Living in a social bubble

In order to manage the spread of coronavirus, it is possible that your university will place you into a social bubble when you start or return this academic year.

These social bubbles may be created within your academic programme and in other areas of university life, such as halls of residence. This article will cover some of the potential advantages of social bubbles for you, and offer tips on how to make the most of the experience and avoid some of the potential downsides.

A social bubble at university is a small group of students that you live with and/or that are studying on the same course.

There will be many potential advantages to being part of a social bubble, including:

  • An opportunity to get to know a small number of people really well
  • It can help support you with your academic work
  • It might help you feel more confident that your health and safety are being protected.

However, there may also be some issues that need to be managed, including:

  • There might be disagreements within the group
  • There may be differences in expectation about how the group should function socially and practically
  • It may be difficult, if you find you do not get on well, or have different interests to the people in your bubble
  • It might feel a bit intense at times – you might miss spending time with other people or time on your own or find being part of the group makes you feel anxious

Top tips for living in a social bubble

  1. Talk together, early on, about how you are going to manage as a group. What are your expectations of each other? How will you make sure you give each other space and support? How will you tackle disagreements when they arise? If your bubble is in residential accommodation, it might be useful to think about some of the things that can usually be challenging about living with other people such as noise, cleanliness and shared spaces. If you set out some clear guidelines for this as a group from the start it can help avoid future disagreements
  2. Try to have an open approach to being a member of the group. If you have found being in a group difficult before, you might want to use this opportunity to try to have a better experience and this might mean approaching it a bit differently. This doesn’t mean you have to become a different person. Just experiment with some small steps, such as asking people in the group about themselves or offering to take on a specific role or task.
  3. You don’t have to spend all your time as a group. Just because you are in a bubble does not mean that you cannot spend time on your own or talking to other people on the phone/video call. In fact, this can be really important, so that you have time for self care and time out from the group.
  4. If disagreements happen, try to resolve them at an early stage, rather than letting them build up. This is sometimes easier said than done but try to talk about any problems and think about how you can manage it as a group. Try to stay focused on finding solutions, rather than seeing to rehash old experiences or apportion blame. That might sometimes mean making a compromise, apologising or accepting an apology
  5. You might need to give it some time. Sometimes feeling comfortable in a group takes time, so don’t worry if it feels awkward or difficult at the beginning. It might not always feel that way.
  6. If you are struggling in your bubble, talk to your university as soon as possible to get support and advice. Your university is likely to have a wellbeing team who will be able to help and talk things through with you.

Find support at your university