Around 9,000 students live on campus at UNC during a normal school year. But after the University de-densified residence halls due to the pandemic, only 3,000 students lived on campus last year.
With the University anticipating a return to in-person learning and a more traditional semester as COVID-19 restrictions ease, about 6,000 students plan to live in residence halls this fall.
Antonio Zuniga, a rising senior studying neuroscience, stayed in Joyner Residence Hall last year and said it felt more isolating compared to years past.
He said he was not able to study with peers as often, since University policy prohibited visitors in the residence halls.
Zuniga also said that because classes were online and libraries were open for limited hours, he spent a lot of time in his room. He felt like he was living in only one space, so it was more difficult to stay motivated, he said.
Elliana Alexander, a rising senior and president of the Residence Hall Association, said the RHA had to rethink its internal structure and come up with creative ways to foster community during the pandemic.
She said the RHA hosted some virtual events such as Duke-UNC watch parties and games of Among Us and Cards Against Carolina.
Incoming first-year Brianna Martin said she plans to live in Ehringhaus Residence Hall and is excited to move to campus and feel the UNC spirit.
“Being on campus is much more immersive,” Martin said. “You’re with other people that are also going through the exact same thing, which probably helps that experience and amplifies it.”
She said she hopes there will be a lot of events within the community, and she hopes to get involved with many different organizations.
“If you’re at home, you feel less connected to the school,” she said. “You don’t see all the traditions.”
While RHA is still waiting for the CDC and the University to distribute official guidelines for the 2021-22 school year, Alexander said they are hoping things will return to normal.
She said the RHA plans to host outdoor events next year — either masked or unmasked — such as a silent disco, Duke-UNC watch parties and a multicultural festival.
The RHA is partnering with vendors to set up various services to facilitate the transition back to a typical residential experience, Alexander said.
Some of these services will include a laundry service with pickups, cleanings and drop-offs. There will also be a program that can put micro refrigerators, carpets and linens in students' dorms before move-in.
“Half of Carolina students would not have had a typical first-year experience,” Alexander said. “We are hoping to use our platform to be able to connect people to each other and also to make that transition back to campus life a bit easier for everyone.”
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