opportunity to form friendships in person? Hundreds of First Years arrived on campus from across the globe knowing no one. For some, this was the first time they’d been away from home. Why was a quarter of BU’s undergrad population been so underserved in the basic yet crucial social component of meeting other students.

    You quote Dean Elmore as stating “This is the hard work of building a community for yourself,” revealing not only a lack of empathy and understanding of the gravity of the situation for First Years, but a tacit dismissal of BU’s responsibility to help new students make connections and successfully integrate into campus life.

    The well-intended yet patronizing “Advice from people who’ve been there” additionally ignores the fact that NO ONE has gone through the experience of first-year students in 2020. We may empathize, but we don’t really get it. In this astonishingly unique situation, why hasn’t BU redoubled its efforts to acclimate these students? Our young adults chose BU in part, as the mission states, the University “continually innovates in education and research to ensure that we meet the needs of students and an ever-changing world.” As our future reality in a Covid world is uncertain, we need more innovation & creativity from BU right now if students are to thrive in the increased isolation that winter will bring to campus.

    My student came home this weekend, desperate for human interaction after weeks of loneliness & depression fueled by exclusively online classes, no roommate, cancelled clubs, and nearly non-existent floor activity. He will LfA until January at least. As sad & disappointing as that is, do I find his decision cowardly or unheroic? On the contrary; I find it to be brave.

  6. Our students were raised in the digital age with cellphones, social media, and online communities. If any generation should be able to create community for itself using digital tools, it’s this one.

  7. This article has made me very proud of our students. Coming back to campus is indeed a lonely experience when compared to expectations of “college life”, but I feel it beats staying at home and learning remotely. Unfortunately, we underestimate the bravery of the students on campus even though they’ve chosen to navigate a minefield in order to get where they want to go. This calculated risk involves them knowing that they’ll be ridiculed if their foot slips. Having taught at BU for over 30 years, these students are commanding my respect in ways that other classes haven’t.

    No one has told them to come back to campus, we should be grateful that they made the effort based on their best advice, and we should make every effort to provide them with with the tools (material and emotional) to make the most of this learning experience.

  8. I am glad that loneliness has been addressed in this article. The problem is that the person who is experiencing this will likely not take the steps to get out of it – which is the issue with loneliness. It is a spiraling downward circle.
    Can we request the powers – RA or professors or seniors – to actually reach out to each student and check on them regularly. Kids taking online classes with no rommmates is good for physical health but is damaging the mental state of our darling kiddos. If each person who feels they have grip on the situation of loneliness can physically reach out to handful each it would make a whole world of a difference.
    My two cents from far away.

    1. Yes, Reva, you are absolutely correct. It is nearly impossible for someone who is in that deep, dark hole of depression to reach out. We need to be proactive in checking in with students, particularly freshmen, with more intention and frequency.

  9. If this doesn’t change, I am deeply worried that somebody is going to take their own life on campus. BU’s current experience (at full price, of course) is only a few degrees from solitary confinement.

  10. this article is useless and completely misses the point. read all of the comments on the parents facebook pages. it is the responsibility of BU to be pro-active and make the first move to reach out to students who are isolated in their rooms. So far the BU response is to put the burden of socializing on the students. You talk about what opportunities are “available” . and that it is up to the student to reach out. WRONG! we are talking about the students who by nature or who are already suffering from depression who do not make the first move or reach out. I will use your suggestion about urging the student to knock on the door of the RA. WRONG DIRECTION ! it is the job of the RA to knock on the doors of a few students on a regularly scheduled and repeating basis to ask them to get together!
    ig Bu does not step up to the plate they will have serious mental health issues–perhaps a few disasters–on their hands.
    also if these students do not transfer they will have negative memories of BU. they will NOT donate to BU as alumni.

  11. Great and educative article. I was actually looking for information here to publish for students on my college blog on how freshmen can make new friends in college without breaking the covid19 protocol. Your guide really provided me with the information i needed.

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