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So, What’s Life on Campus Like During the Pandemic?

Living in the dorms my freshman year was nice…until it wasn’t. I had the traditional COVID-19 life alterations that started in March 2020, and just like the majority of college students, I packed up my independent life that ended all too soon then stared bewilderingly at my childhood bedroom walls for the next year. My experience of life during the pandemic is nothing special; I became entranced in a world between myself and the view out my window that I knew so well, trying my best to avoid the Seattle Times headlines depicting how many new cases were discovered within state lines that day, and hoped for the positive news of a vaccine rollout in the near future. 

My average day of online school, TV, and sleep cycle started to feel like a simulation as more than a year passed, until something possessed me in the middle of this February to apply for a dorm room for the upcoming spring quarter. Yearning for a new sense of adventure and what my university “normal” used to be, I grabbed a local friend of mine to finally relocate to a dorm within throwing distance of my freshman one. The night before moving in for the first time in 2019, I paced around my room with every worry in the world that it wouldn’t work out and that I'd have to gain my degree while commuting for the next four years. So while I wasn’t nervous this time around in the slightest, I was oddly puzzled about what to expect from this experience a year and a half later. I’ve been here for about a month now, and as I round out my sophomore year and hit the halfway point of my college path, there’s been a bit to learn about the UW dynamic in this new era, or about any college, for that matter. 

As I expected and considered even before I hit the submit button on my housing application, it’s been a bit harder to meet people here than before. Of course, I didn’t see this as a huge shock, since the word "social" doesn't come to mind when thinking about dorms mostly anywhere (and the fact that Seattle itself isn’t a particularly social city certainly doesn’t help), and I’m not one that has an inherent knack for making new friends whenever I leave my room. However, as the pandemic has inhibited most of our social skills, making friends with neighbors, in the dining halls, or any casual conversation has limited my prospects of meeting new people in my living space significantly. I can’t say I’m the only one experiencing this—honestly, I really only overhear social interactions that seem like the group has known each other since high school and rarely any that seem novel. In that way, living in the dorms during the pandemic has been a bit more like living in an apartment complex or in a world out on your own, which has its benefits and drawbacks, depending on who you ask and what they’re looking for. 

As for campus in general, I’ll start by saying that for weeks 2 and 3, every person on the West Coast was here to see the cherry blossoms, making it more of a background for photoshoots for thousands of people and less of a spot to study, as the school advertises to prospective freshmen. Even though I quickly scratched the Quad off my list as being a place to focus and perhaps rejuvenate myself in all of its pink spring glory, the campus still has many calming places to study or take a much-needed walk outside my 10 by 20 room. While RSOs and social functions are still heavily relying on Zoom until the clearance is given from the school to restart in-person activities, the outdoors is your main source of entertainment on campus in this world. Luckily, Seattle and all its wonders are still willing to be your friend. 

I don’t want to paint campus in a dark light by overstating the need to find your own sources of entertainment and saying there’s nothing to look forward to—while the former is true, the school has continued and perhaps increased the number of virtual resources it’s offering to all students. Although virtual opportunities aren’t ideal (as you’ve heard your professors say 500 times before), the residence halls put on a number of events meant to get students engaged in their community both through social and leadership participation, including painting nights, writing workshops, and trivia competitions that residents can participate in that will likely go continue into next autumn.

Additionally, many sub-departments of the University offer exciting events to students that most all can check out—some of my favorites have included panels and informative talks presented by faculty in various majors, interest meetings about hopeful study abroad opportunities for future quarters, and the one that takes the cake, the Arts & Sciences entity of ASUW is welcoming actor and comedian Pete Davidson for a virtual conversation on May 6th, free for students. So, there really is a lot to do both on campus and through their resources even in this uncertain world; so long as you put in the effort to find them. 

Hailey Hummel

Washington '23

Hailey is a current junior at the University of Washington, majoring in Public Health—Global Health (with departmental honors), and minoring in Law, Societies, and Justice. She loves hiking, traveling around the state of Washington and the world, making art, playing piano, taking pictures, and spending time with her friends.
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