Students reflect on their on campus housing experiences amid a pandemic.
By Madrey Hilton
Many students at Saint Mary’s College can all agree that this semester has not gone as they planned. As a freshman entering college for the first time, they dreamed of moving into campus, getting to know fellow classmates through social events, and finally gaining the independence from their parents that is long overdue. But in the age of COVID-19, these plans have certainly changed. While some students have opted to attend college from home, others are attending online school from the dorms at SMC. But how has campus life changed as Saint Mary’s tries to avoid the spread of Covid-19 among students and faculty?
In early August, Saint Mary's sent out an email regarding the updated fall plans for residential students. This update included many changes to on campus life: “Lounges and common areas will be limited or closed; Residential students may not have guests or visitors in their room; The Recreational Center remains closed.” These are just a few of the adjustments made by the Campus Housing Department that impacted many students’ desire to live on campus. However, there are still many students living in the dorms who are experiencing college unlike any class before.
When asked how campus life is different for the students this year, Michael Zahn, a Resident Advisor living on campus, revealed one aspect of campus life that students are missing out on this semester: “One of the main attractions that is missed by a lot of people is the Rec Center because it was a great way to meet a lot of people and hang out with friends, but now students aren't able to do that.” The Rec Center is definitely a huge part of social life on campus, and without it students aren't meeting as many people, or participating in as many activities. While an important part of the college experience is forming connections and building friendships with other students, restrictions on social gatherings has made this much more difficult.
As someone who has lived on campus at Saint Mary’s years prior, Michael has noticed the change in social life and how it has affected students. Michael explains, “I feel like I don’t have the same connection with people because campus life has changed so much. Especially with clubs in past years they would engage students, but this year that is really missed and there's a huge disconnect.” Although the year so far has been unconventional, with COVID-19 bringing unexpected challenges to community building at Saint Mary’s, Michael says, “It’s a challenge I’m willing to accept and make the most out of.” Michael’s positive outlook on these strange circumstances is certainly inspirational.
Maddie Martinez, a freshman living on campus at SMC, describes why she decided to move into the dorms despite her classes being online: “One of the driving factors that helped me decide if I was going to live on campus or not was the fact I wanted a normal-ish first year experience.”
Being away from home is a huge influence on students’ decision to live on campus. Most freshmen long for the independence that living away from home will bring, even if their college experience will be anything but ordinary. Maddie explains that even though campus life has changed, she’s happy she made the choice to move in. “So far, living on campus and in the dorms hasn’t been as bad as I expected. I’ve made a bunch of new friends with people on my floor and I love it!”
As many students consider their options for next semester, it is important to know what to expect on campus if they decide to move into the dorms. There are many advantages and disadvantages to living on campus, and a lot of students may continue to do distance learning from home. As a community, the best thing students and faculty can do is remain optimistic for the future of campus life at Saint Mary’s, and take all the necessary precautions to stay safe and slow the spread.
Victoria Vidales '21,