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Staying Connected: Edgar Campos

April 9, 2020

Human connection is absolutely essential during a time of isolation. In our new series, "Staying Connected," we ask our students to share the creative ways they're keeping social distancing social, adjusting their learning and study needs, and staying connected with their peers, instructors, and family as the world waits out COVID-19.

A conversation with EDGAR CAMPOS, Sociology PhD student

It’s important to stay informed, but it’s also important to know when you need a pause from stressful news. What are you doing to practice extra self-care during this time? 

Not sure if everyone knows, but I am a pretty big extrovert (who knew right!?), so being in quarantine has been extremely difficult from that perspective. I am happy that I have roommates, but they are essential workers and get to leave to work during the week, so I have had to figure out how to keep my sanity and be semi-productive at the same time. The two biggest things that have helped me the most is exercise and cooking. I continue to workout at home first thing in the morning. I think it's important to do it first thing in the morning so that it gets the blood flowing, but also I do not have an excuse after that. The next is cooking. For those who had no idea, I actually went to culinary school and have been catering/food business since the age of 6, so being in and around the kitchen is second nature to me. I finally have the time to really make traditional Mexican and other Latin recipes from scratch now. It has been very therapeutic, and the best part is I get to have a drink and music on while doing it.  I should start my own cooking and culture youtube show now that I am thinking about, maybe call it "The Three Amigos: Tacos, Tequila, and Quarantine". 

There are also two apps that I have been using that I believe can help people. One is skillshare where you get one month free, and it offers videos of how to get into different hobbies.  I, for example, is using to learn origami (it's going horrible).  The other is deepstash, completely free, that provides small snippets of articles and books on how to improve various facets of life. You can pick up to three different areas to focus on, and I picked motivation, health and wellness, and time management. 

Of course, I am video chatting with friends and family when possible but I have been able to do more on my own than I thought.

Now that we’ve moved in-person classes to online learning, students have lost much of their routine. How have you “reimagined” your home environment to adapt to your new teaching/study needs?

Good question! Well, I have learned that if I do any work on my bed, it is going to be a disaster. I end up falling into this pattern of losing motivation and just watching the same videos on Youtube or re-watching Tiger King (white guys, mullets, and tigers, oh my!). Besides that, I personally have not reimagined my home environment. I have my desk in my room that I use, and I try to switch working between my bar top, kitchen table, and desk so that I do not feel trapped.  I have been able to remain somewhat productive when it comes to my class and writing, but reading has been a real struggle.

What I have reimagined is how I teach my course.  At first, I was terrified and nervous. It is my first time teaching, and I was still figuring out how to instruct when there isn't a pandemic.  I read this great article that a friend sent me called "Please do a bad job of putting your courses online" and it made me feel a lot better.  Of course, they do not mean to do a lousy job, but the article did a great job emphasizing that students have much more significant concerns than having the best online setup.  It focused on removing all the fluff and providing the bare bones of what every lecture should be and on turning down the performance of instruction. This requires to put more of me out there, so the class has been more of Edgar teaching the course rather than Instructor Campos from the UMN. Personally, it has worked wonderfully for me.  Every lecture, I wear a different sombrero and play a different type of Spanish music in the beginning and talk about something exciting or funny that happened during quarantine.  

As we shelter at home, some of the activities we love doing may not be options right now. What unique activities are you engaging in that help you relax and stay healthy?

It is tough to find weights at stores right now, but many stores do have resistance bands, which I highly recommend. Many apps give free bodyweight workouts with zero to no equipment for all levels, Home Workout, THENX, and Nike training are just some that come to mind.  I started returning to meditation.  Years of combat sports have shown me the benefits of meditation. Sadly since moving to Minneapolis, I really lost the routine of doing it. Still, during this stressful period, I try to meditate for 20 minutes at night.  It helps me sleep as my sleeping pattern has been off to an extent.

I have also returned to playing video games, something that has not happened in many years.  The love of pokemon is real!  Also, I stocked up on plenty of alcohol, so having a drink or two during Burger Fridays, Taco Saturdays, and Enchilada Sundays with the roommates has come in handy! 

This is a time to get creative about maintaining vital social connections. How are you staying connected with your peers? Your advisors? Your family?

I have had regular zoom sessions with many friends and peers.  Special thanks to Caity Curry, Aras Koksal, and Amber Powell for our teaching zoom sessions, email chain, and Facebook group in which we discuss how awesome our students are and help each figure out what to change/keep during this time.  We are learning how to be instructors, so this was quite the test, but I think we are doing pretty good if I do say so myself.

The Culture Club led by our fierce and incredible leader, Penny Edgell, has been a great source of keeping myself accountable academically while also hearing how other people are being productive and staying sane.  I have been in frequent contact with my advisor Doug who has a lot on his plate with being the chair.  With that said, he has texted me, called me, emailed me, and have had a zoom meeting with during this time.  We have discussed a paper we are working on together along, research/funding, my class, and just checking on my general well being.

Shoutout to all my wonderful friends in the Soc Department who have checked up on me and who I have spoken to either through text or Zoom.  Chris Levesque, Corey Culver, and I have watched NBA games through Zoom, and Chris organized a virtual happy hour of our normal get-togethers at the world-renown CC Club.

It has been difficult with my family.  I have a huge family, and while that is a blessing, the sad reality is that my family is old, so this situation does worry me.  I feel better about my family in Mexico than I do with my family in California as the ones in Mexico are isolated in the mountains.  I have several family members with lung issues and cancer in California, so I try to call them as much as possible to check-in.  Every other day my dad and I will share recipes or play "What is that song?" where we try to get classic Mexican songs.  I know for a fact that my neighbors back in California are not too happy with my dad as he continues to wake up at 6am and make noise.  He is welding and sawing things that early. That man is a trip.

What we need most right now are daily reminders of our better human selves. What gives you hope or inspires you during this time?

I do not have a great answer off the top of my head, but two things inspire me.  One is my students.  They have continued to show and produce excellent work giving the circumstances.  The discussion boards have shown great promise, and many can relate the topics and concepts in class to what is currently going on throughout the world in response to COVID-19. It has been an honor and a privilege to have such a great group of students in my first ever class.  These young individuals of all backgrounds and creeds have shown me that there is good to come in the future.

The other is the few times that I have gone out to buy groceries is that I go to the Latino grocery stores on Lake Street.  The two times I have gone, they have cumbia or salsa music playing, people are singing and dancing. They are doing their best to continue living in this challenging situation. In Spanish, we have a saying "Ni modo, la vida sique. Hay que echerle ganas" which means "Life goes on and we have to keep fighting," and it puts a smile on my face.  Like most small businesses, the struggle is real, but they continue to fight on, and so should I. Nothing but smiles when I enter those stores. That gives me hope that everything will be alright when it is all said and done.