Based on the guidance of public health officials and the state government, the Center for Financial Independence will be temporarily suspending in-person events and personal finance advising appointments. During this time, you may still contact our office via email and we will be happy to assist you. Information on virtual advising sessions and events will be forthcoming. Please continue to monitor our website for any updates. For additional information about how Northeastern is preparing for COVID-19, please visit

Resilience: Personal Growth During the Era of Social Distancing

By Zaheer Ali, Personal Finance Advisor at Thrive

April 22, 2020

With global travel restrictions in place and social distancing guidelines to adhere to, now is the time to find new and creative ways to confront our challenges, stay busy, and feel connected to one another – all while staying committed to our own visions for the future.

I was sitting in Tatte with a friend of mine on March 14th, pecking away at a chocolate croissant on what seemed to be a lazy Saturday afternoon. Tatte was packed – as usual – but my friend and I had managed to secure prime seating by the window. At 4 PM, it seemed like every smartphone on campus lit up in unison with the unexpected email notification from the Chancellor requesting that every student living in a Northeastern residence hall move out by the following Tuesday. By 4:15 PM, Tatte was a ghost town.

My friend – an RA – mobilized immediately, aware of the chaos that was about to ensue. In the next 72 hours, it seemed like most people were making plans to either hunker down in their apartments or flee to their hometown on the next flight out. I fled. It’s been six weeks. In my old life, I would wake up at 7 AM and run 5 miles. Every. Single. Day. The last time I went running? Six weeks ago.

My days used to be scheduled down to the minute, my iCalendar a rainbow of colors depicting classes, meetings, interviews, rehearsals, and a myriad of other obligations. The only thing on my calendar now is a weekly reminder to change my sheets.

As the world tries to adapt to this new “normal” of social distancing, it’s important to maintain some perspective.

Yes, being stuck at home all day is incredibly boring. Yes, I wish I could sit on the patio at Earl’s with my friends. Yes, I kind of miss riding the Green Line. (shhh.)

Although I’d love to be able to do all of these things again, public health officials are in steadfast agreement that practicing social distancing is one of the best things we can do to help slow the spread of the novel coronavirus and reduce the risk of overburdening our already overwhelmed healthcare system.

After moving back home, I began my quarantine routine in a daze and spent most of my days lying in bed in a theatrically comatose state while watching Netflix, scrolling through Instagram, and dialing into my Zoom lectures. Putting my to-do list items off until “tomorrow” was tempting and easy to do. But soon enough, “tomorrow” became next week, next week became next month, and before long, I was spiraling into complacency. I’m over that.

Don’t spend your quarantine withering away! Stay active, bake some banana bread, read a self-help book, send a risky text to your crush… I’ve been using my newfound free time to checkout eBooks from the Boston Public Library and reading them on my iPad. I just finished reading Becoming by Michelle Obama and recently started Educated by Tara Westover. Westover was Northeastern’s 2019 commencement speaker and her story is an incredible tale of resilience and perseverance in the face of adversity. An eCard for BPL is free and you can register for one here:

In light of many Co-Ops and summer internships unfortunately getting cancelled or pushed back, now is a great time to learn a new skill! The best innovators, movers, and shakers are always learning and adapting to new developments in their industries, so having the mindset of a lifelong learner is a valuable skill to cultivate. I’m currently taking a SQL class through LinkedIn Learning, which Northeastern students can access for free using their myNortheastern credentials. Skillshare is another great online learning platform that can help you learn and acquire valuable new skills, with topics including photo editing, graphic design, and business plan writing. Because it’s difficult to predict what the long-term economic ramifications of COVID-19 will be, it never hurts to learn relevant new skills that will enable you to better position yourself for your dream Co-Op or full-time job once the crisis begins to subside. You can access both LinkedIn Learning and Skillshare at these links:

We are reminded everyday by public health officials of the importance of practicing social distancing. Although we can’t physically be together with our friends and family at this time, it doesn’t mean we have to be apart! Zoom and FaceTime seem to be the de facto ways to communicate these days, but apps like Houseparty and Words with Friends take digital communication to the next level. These apps allow you to play games with your friends and family in real time all around the world, with Houseparty also including an embedded video conferencing platform. Both apps can be downloaded for free on your device’s App Store.

COVID-19 and its global impact on families, communities, and world economies presents us with an unprecedented challenge. This is a stressful time for everyone and it is understandable if these uncertain times have you feeling more anxious than normal. That said, it is SO important for both your mental and physical health that you try and incorporate some form of physical exercise into your daily routine. I mean it! It could be something as simple as taking your dog for a walk around the neighborhood or running laps in your backyard. Go out, get some sunshine, and pretend the breeze you feel in your hair is from the wind tunnel between IV and Ruggles. Exercise may seem like a low priority right now, but you’ll feel so much more energized and in control of your life if you stay active.

The pandemic has caused consumer spending across all sectors to plummet around the globe. As you continue to settle into your new daily routine, you should set aside an hour or so to spend reviewing your personal finances and finding ways to reduce unnecessary expenses. Eliminating some discretionary expenses, identifying weaknesses in your budget, and locating resources and relief programs available to you will better position you to weather this storm.

What did your monthly budget look like before the pandemic? Has your income been affected? Do you have outstanding bills that need to be paid? Do you have an emergency fund that you can tap?

Although campus may be closed, Thrive is still operational and open for business, albeit remotely. We are hard at work designing innovative and exciting new programming for the fall semester and our Personal Finance Advisors remain available for virtual advising sessions. You can schedule a virtual appointment with one of our PFAs at Additionally, if you are facing economic hardship as a result of the pandemic,Northeastern University has a variety of resources and funds available for COVID-19 relief which you can access by contacting WeCare.

Stay safe, bake some cookies, and try and get some sunshine. We will be together again soon.