Written by: Tazrean Hossain
On August 26, I moved into my college dorm. I was surprised to make it that far. The entire week, I half-expected Wellesley to cancel, to say that there were too many cases in the country and we had to go back home. When I moved in that day, I was required to quarantine in my room until I received my negative test result. Though this gave me a full day and a half to unpack my things, I couldn’t bother–I was prepared to be sent back home at any moment. The fact that we made it, not only through that first month but till the end of the semester, continues to blow my mind.
Living on-campus during a pandemic can be weird. I know a lot of college students and rising freshmen have yet to experience it, and I wanted to provide some advice and support to all of you! I created a poll on Instagram and decided to answer all of your questions about it.
QUESTION: How nervous were you about getting COVID?
Honestly, I was extremely nervous at first. Because there were no cases on campus, I was worried about people going off-campus and spreading it. Over time, though, I felt confident in our health and safety protocols. I realized that I was living in a bubble. Knowing that if one of us was unsafe and got COVID, we could all get sent home, my friends and I limited our social interactions to each other. This is something I would recommend you discuss with all your college friends, in order to ease your anxieties and do your part in keeping COVID off-campus. I was required to get tested twice a week and complete a daily health check app. Compared to life in NYC, where the process of getting tested can take a while and countless people are in contact with each other every day, I knew I was much safer at Wellesley.
QUESTION: Did you feel isolated while on campus or did your college try to make sure you were still able to connect with others?
Though we all had to live in singles, the college placed a group of singles in “blocks” of up to 6 people who we were expected to interact with most of the time. I was incredibly lucky to find a friend group through my block, but I knew plenty of people who had trouble connecting with their blockmates. They were able to participate in events held by the college, different student organizations, and residence halls. These events can be hit-or-miss in terms of meeting others but it doesn’t hurt to try! I do wish the school had done more to foster community instead of relying so much on the block system. Later on in the semester, the school eased up on restrictions by allowing us to have blockmates in our room and eat in the dining halls with our block. But expecting people to only socialize with their blockmates can be isolating. Thus, it’s super important to find mental health support and put yourself out there as much as you can (in a safe way, of course).
QUESTION: Have you been able to participate in clubs?
Yes! I am a member of the Wellesley Asian Alliance, Al-Muslimat, and the Bangladeshi Students Association. All of our club meetings were on Zoom to include the students studying remotely, with occasional in-person events for the student body. I loved the in-person events I attended and could see how the clubs usually function. I was even able to make some friends! Zoom meetings were also pretty fun and not that awkward. However, it can be hard to participate in extracurriculars knowing what the “normal” version would be like and it’s important to manage your expectations. There were some extracurriculars I wasn’t able to get involved in because they went inactive as a result of the pandemic.
QUESTION: How do you make friends?
This is a very valid concern. In the weeks leading up to move-in, I was convinced I wouldn’t make friends. It’s weird to try to befriend someone when you can only see part of their face. As I mentioned, the block system and extracurriculars are super helpful. But another thing to keep in mind is the fact that you are not alone. Everyone is just as scared about this as you are, even if they don’t seem like it. Striking up conversations with people you pass in the hallways, getting lunch with a classmate, complimenting someone’s outfit–there are so many ways to connect with those around you, even in a pandemic. Put yourself out there and don’t be too hard on yourself!
QUESTION: Do you go to classes in person? What are the restrictions?
I know not all colleges do this, but I was lucky enough to have all my classes be in-person. They were in large spaces, like the auditorium, chapel, and big classrooms. Everyone is socially distanced and masked with signs to help us stay six feet apart. In my two lecture-style classes, we would use headphones and microphones to hear the professor and participate. Though the setup wasn’t what I was used to, I felt grateful just to be in a classroom and feel engaged again. However, it was hard to foster relationships with my professors and classmates because the restrictions made socializing awkward. I wish I could have gotten to know more people through my classes! For me, my positive experience with my classes came more from the fact I was just able to learn again (as opposed to being remote in the spring).
QUESTION: Is it intimidating to participate aptly when classes are held in larger/unusual spaces for social distancing?
Definitely. I was a much quieter student than I normally would be in my lectures because I didn’t always feel comfortable speaking into a microphone. Sometimes I couldn’t even tell who was speaking because of the mask which can make classroom discussions hard to follow. I got adjusted to it pretty quick, though, and tried to push myself to participate when I could. Know that you’re not alone in feeling this way and there are other opportunities for participation, like office hours.
QUESTION: Are you taking classes for your major yet? And if so how is that going?
For the fall semester, I was focused on fulfilling my requirements as a first-year and exploring different interests. In the spring, I’ve registered for two courses that will count towards my Women’s & Gender Studies major. I’m really excited to take them!
QUESTION: Do you feel like you’re missing out on the “college experience”?
Yes and no. I might not be going to parties or meeting people from other schools, but I’m still living independently in a completely different environment from the one I grew up in. I get to be an authentic version of myself. I’ve learned time management and how to take care of my physical and mental health on my own, which is a huge part of the “college experience.” Of course, there’s a lot I’ve missed out on. I often hear about Wellesley traditions or experiences that didn’t happen this year, which can be upsetting. But every day, I just felt blessed to be there and know that though it’s not the experience older students had, it still was a college experience.
QUESTION: Do you think it was worth it to go on campus for the first semester?
Yes!!! Depending on where you live and where you go to school, being on-campus can be safer in terms of COVID-19 and your mental health. (I don’t want to make assumptions about your experience, so please keep in mind that first part.) I hated studying remotely in the spring and taking in-person classes in whatever form helped me. Living alone, getting tested twice a week, being in such a bubble–to me, these were all luxuries. I was able to connect with people I would have never met otherwise and found incredible friends. So yes, if you have the financial means and know you would do better living away from home, I would 100% recommend it. It’s an experience like no other.
Overall, my college experience was unorthodox yet still amazing. For the first time in several months, my life was no longer on pause because of the pandemic. I was able to make friends, get involved in clubs, and take classes I enjoyed. I hope that for those of you who are planning to go on-campus soon or considering it, this article helped you guys learn about and look forward to the experience. If you have any more questions, feel free to leave a comment below, DM me on Instagram @tazreanh, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would love to talk to you!