‘MORE IN TOUCH WITH MYSELF’
Nastasja Radovic, a sophomore media studies and production major, focused on improving herself by prioritizing self-care and landing a new job.
offee in hand, Nastasja Radovic’s morning starts on her small apartment terrace, sometimes journaling, sometimes meditating, sometimes just enjoying the autumnal air.
“I’m actually pretty proud of myself for how I’m doing,” said Radovic, a sophomore media studies and production major, about halfway through the semester. “I was super worried I would have really bad anxiety and just not want to get out of bed, but I’ve actually been pretty good.”
Although Radovic initially feared the COVID-19 pandemic would ruin her college experience this fall, she found a silver lining within a semester of turmoil by focusing on improving her relationship with herself and the world around her, especially by prioritizing self-care.
Laidback and optimistic, Radovic transferred to Temple University from the University of South Florida in Tampa, Florida at the start of the Spring 2020 semester, excited to be attending a school in the northeast. A nature lover, she planned to join student organizations like the Temple Outdoors Club and Temple University Snowboarding Club to connect with other students and hoped to explore her other interests, like art and thrift shopping.
Before she could fully settle into her new routine, school and life in March, the COVID-19 pandemic forced Radovic to pack her things and return to her hometown of Jersey City, New Jersey.
Radovic did the only thing she could: roll with it.
“Packing up to go home wasn’t the worst thing in the world,” she said on Aug. 27. “If it had been spring and beautiful out with a lot of things happening, then I probably would have been more upset.”
Radovic quarantined at home in Jersey City with her mom and brother. As she watched the spring and summer monotonously trudge by, she ran outside and worked on art projects while waiting to return to Philadelphia.
“You just have such a small space and the same people every day, so it’s just exhausting,” Radovic said on Aug. 27.
And in the dog days of August, Radovic finally drove back to Main Campus just ahead of the fall semester, where she and her roommate moved into an apartment on 15th Street near Oxford and reconnected with the city they hadn’t seen in months. For Radovic, this was a “reset.”
“It’s like a new life almost, everything’s different,” Radovic said.
When the semester officially began on Aug. 24, Radovic was enrolled in two in-person classes, two hybrid instruction classes and one online class. Her in-person classes were held in Charles Library and a television studio in Annenberg Hall.
“People need in-person classes,” Radovic said on Aug. 27. “It’s a big part of college, especially if they’re not going to reduce tuition.”
Temple’s Board of Trustees approved plans to freeze prices for undergraduate and graduate tuition for the 2020-21 academic year at their meeting in the spring in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Four days into the semester, Radovic felt slightly nervous Temple would fully transition to virtual instruction because the university was reporting 39 COVID-19 cases among students, a number that would only rise for a couple of weeks.
But as she gradually warmed up to her online class during the first two weeks of the semester, her nerves eased. She was also surprised she enjoyed the online portion of her hybrid Embodying Pluralism class, a dance course she thought would be nearly impossible to take virtually, even though it meant dancing with her laptop camera instead of with other people.
“I’m seeing that I don’t really mind doing a little bit of online,” Radovic said on Sept. 3.
Even though she liked her online course more than she anticipated, Radovic was not prepared for Temple to pivot just a few hours later. The university temporarily paused, before later fully suspending, all non-essential in-person instruction on Sept. 3 after reporting 212 COVID-19 cases among students. For Radovic, this meant she was facing another fully virtual semester, whether she liked it or not.
The nerves set back in.
“When I saw the first announcement, I was just really, really shocked and disappointed because, within one second, it totally shifted my idea of how the semester was going to go,” she said that day, an hour after finding out.
Radovic feared a fully virtual academic schedule would give her few reasons to leave her apartment — her new classroom — because she’d no longer have to do things like walk to campus, which could take a major toll on her mental health by making her feel trapped indoors.
“The body and the mind are not made to be in a box, staying home all the time,” Radovic said. “We’re humans, we’re not made to live like that.”
Specifically, Radovic feared working from home constantly would destroy her sense of organization and motivation to complete her coursework, especially for her asynchronous online class.
Over time, the opposite happened.
When her classes first became fully virtual in September, Radovic set aside specific days of the week for completing her coursework.
“I have more freedom to move my schedule around how I want,” Radovic said on Sept. 16. “I’m planning on getting all my work done within one or two days of the week, and then having the rest of the days to do whatever I want.”
She found a rhythm with her schoolwork by the end of the month and used her new schedule’s flexibility to her advantage by taking a job as a waitress at Pinefish, a seafood restaurant on Pine Street near 12th. She loved her coworkers and commuting to Center City helped her explore the entire city, not just Main Campus.
“On my way to work, I like to pop into a new cafe every day, or get food at a new place,” Radovic said on Sept. 16. “I like how Philly has a bunch of little districts, like a mini New York City.”
After finding a job, next on Radovic’s agenda was joining student organizations, a goal she’d been forced to set aside since she transferred to Temple. And as October ushered in crisp fall weather, Radovic finally had the golden opportunity she’d been waiting for since January: she attended her first Zoom meeting for the Temple Outdoors Club. She also attended a few Zoom meetings and even shopped in person with Thrift and Flop at Temple University, a student organization for those interested in repurposing and thrifting clothing.
Although she liked learning more about the clubs and their members, joining organizations wasn’t as fulfilling as she hoped because she felt like it was difficult to make connections with people virtually.
“The circumstances suck and they tried their best by holding Zoom meetings, but it’s hard to get to know people when only a few sign on for the meeting,” Radovic said on Oct. 14.
Radovic plans to try joining organizations again in the future, especially when in-person operations resume.
However, rather than isolating her from the Temple community like she feared, the lack of in-person activities on campus made Radovic more social by motivating her to talk with new people, not just friends, whenever she gets a chance.
“I feel like I talk to strangers now with more ease,” Radovic said on Oct. 14. “If I see people on the subway and we smile at each other, I’ll just strike up a conversation. I just take opportunities to meet people without thinking about it.”
As the semester stretched on, Radovic dedicated just as much time to improving herself as she did to connecting with others.
She started small in September by making little switches every day, like eating more intuitively and drinking more water. As these changes became habits, she began incorporating larger practices like meditation and journaling into her self-care rotation. Midway through October, this evolved into a morning routine full of introspection and self-improvement.
The routine started on her terrace with her cup of coffee. She did her best to stick with it through the end of the semester, despite the December chill.
“I’ve definitely become more in touch with myself,” Radovic said on Dec. 10. “I learned that we’re spending so much time at home by ourselves that, at some point, you have to look at yourself from the inside and start listening to yourself for guidance.”
As she reflected on the changes she made this semester, the challenges of adjusting to online classes and her growth as an individual, Radovic was most proud of how well she took care of herself this semester, both physically and mentally.
“It’s really about perspective,” Radovic said that same day. “In the beginning, I was obviously really frustrated with what’s going on, but I’ve learned to be more patient about it and stop trying to resist it.”
More than anything, Radovic hopes she’ll be able to attend in-person classes throughout the entire spring semester so she won’t have to surrender a full year of her college experience to the COVID-19 pandemic, she said.
“Once the weather gets nice in the spring, we’re all going to want to be outside and living our lives,” Radovic said. “I’m ready to get back to the real world.”