So You Moved Back On Campus During A Global Pandemic. Now What?

Colleges and universities have closed their doors, limited on-campus housing and shifted to online learning due to concerns related to the pandemic. Still, despite rising numbers of cases and death tolls, college students all over the nation have decided to take the risk and move into their off-campus apartments. Of course, the levels of social distancing and campus restrictions vary from school to school, but the housing and financial aid crises remain the same. Obviously, college students, partying and a highly contagious illness doesn't make a great combination for stopping any infection rates.

A picture of Royce Hall Brooke Sagun UCLA shifted to primarily remote learning with few classes essential for workforce preparation in person. Somehow, I was able to move into off-campus housing with one of my roommates from the dorms. 

I knew that moving back on-campus was going to be drastically different from what I had envisioned before the pandemic struck. I knew I would spend most of my time social distancing with my roommate and that the early memories of my senior year would consist of ones we would make together in our studio apartment. Nevertheless, I expected our social interactions with other friends to be limited but not obsolete. 

Home Goods Late August and early September, my current roommate and I had left our original lease agreement after a rent dispute that had affected our friendship with our third roommate from the dorm. After our decision to sublease our spots, we wrestled with the idea of finding a new place for ourselves for a variety of reasons - money, the idea of staying at home for the foreseeable future and, of course, the virus. My roommate was more anxious and paranoid about contracting and spreading COVID-19 to her family than I was, but at the time, we agreed that we could be safe in Westwood if we followed social distancing guidelines. We scoured UCLA Facebook groups trying to find a suitable place for just the two of us. To find somebody to sublet our previous apartment we had to cut the price of rent, so on top of the price of our new place we would be paying an additional $200 each month. Still, we decided it would be worth it to have a fresh start away from the now tense and toxic environment in our old apartment. Anything to salvage the scraps of our senior year and self-respect to move on together!

Here’s something we need to discuss that’s a little more juicy and even more complicated: navigating sex and relationships during the global pandemic. Is it even possible? Is there any reality where sex even exists in COVID times?

The day before we moved into our apartment, I hung out with a few of my friends from back home at the beach. I met this guy early last year who lived a floor below me, and was pretty close to my now ex-roommate and friend. Funny story, that week my ex-roommate and I decided to go to the infamous Roebling block party when we ran into him and his friends. I noticed him looking me up and down as he approached me to introduce himself.   holding hands Min An The next day he asked my then roommate to invite me to breakfast. I declined and later that day, I discovered he had a girlfriend and I was disappointed because the possibility of a potential fling was looking pretty slim. 

When he eventually broke up with her, I slid into his DMs only to be too late. "Hey Esther, thank you but I’m actually dating someone right now." I was embarrassed, for sure, but I kept him in the back of my mind. So, I was surprised that day at the beach when he slid up to my story and asked if I was back in Westwood. 

I’m really not the type to be into relationships or long-term commitments. I’m most comfortable with and very much enjoy short flings or open-ended arrangements like friends with benefits. In my head, I’ve romanticized the idea of meeting a handsome stranger at a bar or some party. We dance to the music, drink and laugh through the night, after we end up at his place and put an end to our fling passionately. The next morning I leave with the ghost of our memories in my mind and the whispers of the last few hours on my lips.  La La Land movie gif Lionsgate, La La Land via Giphy That’s what I had in mind when I imagined what our little rendezvous since our days at De Neve Holly would look like. How cute would it have been to take a nighttime stroll onto campus, grab a blanket and alcohol in a discreet bottle, talk on the steps near Royce and Powell and end the night at his place? The vibes would have been immaculate. 

A few days into this guy and I talking back and forth, he asked me to come over. My roommate is my closest friend at UCLA so, naturally, I told her. I could sense her discomfort so I asked if she would be okay with me seeing him, since she was concerned about the virus. Our back-and forth led to an in-depth conversation about the realities of sex and dating during the pandemic. What if we stay six feet apart and wear masks? What if we don't have sex until I can trust he's been safe? Do you think that there's a chance your paranoia and anxiety is clouding your judgement? Is there anything I can do to make you feel more comfortable?

“That could be true," she said, "I don’t want to tell you what to do and how to live your life. I want you to have the senior year experience you’ve wanted. Maybe I should just go home and you can stay and do whatever you want.”

“I’m not going to stay here if you leave. Why would I do that? I only came because you said you would, there’s literally no reason for me to be here, my classes are online. You know how hard it was for me to be able to come.”

Hands holding phone Oleg Magni on Unsplash I texted him back, "I don’t think I can come over until I know you’ve been safe with COVID-19."

He responded, "That’s understandable! Just so you know, my roommates and I got tested negative. It was a requirement before we moved in."

I broke the silence, “He said he and his roommates got tested and it was negative. They had to do it before they moved in.”

“Just go, Esther.”

“I’m not going to go. If I do, you’re going to leave.”

"All because of a boy?"

"No, because no matter what I say, you're never going to trust me now that we've had this conversation."

Photo by Edwin Hooper from Unsplash I didn’t go and the next day we took the fragments of our apprehensions and patched up our friendship. After all, he was just a boy. 

As the week passed, my depression grew and the feeling of isolation and lack of social stimulation grew heavy on my heart, body and soul. When I finally decided to share my feelings with my roommate she was understanding. We revisited the conversation about having social interactions with friends, and she agreed that the idea wasn’t impossible. As for sex and relationships? As of now, it’s still a conversation we need to keep having as we navigate what college life looks like during a pandemic.