It is no secret the COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically changed the way people around the world interact with one another. Humans crave social interaction, and Mississippi State University students are no different. Students have had to get creative in order to stay connected with each other and finish out the school year strong in the midst of quarantine.
In order to prepare for last week's final exams, some MSU students turned to group study sessions over video-calling websites such as WebEx, Zoom and Google Hangouts. Alex Hegman, a junior animal and dairy science major, reflected positively on a cell biology group study session she conducted.
"The three of us usually meet up to study for tests, so it was still great to be able to meet and discuss topics that we weren't sure about," Hegman said.
For students involved in Greek life, there were numerous events scheduled for the remainder of the semester which fell victim to cancellation. However, some sororities and fraternities continued with weekly chapter meetings and even held formal events over video call.
Haley Palmer, a sophomore communication major and social chair for Alpha Delta Pi Epsilon Eta, enjoyed keeping up with her sisters during the quarantine in this way.
"We have sisterhood events, and it is such a fun way to keep us all connected," Palmer said.
Virtual game nights have also gained popularity during social distancing. For example, many students have hosted Jackbox games over Zoom. Jackbox is an online gaming service which includes interactive party games such as Quiplash, Monsters Seeking Monsters and Fibbage. These games begin with the host sharing their screen over Zoom and commence as players input their answers through their smartphones. The students are able to play Jackbox while also seeing each other's faces and talking to one another.
Zoom has also become a solution for students who are missing their weekly lunch dates at the Colvard Student Union, Fresh Food Company, The Marketplace at Perry, their sorority house or wherever else they may choose to break bread. Even though it is a different experience than eating at one of MSU's dining facilities, students are still able to enjoy meals with friends from the comfort of their own kitchens.
Another popular form of communication between students is writing letters. For example, MSU's Reformed University Fellowship has been assigning pen pals to students who sign up. This has helped students make new friends they most likely would not have met without RUF pen pals.
Aubrey Diefenthal, freshman wildlife; fisheries and aquaculture major, has written over 60 letters since the start of quarantine. She has been personalizing them with stickers, Bible verses and inside jokes to spread cheer and optimism in this unprecedented time.
"I've written to friends, friends of friends and to people in my community who I didn't know, but I knew needed encouragement," Diefenthal said. "Some people write back, and others don't. But they usually do. Either way, they are so fun to send out."
Students have been intentional in sharing book, film, music and podcast recommendations with each other during social distancing.
MSU's Music Maker Productions and Bulldog Bash committees have curated multiple playlists on Spotify and Apple Music for students looking to expand their music tastes.
Some MSU students have even started their own podcasts. Amelia Abernathy, a sophomore majoring in educational psychology, hosts "The Audacious and Unbridled Joy Podcast," where she features people navigating their journeys of faith throughout college. Charlie Steele, a sophomore majoring in business administration, is a co-host for "On the Way Back." His podcast highlights two high school friends who attend colleges on opposite sides of the country, at Mississippi State University and the University of Southern California.
In the midst of this time of isolation, students at MSU have discovered innovative ways to keep in touch with friends. As stated in the alma mater, "loyal friends we'll always be." This sentiment rings just as true when uttered from living rooms across the country as it does when bellowed from a crowded Davis Wade stadium.