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But How To Make Friends In Online College?

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When Abhishek and Nimisha stepped into their virtual campuses to pursue further education, there were no inspiring orientations in vast lecture halls or fancy welcome parties straight from Karan Johar’s filmography. Instead, they were greeted by dozens of strangers staring at the screen where they were supposed to socialise from the comfort of their own dwellings.

For the batches that studied online, there were no fancy welcome parties straight from Karan Johar’s filmography. A clip from Student Of The Year.

No new faces, only a few murmurs, and just one professor.

“I don’t consider myself to be a particularly social person. However, I enjoy hugging those with whom I have developed a sense of belonging and friendship,” says Nimisha, who is in her second year of studies at Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University in New Delhi. “I’m like the human counterpart of Olaf!,” she adds.

Socialising is a key facet of the college experience. “The social element of education is not optional but necessary if students are to succeed,” writes Joshua Eyler in his book How Humans Learn. Our physical campuses encourage the kinds of encounters that are crucial to the learning process.

What happens, however, when this experience is taken away from students and replicated in a computerised environment?

Abhishek, who recently enrolled for the F.Y. BAMMC programme at the University of Mumbai, describes his subject of study as more practical than other professional courses. His perspective on socialising, on the other hand, was a little different. “When it comes to building a vocation, networking and forming contacts are critical to me. The folks you meet on campus are a stride towards that, which regrettably has not been occurring for me until now,” he responds when asked how his experience has been so far since the virtual classes began.

As we all know, the pandemic threw these conceptions of geographic space into disarray, with classes, gatherings, and other activities moving online. While offline classes may begin soon, the best of the situation is still online and appears to be for the foreseeable future. Given that cohesion lies at the heart of the campus experience, we have to learn a way to develop a sense of belonging and connection in this online environment.

It’s both miserable and magical at the same time.

What Is The Best Way to Build Friends?

Despite the fact that the connection is formed online, researchers have discovered that the emotional and psychological advantages of these friendships are equal to those of face-to-face interactions, according to this article from the University of The People.

Let’s get rid of the authorities!

There are no external attempts made by universities to assist freshly enrolled students in socialising in a more informal setting. All of their interactions involve the participation of authorities. It’s disheartening because, even with that enthusiasm, it’s difficult to create friends online. So, what can be done in this situation? This elicited an unusual response from Nimisha.

“On these virtual classroom platforms, professors frequently leave the meeting at the end of the class rather than ending it for all of the students. This allows us to catch up informally for a few minutes. Discuss the professor, the subject, or anything else that comes to mind.”

What happens when students can’t socialise offline and have to do it in a computerised environment? Representational image.

Finding Your Tribe Amongst A Crowd Of Thousands

Participating in various cultural societies or clubs is another approach to make friends and socialise in a more holistic and engaging way. While it adheres to certain procedural standards, it has become primarily informal for virtual pupils. Students with similar interests are drawn together, enhancing the social and educational opportunities offered by different campuses. According to a listicle published by Cosmopolitan last year, one of the easiest ways to socialise in universities as a fresher is to join these clubs, they’re in existence for you!

“Even if people are allocated hierarchical duties in these societies, that type of demarcation was ineffective in the virtual campus. Because we were all dealing with the same online experience, it was a level playing field for all of us,” says Nimisha. When asked about her experience establishing acquaintances through college organisations and societies, she adds, “This may have added more to my social experience in college until now.”

According to a literature review published by Indiana University’s Journal of the Student Personnel Association, students who participate in clubs and organisations give their college experience more significance and so have much higher levels of interdependence and social skills.

However, different institutions in India have had diverse organisational experiences.

“To be honest, I don’t know much about my campus at this point. It’s just been a week since I arrived. If it happens to be, I’d love to be a part of specific theatre groups and circles,” Abhishek says. “However, I have not been informed of anything of the type as of yet. Our offline classes are scheduled to begin in November, so fingers crossed.”

How Are Campus-Veterans Dealing?

It’s clear how difficult it is to acclimate online and establish friends when you’re a new student. Is it, however, simple for individuals who spent a few years of their education offline before having to switch to virtual mode? Kartik, a Delhi-based final-year B.Tech student, talks to us about his experience.

“I believe that making new friends is one thing, but keeping them is another. All kinds of relationships must be taken care of,” he stresses. “We maintained in touch for a while after we were abruptly separated in March 2020. We experimented with a variety of online community games. It was enjoyable. But it wasn’t long before we realised we weren’t speaking to each other as much as we used to. Things began to weigh heavily on us.”

So, how does one make and keep friends online?

Participating in various cultural societies online is another approach to make friends and socialise in a more holistic way. Representational image.

The Internet Is Your Best Friend!

“I believe that more social media apps, such as Discord, helped me locate others who shared my interests. It’s a server-based system, so anyone from all around the world can participate, and we can start dialogues about topics that we’re interested in,” Kartik adds.

According to this data issued by Protocol, Discord’s user numbers climbed by 47% from February to July, and because of the COVID-19 pandemic, individuals learned that having a place to hang out with their pals is a strong thing.

In a similar vein, Abhishek mentions establishing acquaintances online with people from all over the world. Perhaps the fact that people come from such disparate cultural backgrounds adds to the intrigue of the discussions.

“I did script readings and other theatre-related activities with a group of folks I met online through various workshops. It was a fun time for me because I got to interact with overseas learners as well,” he says.

Are We Ready Yet?

Whew! Interacting with people in the absence of authority, diverting energies into cultural groups and clubs, online social platforms, and engaging with individuals outside of your immediate vicinity! Is there anything else we need to do to establish friends online?

“I believe it starts with acceptance. Accepting the truth that our world today functions mostly online, epidemic or not. As a result, whether you’re a student or not, getting over your fear and putting yourself out there is a terrific place to start,” Nimisha advises people who are new to the realm of digital socialising.

“Don’t be wary of the new apps on the horizon! Clubhouse has been a revelation for me recently. In real life, I don’t think I’d have met the people or felt the sense of community that I did there. Take chances, even if it isn’t who you are,” Kartik remarks.

While adjusting to your virtual college, making friends online can be simple. Purely keep up with the times in which you find yourself, and you’ll be OK.

Featured image is for representational purposes only.

Note: The author is part of the current batch of the Writer’s Training Program.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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