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How to Go Back to School During a Pandemic

By now, your college has likely made a decision about what “going back to school” will look like. There’s a lot of confusion, anxiety, and trepidation about how this is going to go.

Before you start your academic year, here are a few things to keep in mind that may help:

1. Read your school emails. Your school’s administrators are making decisions daily and things could change very rapidly. Don’t rely on your friend’s interpretation or the summary on social media. Take the time to read these emails so you know what’s going on. When you read it on your own, you can attach your OWN emotion to it instead of piggy-backing on someone else’s feelings.

2. Get your study spaces ready. If college libraries are open, that can be an option. In addition to that, I recommend that you pick another location that is off-campus and away from home (pending your state’s phase and your comfort level). Start scouting these options now. How is your local community library enforcing masks and distancing? Is there a local community or undergraduate college which may have a quiet library? If you feel safe to study outside of your home, having a go-to location will be key. At home, figure out where you will work. What worked well for you during the spring semester? Do you need to buy a light, chair, or lap desk? Do as much preparing as possible so you can feel settled when classes begin.

3. Beat the rush and buy your supplies now: extra masks, hand sanitizer, wipes, extra chargers, and headphones. Get a full back-to-school shopping list here.

4. Limit in-person ‘extracurricular activities.’ We are not in 2019 anymore. Going to parties and other crowded events brings so much risk back to your family and colleagues.

5. Embrace flexibility as your new middle name. You will likely be asked to change many things during this academic year – courses, rotations, preceptors, timing of events, etc. Your ability show flexibility during these times will be an asset. If you think about what’s going on as ‘this is happening to all of us as a team’ instead of ‘why is this happening to me’ then you have the right perspective.

6. Give grace to those around you. It’s easier said than done, but try not to take things personally. We’re all experiencing new human behaviors right now. According to this Harvard Business Review article, if someone is short with you, it’s probably not because they intended to be disrespectful or rude. If you now receive a strangely short email or text, it’s probably because they are responding to an exponential amount of correspondence compared to before.

Lastly, let’s look at this from 30,000 feet. You are seeing health care and educational leaders under extreme stress – what are your biggest takeaways? What are the pros/cons of the decisions they are making? Are the decisions patient-centered and student-centered? As a future health care professional, what contribution do you want to make to help your community? The best strategy for going back-to-school is reminding yourself that you are in a profession of serving others. Consider this your first test.

Shout-out to the VCU School of Pharmacy for sharing the previous blog on LinkedIn: Virtual Midyear Meeting: How to Start Preparing Now!

Season 1 of the podcast is complete with 10 interviews of pharmacy students – which one was most inspiring to you? For Season 2, I’m looking for the following guests: current residents, residency program directors, APPE preceptors, and students who mentor younger students. Contact here!

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