It seems that Fall is finally starting to settle here in Southeastern Wisconsin. Fall is such a beautiful time of year here in the midwest. With the colors of the leaves changing and our Fall midwestern traditions of hot apple cider, all things pumpkin flavored, and American Halloween and Thanksgiving traditions, the Fall can usually be a fun and exciting time of year for our international students to get acquainted with American culture. Unfortunately, however, we are also living in a time of uncertainty due to Covid-19.
In normal times, the English Language Academy always wants to ensure the health of our international students as the weather gets colder. Many of our students come from climates in which they do not experience the harsh winters like those we see here in Wisconsin. So, we understand that our students might not know how to properly take care of themselves in this different climate. Last year, we wrote a blog post to help students with different steps they can take to ensure that they stay healthy during the Wisconsin winter season. You can visit that blog post here.
In addition to following our advice on the post mentioned above, we also want to make sure that our students stay informed and as healthy as possible as the threats of contracting Covid-19 still remain very high.
The Wisconsin winter can be harsh, especially to those who are not used to such cold weather. If students do not know how best to take care of themselves during the winter time, then they will be more likely to fall sick. So, it’s important to us that we help our students be well informed during this time when our normal flu season will be worsened by Covid-19.
So, here are some highly encouraged and recommended guidelines for this upcoming winter season.
Step 1: Make sure to get your flu shot (vaccine).
Flu (Influenza) season has begun here in Wisconsin. Flu season is the time of year typically between October and April in which contracting the flu is much easier because the weather, especially for those not used to it, can weaken the body, and because the cold Fall and Winter months here in Wisconsin make it very difficult to meet with friends outside. When we are huddled inside in enclosed spaces more often because of colder months, we are more likely to spread our germs to each other.
Getting your flu shot will not prevent you from getting Covid-19. However, it will prevent you from getting the flu and help strengthen your body’s immune system. Getting your flu shot (vaccine) means that you can eliminate flu as a potential problem. So, instead of worrying about two different viruses, the flu and Covid-19, you only have to worry about Covid-19.
If you have a doctor set up already here in Milwaukee, then you can get your flu shot at your primary care doctor. If you do not have a primary care doctor set up here in Milwaukee yet, then you can get your flu shot at a number of different places. Below are a list of places that you are able to get your flu shot.
Walgreens Pharmacy – Learn more about getting your flu shot here.
CVS Pharmacy – Learn more about getting your flu shot here.
Pick N Save – Learn more about getting your flu shot here.
Metro Market – Learn more about getting your flu shot here.
Milwaukee Health Department Immunization Clinics – Learn more about getting your flu shot here.
Step 2: Continue to follow CDC guidelines regarding Covid-19.
It is highly important that we continue to follow the CDC guidelines when it comes to slowing the spread of Covid-19. Many of our students are not meeting in person for their classes, however, some of our students are. This includes our Intensive English Program students.
It is important to remember that you could potentially be spreading the virus to your fellow classmates and teachers if you have Covid-19. You might not have symptoms (also known as asymptomatic) or your body might not being showing symptoms yet (pre-symptomatic). In both cases, you can spread the virus very easily without knowing you are if you do not take precautions.
So, remember to follow these guidelines:
- Wear a mask in class, in buildings, on public transportation, and any time you cannot maintain at least 6 feet (2 meters) of social distancing outside. Make sure that you are wearing and washing your mask properly as well. You can learn more about how to do this on the CDC website here.
- Wash your hands frequently – before and after you eat, after you have been touching surfaces in public spaces, and after using the restroom.
- Do not gather in large groups – we now know that Covid-19 is airborne and easily spreads in clusters. This means that we should stay away from large groups and gatherings until we have a vaccine. It could take months for us to receive a vaccine, so we need to make sure that we are taking care of ourselves and our community as best as we can. You can read more about the recommendations for gatherings here.
- If you do gather, maintain 6 feet (2 meters) of distance, gather outside, wear a mask, and do not share food or utensils. This will become more difficult as the weather gets colder in Wisconsin.
Step 3: Take care of your mental health too.
It is common for international students to get lonely and to experience some confusion when they first arrive in the United States. This is what we call culture shock, and it is completely normal. When you move to a new country, you have experiences where you might not understand some of the culture and where you might not know how to best connect with people. This might cause loneliness, confusion, and tiredness. This is normal, and we want to help you by encouraging you to stay interacting with people as much as possible with precautions. (You can learn more about culture shock by reading this article here.)
Additionally, winter in Wisconsin can be a lonely time. We get much less sun in the winter, and this can affect your body and your mind. When your body gets less sun, it doesn’t get enough Vitamin D. Not getting enough Vitamin D can affect both your physical and mental health. You might feel lonely or isolated, and you might be more likely to get sick.
Make sure to stay in contact with people as much as possible during this difficult pandemic time. This means making sure that you continue to go to class. Not only is this good for your English and usually is required by your visa status if you are an F-1 student, but this social interaction will help keep you connected to people during the winter.
Covid-19 makes it harder to gather with groups of people, especially as it gets colder outside. So, you can stay in contact with people by attending virtual events on campus and hosted by the English Language Academy. You can follow us on our social media channels to learn more about these events. You can learn more about campus events by going to the Student Involvement website here.
Virtual interaction can be tiring though, especially if all of your courses are online as well. So, another alternative would be to form a pandemic pod bubble. A pandemic pod bubble is a group of people who do not live in the same place that decide to socially interact with each other and only each other. It is important that you set rules for your pod bubble. You will want to make sure that the other group of people you are meeting with are being careful and following CDC guidelines as well. This will help you to slow the spread but will also help you stay socially interactive during this difficult time. As the Wisconsin winter settles in, social interaction is especially important during normal times because winters can be difficult here. However, with a pandemic mixed in with the winter, it will be even more difficult.
Follow these steps to make sure that you stay healthy during the winter and the Covid-19 pandemic.
If you feel that you are struggling with your physical or mental health, as a UWM student, you have full access to Norris Health Center here on campus. You can contact them here to get the help that you need. If you need help getting in contact with the Norris Health Center, you can email the English Language Academy at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we will assist you.