Students began moving back to Chapel Hill — for the second time this academic year — last Wednesday, but campus is still quiet. Instead of reunion hugs and friends gathering in suites to catch up, students stayed socially distant while moving into their single-occupancy rooms.
Still, many South Campus residents are hopeful that living on-campus will be better than it was last August.
Residence halls are open, again
After UNC announced that all classes for the fall semester would switch to an online format, most students were sent home in an effort to limit campus density just a week before the start of classes. Now, after tightening on-campus housing protocols and the implementation of the Carolina Together Testing Program, residence halls are open again.
“Carolina Housing expects approximately 2,680 undergraduate students to live in on-campus housing and Granville Towers during the spring semester, down from approximately 9,500 students during a typical semester,” a UNC spokesperson said in an email.
And despite UNC's three-week delay of in-person classes, only around 130 students delayed moving in until after Jan. 17.
Reliving campus introductions
First-year Claire Blackman said she lived on campus in Ehringhaus Residence Hall for three weeks last fall. Last week, she moved into Hinton James Residence Hall. She said she's worried about COVID spikes due to the holidays, but she said the mandatory twice-a-week testing makes her feel safer.
“It took me a while to realize that I was actually moving in again,” Blackman said. “I’m really excited to meet more people. Even though it’s not a regular year, I’m hoping to get maybe just a little bit of that college experience, whether it’s just going to the dining hall or late nights on campus.”
Isaac Williamson, another first-year, moved out of Ehringhaus last fall after just two weeks. He’s said he's hopeful that this semester will go well, but feels deterred by the COVID-19 cluster in Carmichael Residence Hall announced before he arrived on campus. He said he noticed that people seem to be moving in more cautiously than in the fall.
“I enjoyed the first two weeks here – it was the best time ever. Hopefully if we keep going it will stay that way,” Williamson said.
Last semester, first-year Ronik Grewal moved out of Craige Residence Hall after just one week. He said he's moving back to campus to live in Hinton James Residence Hall three days after the first day of classes. Since his family recently traveled, he said he needed more time to receive his pre-arrival COVID-19 test results.
“I’m pretty confident in the adjustments they made because the new COVID-19 restrictions and rules seem similar to other schools that were able to have a full semester on campus last semester,” Grewal said.
Grewal said he found spending the fall semester at home similar to high school. He said he hopes the University will offer more opportunities to be more involved on campus so he can experience some aspects of college life.
“All we basically know is the academics of college right now,” he said.
Senior Christian Davila said he moved back into the exact same room in Ram Village that he moved out of in the fall. After just a month in the room, he said he had to move all of his belongings out – and now he’s moving the same things back in. This time, he said felt like move-in was more organized and people were more socially distanced than last semester.
“I really just wanted to be here for the last part of my senior year,” Davila said. “It would be a shame to miss out on the campus all together in my last time here. I really think that things will go a lot smoother the second time around now that we know what to expect of it more and everyone’s seen what happened the first time around and we’ve had more time to prepare.”
Although he only lived in Hinton James for two and a half weeks last fall, first-year Bob Dang said he already loves UNC and its campus. He said he didn’t expect to be sent home so soon.
“It sucked,” Dang said. “To come home after wanting to be here was horrible.”
Dang said he was excited when he learned he’d have the opportunity to move back to campus this spring.
“Being at home was very draining and quite detrimental to my mental health,” he said. “So to be able to come back and see all of these people that I formed relationships with over Instagram was great.”
First-year Aakash Subramaniam, one of the friends Dang met online, said he never moved to campus in the fall. He said he predicted that everyone would be sent home. Now, Subramaniam and Dang live in the same hall in Ehringhaus with others they met through social media.
“I wasn’t super confident in Carolina's policies last semester,” Subramaniam said. “But seeing that we have the weekly testing and a lot more restrictions, I feel like there’s a bigger chance of us staying more than two weeks.”
Subramaniam and Dang said they like the ambiance and camaraderie of living in a dorm with their peers. They don’t want to catch COVID-19, they said, and they don’t want to be sent home.
“It’s awesome to be with everyone, it’s great,” Dang said. “I love it here.”
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