An illustration of two people being socially distant yet still social
There are several ways in which you can still be social during a pandemic. (Illustration by June Le, Minneapolis College of Art and Design)

How To Be Social During a Socially Distant Semester

While this fall may not allow students to participate in sporting events or attend parties, there are still ways for you to interact with your friends.

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An illustration of two people being socially distant yet still social

While this fall may not allow students to participate in sporting events or attend parties, there are still ways for you to interact with your friends.

As many colleges open their doors to students for in-person classes, it’s clear that schools will not operate like they used to. Many, myself included, are wondering — what will a semester without parties or sports events look like? Will there be a social life? Luckily, there’s a number of ways students can be social while still maintaining that six-feet distance.

Outdoor Activities

The outdoors is one of the best places to be during COVID-19. According to most experts, COVID-19 transmission is quite low outdoors, so take advantage of the nice weather while it lasts!  Here are some ideas for socially distant outdoor gatherings, weather permitting.

1. Outdoor movies

While many movie theaters are starting to reopen, outdoor movies are a great way to be social while still reducing the risk of COVID-19. In fact, many companies have capitalized on this; Walmart, for example, is converting many of its parking lots into movie theaters. If you don’t have an outdoor movie theater in your area, you can make your own!  Over the summer, I invested in a projector and it has been a great way to facilitate socially distant get-togethers.

2. Walking/Hiking

Do you want to get away from campus for a bit? Sometimes, just walking off school grounds for an hour or two can be a nice way to see friends and get a break from work. If you do decide to stroll into a nearby town, make sure to wear a mask and stay six feet apart from residents just to be safe. If you’re feeling super adventurous, and or have a car accessible, you could also look up hiking trails within a reasonable distance. I just found one that leads to a waterfall, and I couldn’t be more excited.

3. Picnics

I’ve been having socially distant picnics all summer, and am not planning on stopping them while I’m at college. One of the things I like is that with picnics, you can easily control the physical distance between you and other people. In terms of food, there’s a number of things you can do. You can order food, prepare food for yourself or even turn the picnic into a potluck (with sanitary measures, of course). You can also skip the food and just bring blankets to hang and chat.

4. Socially-distant sports

Want to see your friends and also get a workout in? There are a ton of outdoor sports that are super conducive to social distancing. Tennis, baseball, volleyball and frisbee are all sports that can be played while maintaining distance between players. Additionally, although I wouldn’t classify biking or running as sports per se, they’re great socially distant activities to do with friends.

5. Scavenger Hunt

Although it may seem silly and childish, scavenger hunts are a super fun activity to partake in with friends with or without a pandemic occurring. Either take a random list from the internet, or create your own. Scavenger hunts can be done either individually or in pairs/teams (with proper distance).

Indoor (Virtual) Activities 

Once it gets colder, it’ll be harder to spend time outdoors with friends. However, there are many ways, primarily online, to stay social without having to brave the cold.

1. Zoom game night

Zoom game nights are a really fun way to stay connected with friends from the comfort of your home. There are all sorts of games that you can play by sharing the screen or by downloading an app on your phone. My personal favorites are Cards Against Online (the online version of Cards Against Humanity) and Psych! by Ellen DeGeneres, but I’ve heard that Jackbox Games like Quiplash are a lot of fun too.

2. Trivia nights

Whether it’s trivia about geography, pop culture or your friends (I highly recommend), trivia is an easy activity to do online. It can be orchestrated in a number of ways; for instance, there are trivia-specific websites like QuizWitz and TimeOut. I personally have used Kahoot, but I know that PowerPoint and other websites can be just as effective and fun.

3. Netflix party

A relatively new feature of Netflix, Netflix Party is a Chrome extension that allows you to watch movies or TV shows with your friends. Not only does it synchronize users’ screens, but it also has a group chat function so that you and your pals can insert comments, almost as if you were watching in person. Want to group watch something that’s not on Netflix? Some other streaming services have created almost identical features; there’s now a Hulu Watch Party, Disney Plus Party and even an Amazon Watch Party.

4. Happy Hour

If you’re really missing parties and bars (and are over 21, of course), try and set up a Zoom happy hour with some friends. Although it’s not the same as all drinking together, you can still play some fun drinking games and hopefully feel some sense of college normalcy. You can also turn it into a little mixology class, and experiment with different kinds of cocktails. The possibilities are endless!

5. Book club

A common complaint among college students is that we never have enough time to read for fun. What better way to solve that issue than a virtual book club? Virtual book clubs are a great way to not only engage with friends, but to hold each other accountable for reading. Additionally, if you’re looking to continue your anti-racism reading throughout the school year, this is a great way to do so.

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