Living at home versus on-campus during a pandemic

My first-year student experience, from my childhood bedroom to my dorm

Image by: Shelby Talbot
Life on campus is strange this semester.

For many of us, this year’s university experience has been confined to a computer screen, splitting our time between refreshing OnQ and attending dreaded Zoom lectures.

With COVID-19 forcing Queen’s to move online for the academic year, many students have faced a school year far from what they expected. This is true for first-year students like me, who feel like they’ve been robbed of the fun and excitement coming to university typically has to offer.

During my final year of high school, I was told my first year of university would be a joyful, memorable experience. I envisioned a year of making new friends, strolling around campus, going to parties, studying in Stauffer, and sitting in crowded lecture halls.

Of course, COVID-19 made this impossible.

I spent my fall semester at home, where I found it difficult to connect with my classmates and engage with my courses. I felt distanced from my Queen’s experience—I didn’t feel like a university student sitting alone in my childhood bedroom instead of in a residence building full of other students.

I tried to reach out to peers on social media in hopes of making friends. I received many kind responses, but I quickly found that creating lasting connections is difficult when you’re speaking through a screen rather than in person.

Fortunately, things changed for the better after I moved into on-campus residence at the beginning of the winter semester.

Unaware of what to expect, I was pleasantly surprised by the number of friendly students and staff members I met. While finding my true friends and making those strong bonds has taken some time, being on campus has helped me meet a greater breadth of people.

Once I settled in, going for walks around campus and eating in the dining halls came naturally. I feel as immersed in university life as I possibly could be during the pandemic.

But while there are plenty of other students around, the campus still looks empty. The unoccupied common rooms and quiet hallways feel eerie, absent of the liveliness I know once filled them in past years. 

Once-simple things like going to a friend’s dorm room or gathering with my floormates in our common room are prohibited, and the limited capacity in dining halls offers its own challenges for safe social distancing.

COVID-19 has also shaped the level of fear that students feel in residence this year. While Queen’s has implemented safety measures to follow public health guidelines, there’s a sense of uncertainty. How careful are other people being? With students going off-campus to parties or returning from Reading Week, there’s no guarantee every student is being completely safe.

While there are many pros and cons to living in residence during a pandemic, I’m happy I chose to come here and gain at least a fraction of the ‘Queen’s experience’ for myself. I’m aware of how lucky I’ve been to be able to live on campus this semester.

 Although this year has looked different than what many of us had expected, I’m hopeful that next year the Queen’s campus will regain the energy and visible sense of community that makes it special. Until then, I’ll be making the most of my strange semester on campus.


first year, Residence, Student life

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