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Eastern Students Share their Thoughts on Campus Life During the Pandemic

Published on September 24, 2020

Eastern Students Share their Thoughts on Campus Life During the Pandemic

Business Administration major Jihad Ratliff ’22

Theatre major Shalaine McCall ’21

Secondary Education and English major Jillian Colwick ’21

Freshman Katya Lapierre

Senior Soccer Player Emmanuel Agyemang

Like other colleges and universities across America, Eastern Connecticut State University is having an unusual semester because of the coronavirus pandemic. With online and hybrid classes, limited face-to-face interactions, heightened rules and regulations in dormitories, and many events being cancelled, campus life for residential students at Eastern has changed dramatically. Several students have shared their thoughts about how the semester is progressing.

Business Administration major Jihad Ratliff ’22 is in his first year as a resident assistant.

What was RA training like in preparation for dorm life during COVID-19?

“This is my first year as an RA so I’m not too familiar with how training was in previous years, but I heard it was a lot different. I didn’t mind it though — I actually enjoyed training, mainly because I have a great staff to help me out if I happen to forget anything.”

Have you experienced any issues with residents not following the Covid-19 rules?

“It is hard getting residents to follow the rules." (As an RA, Ratliff monitors visitors, as no guests from other halls are allowed.)  "And it’s harder to identify people with masks on. Granted, it is still the beginning of the semester and I’m sure no RA has memorized everyone’s names and faces just yet, but I personally have not stopped anyone and asked “Hey, do you live here?” since I can’t really identify many of my residents just yet.”

How has hosting virtual programs been going? Is it difficult getting residents to join in?

“I hosted my first virtual program on Sept. 8, and the students who joined were people I was already familiar with, so the atmosphere was very laid back. In terms of getting more people to join in, I could’ve advertised it more to have a better outcome, but because it was my first time hosting a program, I now know to advertise better next time.”

Have you had difficulty getting to know your residents because of limited face-to-face interactions?

“It has been difficult. They give us access to the names and faces of the residents in my hall, but some people look very different than their freshman ID photos. Not to mention the masks. Over time I’ll most likely get more familiar with the residents. This year is going to be a bit tough as an RA with COVID and the fact that this is my first year, but I’m actually really enjoying the RA life so far and I’m sure it will just get better from here.

Theatre major Shalaine McCall ’21 is active in the Theatre Department and is also president of the Caribbean Student Association (CSA).

As president of CSA, how has COVID-19 affected your club?

“There are things that are going to be a lot more difficult to accomplish. CSA is a culturally based club, so we focus on Caribbean cultures; a part of the Caribbean culture is dance! CSA tries to throw a party at least once or twice a year and with COVID-19 that isn’t going to be possible. In a typical CSA meeting, we start off with introductions and a weekly check-in of everyone in attendance. I want to make sure that everyone is safe and healthy, so our meetings are going to be online. We won’t be able to have the in-person and one-on-one interactions with one another. I try to make our members feel as if CSA is another family for them away from their own families, so COVID-19 makes that a little more difficult.

Because of limited face-to-face interactions or large group get-togethers, how do you plan on hosting meetings?

“I plan to host meetings online on Microsoft Teams, but if our members decide that they want to meet outside of the virtual world we can set up a safe socially distanced meeting with each other.”

As a part of the Theatre program, how has COVID-19 affected performances?

“In the Theatre Department shows have sadly been affected the most! I know that Professor Cobb was deep in the process of putting on a show for the spring 2020 semester called “The Importance of Being Earnest,” and a lot of my peers were in that production. Because of COVID-19 it was cancelled. I am now in the process of doing a show called “Hotel Universe” and the rehearsal process is very difficult because we have to be six feet apart at all times! We just started rehearsing so I am interested in how my director is going pull this off.”

If performances have been cancelled or postponed, how has it affected your acting career or class requirements?

“For me, my acting career hasn’t really been affected so much because I wasn’t in any shows for the spring semester and summer. Class has definitely become more difficult given that everything is online, and it is a very hard adjustment. It is still difficult now during this semester because some of my professors don’t really know how to navigate class either.”

Overall, how is campus life different for you? Do you think Eastern will successfully make it through the fall semester?

“I have been here for four years now and this year is definitely one for the books! I am used to hanging out with my friends and being able to go to a lot of events on campus, but I can’t anymore; there isn’t that one-on-one or face-to-face contact like there was before. Do I think Eastern will make it through fall semester? I really hope so. I know that a lot of people are excited to see their friends that they haven’t seen in months, but we have to remember that people have been very sick and even died from this virus. Everyone’s health is more important than 10 minutes of conversation with your friends.”

Jillian Colwick ’21 is a Pre-Secondary Education and English major and having a very abnormal senior year. She was looking forward to interacting with her peers and attending events, but with the intense rules in place due to COVID-19, she must not only adjust her social life but her academic one as well.

How has this year been different for you? Have your social Interactions and extracurricular activities been impacted?

“This year has mainly been different for me because we aren’t allowed to have visitors at our dorms. Me and my roommate love to have people over so it’s kind of hard not being able to entertain our friends at our place anymore.”

Why did you decide to come back to campus?

“I have a couple of in-person classes, and I live too far to commute.”

As a senior, has the pandemic affected your credits or degree requirements?

“The pandemic hasn’t necessarily affected my credits or degree requirements; it’s more affected my ability to learn, especially virtually.”

How are you adjusting to the online and hybrid classes?

“Online and hybrid classes are good. The adjustment was a little strange and hard to get used to at first, but I do think it’s helping calm the pandemic and keeping everyone safe.”

What were some of the senior events or opportunities you were looking forward to that will most likely not happen?

“One event I was looking forward to was the fall concert.”

Do you think Eastern will successfully make it through the fall semester?

“I’m staying optimistic about Eastern staying open. We have been doing good so far and everyone seems to be following the rules.”

Katya Lapierre is a freshman living on campus.

What are some of the reasons you chose to attend Eastern? How have those reasons been impacted by COVID?

"I chose to attend Eastern because I was told it is a nice school from friends and that they enjoy it here. The buildings and class sizes are nice; the school has a lot to offer. COVID has not really impacted any of the reasons why I chose to come to Eastern besides having mostly online classes."

Why did you decide to come to campus? What were some of your main concerns coming to campus during COVID?

"I chose to come to campus because I wanted to be away from home and get the full college experience. I wanted to live on my own for a while. COVID has made it a bit more challenging to meet new people and do activities that I normally would if we were not in the middle of a pandemic."

What are some ways Eastern could improve their precautions?

"Eastern could test commuter students or test a bigger percentage of the residential population." (editor’s note: Eastern increased testing of resident students from 10% to 25% each week as of Sept. 14)

Are you finding the classes satisfactory so far? How have hybrid and online classes impacted your learning?

"My classes have been easy enough to manage and navigate, both online and in person. Having online classes is both easy and harder because the material can sometimes be difficult to learn through a screen."

As a freshman, how have the precautions impacted your social interactions and ability to make new friends?

"As a freshman, in normal times, I would have expected to go out and meet people easily, and not have to worry about getting COVID. However, now since we have lots of precautions in place, it’s harder to meet people from my classes and other residential halls."

Emmanuel Agyemang is a senior soccer player.

How have social distancing regulations limited your game and practice schedule?

"With the social distancing regulations, our game schedule has been affected. Sadly, we won’t be playing any games against other college teams. Social distancing regulations haven’t really affected our team’s practice schedule at all, which I enjoy because it’s good that we’re still allowed to practice and play against each other. I think we’re one of the only schools in Connecticut that is still practicing."

How have these changes impacted your college athletic career? Did you plan on continuing with soccer after graduation? How has COVID impacted those plans?

"These changes have shortened my college athletic career since we’re not playing this fall. Yes, I plan on continuing with soccer post-graduation. COVID has impacted these plans especially this past summer. My season with my club team Hartford City was canceled because of COVID. However, being able to train and improve daily on campus will help me with my plans going forward."

How has COVID changed your perspective? What are some things you’ve learned from this experience?

"What I’ve learned is how important collaboration is for a nation. I just feel that if the United States was on the same page when it came to quarantining for two weeks back in March, we wouldn’t be in this situation now."

What are your hopes for the semester ahead? Do you think we’ll stay on campus until Thanksgiving?

"For the semester ahead I hope we continue to stay on campus so we can keep training. Yes, so far, I think we’ll continue to stay on campus until Thanksgiving. Eastern has been doing a great job with handling COVID and I’m optimistic that they’ll continue to do the same as the semester goes on."

Written by Bobbi Brown and Molly Boucher