The pandemic has changed the way education is taught this academic year—that includes student life too. We ask several student organizations what their insights are and how they are adapting to this “new normal.”
The college landscape this academic year has shifted dramatically, with the pivot to online learning and the return to campus still up in the air. This did not stop many student organizations from finding ways to adapt and continue their roles across different universities in the Philippines.
They have the difficult task of finding a way to adapt to online learning and maintain the well-being of their members during a pandemic. As many students turn to these organizations as their way of meeting people or a stress-reliever from academics, this model is being reinvented given our remote setup.
Given the current academic setup, we asked several student organization leaders their insights into the “org life” and what lessons they are getting.
Many student organizations have made it a priority to emphasize the mental health and well-being of members. Many variables cannot be controlled during these times, thus a culture of patience, flexibility, and adaptability is being instilled by these groups through the activities they do this semester.
A challenge for many organizations today is how to keep members engaged. Given that face-to-face interactions and social engagements will not be allowed soon, meeting new people and keeping in touch with people have proven to be difficult in terms of coordination, communication, internet connectivity, etc. Organizations are trying to be creative to find a solution to this by using different video platforms such as Google Meets or Zoom to do ice-breakers, creative backgrounds, and challenges.
According to a senior manager of the UA&P Project Management Team, Bea Elizaga, “There are no paradigms or blueprints for this time; but where there is change, there is an opportunity. A new landscape with no rules means being a pioneer not in spite of, but because of the changes.
It’s a matter of realigning your own purpose, goal, and vision in the organization, bringing it with you in every call and every meeting, and eventually working through it together with your team”.
The shift of activity from offline and online has opened up new possibilities for many organizations such as Talang Dalisay and the UA&P Project Management Team(PMT). While it can be a challenge to host events for them to run smoothly, they have shown that it is possible to execute ideas like interviews, webinars, informatical materials for students to learn new insights at home and stay updated with the happenings.
Talang Dalisay has been active in holding donation drives, advocating mental health across platforms, and active in posting relevant materials about the current events. The UA&P PMT, meanwhile, in coordination with their University Student Government held an online event for UA&P freshmen to showcase the different organizations of the school in one day
Speaking to the assistant executive director of Talang Dalisay, Javi Del Mundo, he said, “In a world where the youth is shackled by their inaccessibility to certain resources, it becomes difficult for student advocates to further their agenda, particularly in a quarantined world. We can’t go out and do charity, nor can we meet up to discuss in-person projects. Despite all of these factors, the undying passion of the youth still remain and we’ve been doing everything, from online information campaigns to webinars, to stay relevant and push for a more accepting society.”
The younger generation is needed more than ever to push our country in the right direction. This is not easy though there is potential for this change even at the colleague level. Another senior manager of the UA&P PMT, Ethan Gabalda, stresses how impressed he was in the handling of the shift by the organizations online and making sure their members are okay as well.
He mentions that he and his friends even found time to start a new organization in UA&P named LOKAL, highlighting the different Filipino provinces and their culture in one place —a testament to how the younger generation could find ways even through hard times.
“What I love about my school is that all organizations and varsities are actually stepping up their game and adjusting to the new online arena. I do agree that it is more difficult because there are a lot of factors to consider and even the feeling of being in a group is hardly felt. Although a couple of new organizations were still formed, it shows that students are more eager to create platforms for students to ‘blaze their trail’.”- UA&P student, Ethan Gabalda
This time has opened up new opportunities for organizations to be platforms as well for their members to showcase their fundraisers, online business, and social awareness campaigns given most college students are looking for side hustles or passion projects now. More than their function as an organization, many of them have realized that they can serve their purpose as a citizen, student, or as a member of their organization even online.
It is very difficult for all organizations to start planning for the future especially when the status of in-face classes is up in the air. Questions are raised whether we will return to our campuses this academic year or even in 2021. In light of this, student organizations are inclined to stay prepared and continue to be flexible given the development in this pandemic. These organizations will have an eye on continuing their transition online and the other eye on the safety and well-being of their members. As for now, many are recruiting and developing their next set of members internally in the hope of preparing them for their tasks once everything resumes to normal again.