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Penn Admissions Blog

Staying Social During COVID
Shawn | April 16, 2021

With the introduction of safety guidelines as the world gained more information about the spread of COVID-19, several of us realized that most of our operations would need to be altered. Classes moved online, college students went back home, and college extracurriculars had to conduct significant readjustment conversations.

Towards the end of the spring semester, in an effort to become more involved in a club I grew to love, I found myself in the role of Social Director for 180 DC. 180 DC is a consulting club that is focused on projects with a focus on social impact. I chose to join 180DC because I was an idealistic teenager, and I wanted to firsthand experience with the real world to ground my idealism while still contributing towards social good. Being the Social Director for 180 meant that I was responsible for the social aspect of our operations, which is something that we pride ourselves on. When I ran for the position, in late March, I expected to be responsible for the social aspect of the club when the world returned to normal by the Fall ’20 semester. This would include planning social events such as game nights, karaoke sessions, formals, and other excursions. However, as well are all extremely aware, we have not returned to our “normal”.

Our club is lucky in that our main operations are not entirely affected by maintaining safety guidelines given the fact that we are able to conduct General Body Meetings, project meetings, new-member mentorship, alumni panels, and presentations online. However, we are not able to get together for dinners, game nights, homecoming brunches, and other social events.

So, most of my days, when I take my daily walks I am usually thinking of ways to get people together online in order to maintain a sense of community, even though we are not able to interact in person. In all honesty, I came back from some of my walks without any ideas because I was operating through unprecedented circumstances. There were no past resources for how to maintain community online, and there were sparse resources online as well.

Most of what I did was trial and error, there was a lot that I learned along the way, and there were many hypotheses that I was right about initially. I learned very quickly, through my own personal experience, that people who were accustomed to in-person interactions may prefer in-person events with their pod over virtual interaction with those outside. Therefore, I sought to limit the number of socials and keep it to key events because I did not want to add one more Zoom meeting to people’s calendar. I also learned that getting everyone to contribute largely is better than conducting things on your own. This means that when everybody is contributing to the event, it makes for more organic interactions because everyone has a stake in the event going well.

Despite the growing pains, I am proud to say that we have been able to host multiple events online that have sought to add to our community virtually. We have had weekly new-member mentorship sessions which allow people to learn new skills together, and projects where people get to make a considerable impact as a team. Skills range from creating slide decks, interview prep, networking tips, ad presentation tips, while projects depend on o what client project people get set up with. Moreover, we have been able to add to our lineages to increase community between classes in the organization, and happy hours and game nights where we were able to catch up with each other in ways we weren’t able to such as running into someone on Locust Walk.

There is so much that I still have to learn, and there is a whole semester left of adjusting left to do but I am happy, that I get to pass on this knowledge to my successor so that they have it somewhat easier than I did.

About the author

Hey! My name is Shawn. I am a student in the School of Engineering and Applied Science pursuing a degree in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and a minor in Engineering Entrepreneurship. Outside of class, I am a part of the Penn Club Swim team and the 180 Degrees Consulting Group on-campus. On the weekend you can often find me off-campus exploring other parts of Philadelphia, particularly Center City and Old City often looking for food, new thrifting and vintage shopping opportunities, or interesting places to take photos.

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