I can’t get this word out of my mind: apocalypse. Last September, my freshman year, I never could have imagined Oakland being synonymous with a ghost town. Pitt attracted me with the hustle and bustle of living in the city, the social events in South Oakland and the football games at Heinz Field. I wanted to be immersed in something different than the small town I grew up in. Now, none of these things are possible amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Living on campus is different this semester with many highlights and lowlights.
The literal most vital thing about living on campus is the meal plan. Market (now called, “The Eatery”) used to be the spot to congregate with friends in the middle of a busy day full of classes. Now, every meal is to-go. I personally prefer taking Market on the go. My friends and I have stumbled upon many new spots outside to socially distance and eat our meals while enjoying Oakland’s scenery. Plus, you can take as many to-go meals as you’d like. I take advantage of this by taking both lunch and dinner to save some time and meal swipes.
With the new meal plan this year, Pitt Eats, they’ve added new outdoor dining locations. Places such as outside of Posvar, The Hub, CrEATe and Pom & Honey can be used for meal exchanges or dining dollars. The new dining options are healthy, delicious and socially distanced. It’s a win-win.
When I say it’s a ghost town – I mean the streets are close to deceased. Virtual learning will be an option for everyone for the entire semester. Many students decided to stay home for this reason. Plus, no one is walking to class now. Thus, the streets are close to empty. I can get where I need to go without weaving in and out of people or passing people that like to walk in the middle of the sidewalk. I won’t miss the herding line outside of David Lawrence Hall impatiently awaiting the walk sign.
Freshman year, I lived in Tower A. I could hear every peep on Forbes and Fifth below me. It caused me to have trouble sleeping at night because I’m from such a small, quiet town with no noises besides animals scurrying in the woods. On any given night of the week, even weekdays, a group of friends would decide to sing, play music or yell something absurd in a drunken state to the entire quad. Now that parties are banned, I don’t hear anyone on the streets below my dorm in McCormick Hall. I never wake up at 2 a.m. to someone screaming a Drake song. It’s lovely.
I won’t be the first or last to say this: I hate virtual learning. Learning is more difficult behind a screen rather than in-person instruction. I’d like to think I’m a focused, dedicated student. But I catch myself texting, online-shopping or dozing off during lectures since my professor is a computer screen. I can’t imagine how someone who struggles to focus without the virtual aspect is learning anything substantial right now. Resources need to be established to help those adapt to the new normal learning format.
Lack of resources
The biggest disappointment coming back this semester was not having immediate access to recreational facilities or group classes. Last year, I made the hike to the Pete every morning to get my workout in before classes. I also took a group cycling class once a week at the William Pitt Union. Now, on-campus gyms are available by appointment only – The Pete not being one of them. The slots are limited for each appointment and will fill quickly with tens of thousands of students on campus.
Socially distant campus
Although I enjoy the quiet campus and empty streets, it’s quite eerie. I miss the excitement and chatter of a social, vibrant campus. I want to see a slap-happy drunken crowd of people in the streets on a Friday night in their going-out clothes. I want to see huge friend groups getting together for birthdays. I want to see a crowd forming on the Cathedral Lawn when the Victory Lights come on after a football game. I want to pack into the student section at Heinz Field for a night game. I want to see socialization on and off-campus. But, I know it can’t and won’t happen for a while.
Best of both worlds
Living on campus this semester is strange, yet exhilarating. It’s an apocalyptic state of silence and not much happening on Oakland streets. Yet, it’s still more exciting than being stuck at home in the middle of farmland. Frankly, this semester at Pitt is not the optimal experience. I’m grateful to still be on campus with my best friends, despite a global pandemic. I’m optimistic that within these next two years, things will go back to normal.