New skills, new recipes, new fitness goals.

Motivated by the social distancing and quarantine guidelines that have resulted in separation from Hokie friends and campus activities, Virginia Tech students have dreamed up creative ways to develop new skills and pursue personal passions.

Read how some students are passing the time and learning in the process.

Cooking up culture

Renata Peña, a junior studying multimedia journalism, and her boyfriend, Jacob Labinger, have decided to cook traditional foods from their heritage. Peña is from El Salvador, and Labinger’s mother is from Hong Kong. So far, the pair has made arepas, which are South American ground dough pockets; fried plantains, a dish that originated in Southeast Asia; and pork buns, an Asian food made using a bamboo steamer. Pena and Labinger feature the recipes and cooking techniques on their own video blog.

“The way I view it is we can use quarantine to explore our heritage the fun way, through food,” said Peña. “It has been a really good way to keep ourselves entertained while also getting to learn how to make foods that we would never have had the time to make if we weren’t stuck inside all the time.”

Keara Henry is learning one new skill each day, including origami.
Keara Henry is learning one new skill each day, including origami, which is the art of paper folding. Photo courtesy of Keara Henry

Learn something new every day

Keara Henry, a junior studying marketing, decided to learn one new skill each day while she is adhering to social distancing and quarantine guidelines. Her list includes learning how to play poker, meditation, knitting, creating origami, and practicing yoga. Heary also wants to experiment with making some of her favorite desserts, such as creme brûlée and homemade ice cream.

“I wanted to make sure I would have something to occupy myself with so I could stay busy while doing my part to social distance,” said Henry. “It’s a running list and will probably never be finished, but it’s a way for me to look forward to the next day and feel like I have accomplished something, even if it’s as small as learning how to fold a fitted sheet.”

Maddie Tran is using her time to stay fit, improve her mental health, and step up her running ability.
Maddie Tran is using her time to stay fit, improve her mental health, and step up her running ability. Photo courtesy of Maddie Tran

Training in Remembrance

Maddie Tran, a junior studying business information technology, uses her time to stay fit, improve her mental health, and step up her running ability. Soon after she moved home to Oak Hill, Virginia, to continue her spring semester classes online, Tran began to map out a course for the 3.2 mile Run in Remembrance, held every year at Virginia Tech.

Tran, who has participated in the event every year since her first as a Virginia Tech student, decided that she would go the distance on her own on April 18, even before the university made the official announcement that the run would be held virtually. Tran also encouraged members of her sorority, Sigma Kappa, to commit to the virtual run.

Tran, who runs five days a week, also is training for the Hokie Half Marathon in September.

“It really makes you feel united with Virginia Tech,” Tran said. “When I first ran it [Run in Remembrance], it was one of the first times I really felt that I was a part of the VT community. I was really sad that it was one of the events canceled because of COVID-19.”

The virtual run “is a great way to keep the Hokie Nation united, especially at a time where things are so uncertain,” she said.

Tayo Oladele taught Zoom photography classes.
Tayo Oladele taught Zoom photography classes. Photo courtesy of Tayo Oladele

Photography class, Zoom edition

Tayo Oladele, a senior studying aerospace and ocean engineering, operates a photography business. He’s using his time to explore a new creative outlet - teaching Zoom photography classes. Last month, Oladele taught participants about camera settings, photo editing, and how to turn photography into a business and build a brand. 

He said he enjoys teaching people new skills and watching them grow. He’s also taking this extra time to listen to music and rest.

“Patience is key and really just pacing yourself is key,” Oladele said. “Enjoy this moment as much as you can. Rest and sleep because we might just miss this moment. The drive and need to get creative will eventually come, and you'll know when it does. Then you could take on all those hobbies you always wanted to do. I take walks, enjoy all the old high school songs I have forgotten to listen to, and just plan for the future.”

By Haley Cummings, Virginia Tech News intern