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Staying Connected: Gurtaran Johal

April 10, 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 Gurtaran Johal, Sociology Major

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? 

This time has definitely been extremely stressful in terms of constantly getting new information about what’s happening in the world. Ways in which I have been able to practice self-care is spending more time outdoors by going on walks around my neighborhood. I have also had more time to be with my family members and truly cherish our moments together since school can be exhausting and time-consuming. Lastly, I have been staying more connected with my friends by having virtual Zoom study sessions or simply joking around with one another. It’s the little things that have been helpful through this transition.

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 learning/study needs?

Ways in which I have been able to somewhat gain a routine back is by setting off certain hours of the day at which I specifically focus on school and coursework. I usually do this by taking a two-hour chunk at the start and end of my days so that I know I have been able to strictly focus on school. Another thing that has been extremely helpful is continuing to attend my professors’ office hours. In a way, this holds me accountable for my work and keeps me motivated to continue doing well in my classes. Lastly, one of the most important things for me has been staying active by working out whether this be by going for a run around my neighborhood or getting a quick workout in my garage. This has been extremely helpful in keeping my mind fresh and engaged.

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?

The best way in which I have been able to stay healthy is remain active. I absolutely love working out – going to the gym is part of my daily routine. Therefore, I have simply recreated that in my own house. I come up with unique workout routines to keep myself active, but I have also really enjoyed going on runs outside with my brother so that I can continue to get some fresh air each day. Exercise is one of the best ways that you can take care of your mental health, and it has helped me so much in taking care of myself throughout this process. In terms of relaxing, the best thing I have been doing is trying to keep a normal sleep schedule through which I can get at least 8 hours per night, while also taking the time to be with my family and myself. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with spending time by yourself, whether it be by listening to music or just being in your thoughts. This has been extremely helpful for me.

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

Ways in which I have stayed connected with my peers is doing virtual Zoom study nights and doing multiple FaceTime calls throughout the day. It’s funny because I think I talk to my friends more now than I did when I was actually at the University! In terms of my professors and advisors, I’ve really taken advantage of virtual office hours because it helps me stay more connected with the course material and continue to understand it in-depth. Lastly, since I am at home, I am always with my family, like always! This means that we have been able to spend more time together and be in one another’s presence.

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

Something that gives me a lot of hope during this time is how we, as a nation, have been able to come together as one team working together in fighting this virus. We’re doing this by staying home and protecting others. This shows how we are working as one community to ensure the safety of everyone in our country. Our country is known for being extremely divided, but we have truly been coming together in this time in order to protect each other. This inspires me because I know that our nation is stronger together.