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Students find a sense of normalcy in outdoor walks on and off campus

Early morning sunlight shines through the trees onto a pathway at Bolin Creek on Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2020.

While walking to class is no longer a part of students’ daily routines, many who remain in Chapel Hill are still finding ways to get some light exercise outside.

Whether they're making their way past the Bell Tower on South Road or strolling through the quad next to Wilson Library, students find no shortage of scenic surroundings.

For sophomores Mary Ellis Garside and Gabby Webster, taking walks around campus has helped create a sense of normalcy.

“I like walking by the Old Well — it’s so pretty,” Garside said. 

Many students have added walks to their routines to stay active and break up the monotony in lockdown. 

“Sometimes it’s nice to walk through campus and just kind of act like you’re going to class,” Webster said.

Students can also use campus walks as a means to find new study spots. Due to social distancing guidelines, the University built study tents with desks and chairs for students to safely study outside. There is one located on the quad, as well as in between Mangum and Ruffin residence halls.

For sophomore Charlotte Bell, finding new places to study on campus has given her motivation to walk more.   

“Whenever I do this, I see new faces and different people also studying outside,” Bell said.  “It is refreshing to see others walking around on campus, and makes me feel like life is a little bit normal.”

Bell also said walking has played a big role in boosting her mood.

“I need to walk outside more and remind myself to get out of the apartment more because I am so much happier for the entire day when I decide to walk outside,” she said. “It’s almost like a sense of freedom because Zoom meetings and class can make you feel trapped and isolated.”

In addition to campus, there are some lesser-known places nearby that students frequent for outdoor walks. 

Sophomore Katie Burleson said she and her friends frequently visit the Bolin Creek Trail, which can be accessed at the end of McMasters Street, just west of Martin Luther King Blvd. The trail is 1.5 miles long and connected to the Community Center Park and the Battle Branch Trail near Battle Park.   

“I especially like walking back there this time of year, because the foliage is really nice,” Burleson said. “It’s nice to get out of the technological bubble that we’re in most of the time.”

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