Courtesy of The Bison

SEARCY, Ark. – This semester at Harding has been full of change, but students staying home after Spring Break was the biggest change of all. The new normal has left many students, faculty and staff members wondering: How can one stay connected while being so far away?

Technology has come a long way over the years, granting an easy way to contact people even hundreds of miles away. For those missing game nights with friends, GamePigeon on iPhone — or another collaborative gaming platform — may be just the thing to tide you over. GamePigeon lets participants play games such as pool, basketball, archery, mini golf, checkers and more through iMessaging. Friends can keep up the friendly competition through this virtual means.

Junior Davis Rowan has long been a fan of GamePigeon for fun with friends, but he said it is just the first step in staying connected through a time of separation.

“You play back and forth, and then when it’s over, you’re in the perfect position to continue the connection by carrying on a conversation with that person,” Rowan said. “It’s not the same as being with them in person, but it is kind of the best we’ve got right now, so I think you just have to look at it from that perspective and see it’s about more than who wins the game of 8-ball.”

In addition to virtual games, technology also provides many ways to gather with friends over the web just to catch up. You don’t have to be isolated from the friends you met for lunch or your weekly devotional group. An easy way to continue that time together is through video conference calls using platforms like FaceTime, Houseparty, Zoom and even Snapchat.

Seniors Ben Shearer, Alli Morris and Sydney Elliott have been active on Houseparty to ensure they still spend time talking with each other and building those relationships.

“Being on campus, and especially in the dorm, our friends just naturally assemble in a room or in the hall most nights and catch up,” Shearer said. “It’s in that setting where many of my fondest memories of college have taken place. While we can’t be in that kind of a space together anymore, it’s still nice to see everyone’s face and engage in those same kind of conversations through our phones.”

There are other ways to stay in touch with your friends besides those involving technology, however. Old-fashioned snail mail still works as a means of catching up with friends. That’s right — classic pen and paper can lead to each letter having the potential to become a sentimental and meaningful treasure from a friend.

A surprise, handwritten letter is guaranteed to make someone’s day. It shows a level of care and thoughtful intention. Senior Kaley Burks loved sending notes to people through campus mail and did not want the practice to end now that everyone is scattered. After seeing a friend do it, she asked for people’s addresses through an Instagram story with the hopes of becoming pen pals with as many people as possible.

“I thought it would be perfect just to still keep in touch with people and let them know I care and miss them without having to text people all the time,” Burks said.

An unexpected end to on-campus life for the semester brought a lot of change to a lot of students. However, opportunities to connect, encourage and communicate still abound. It may take some creativity and a few new ideas, but with a little work, all can stay connected during this time of separation.