As the beginning of another school year draws closer, many students face an unprecedented dilemma. With the ongoing pandemic, most families are taking time to reconsider whether or not to safely send their students back to Grounds. These decisions are inevitably difficult to make as the current situation of the pandemic prevents the normal experience on Grounds.
In a recent email to the University community, President Jim Ryan announced that all undergraduate courses will start at the previously planned date of Aug. 25th, but with a delay to in-person instruction until Sept. 8th. For first-year residence halls, staggered move-in dates have been pushed back to accommodate the postponement of in-person instruction.
First-year College student Hannah Kang described how the dormitory experience may look very different from what she had expected in the past.
“Now when I imagine myself in the dorms, that’s where I imagine spending time the most,” Kang said. “I would hear a lot of stories from upperclassmen that already attend U.Va. and how they were almost never in their dorms, but looking at the situation, it’s obvious that we would be spending a lot of time there.”
On the other hand, there are also many complications with upperclassmen and their decision-making process in returning back to their own apartments. Living in close proximity with other students may raise some concerns after a couple months of developing new routines.
Second-year College student Jane Sun explained her thought process in eventually deciding to stay home for the time being instead of moving into off-Grounds housing.
“I guess a lot of it was just understanding what I think is probably going to happen in general, just my lack of faith in the U.Va. population to social distance properly,” Sun said. “I just think it’s better to be safe than sorry.”
Sun explained that this decision came from a combination of both of her parent’s suggestions on how to approach whether or not she should return to Charlottesville. For Sun, there are downsides to staying home rather than being on Grounds for the semester.
“I think a big part of me wanting to go back to Grounds was originally because I wanted to lead [small group] for [Grace Christian Fellowship] and... be there for my [incoming first-year] girls,” Sun said. “But then I realized that since most things are going to be online … I think most things will work out.”
Despite the fact that many students have similarly decided to stay home, there are rising concerns with housing contracts and leases that offer little to no changes in rent payment for the upcoming school year.
“Since my housing is off-Grounds, my landlords aren’t decreasing the rent at all so it’s still the same, but I just have to pay for utilities [in addition to monthly rent],” Sun said.
With out-of-state students, the current situation has proved to bring forth different types of challenges. Fourth-year College student James Lim explained some difficulties associated with his family’s home being far away from Grounds.
“I think the biggest thing for me was back in the spring semester when I received the news that everything was going to be online,” Lim said. “A lot of my stuff [was] in Charlottesville because I came home for spring break and got the news while I was out of Virginia.”
Lim explained his hesitation and risk in choosing to come back to Grounds, as isolation and lack of direct personal contact with loved ones can be prime culprits of loneliness, especially in the case of quarantining.
“I think maybe one of the bigger [challenges] could be, if I do end up testing positive, just being alone at school,” Lim said. “That can be a challenge to overcome because of quarantining and isolating by myself without having my family there.”
With no promise of certainty in these next couple of months, returning to Grounds can hold many doubts and frustrations for families, friends and apartment mates. The various housing challenges that come with this season simply emphasize the severity of the ongoing pandemic and everything that it affects in our daily lives.