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Life in UMass Boston dorms looks very different amidst a pandemic

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Samantha Rizzi (Left) and Ana Fuenzalida (Right) both work on their classes at the community tables, following campus mask and social distancing rules.

For the last couple of fall semesters at UMass Boston, September introduced a flourishing campus humming with student life. The dorms would be overflowing with new students, each one excited to start their college experience. This year, things look very different. Only a limited number of students have been living in the dorms because of the pandemic, and life inside the residence halls has changed in many ways. 

Danielle Santos, a UMass Boston senior and Resident Advisor in the dorms, describes current life in the dorms as “together but separate.” 

All students in the dorms currently live alone in their own room–either a single or a former double. If a student’s room does not have a bathroom, they are assigned one of the communal bathrooms, now limited to individual use. No student is allowed to have guests in their rooms. 

“Students have expressed being lonely in their rooms and feeling mentally drained being in there all the time, as well as missing out on opportunities to meet other people in their classes and forming study groups.” said Mary, a UMass Boston junior living in the dorms. 

Santos, on the other hand, says socializing is not “as difficult” as you might expect. 

“RA’s have hosted fitness, wellness, movie nights, [and] paint night events, and all events are occurring over Zoom,” she said. 

Mary mentioned the virtual social activity as well.

“Students have also been socializing through social media and the various virtual/socially distant programs in the Residence Halls,” said Mary.

The safety measures in the dorms include a requirement to wear a mask at all times, an elevator limit of two people, and an elimination of self-serving in the dorm’s cafeteria. Signs greet you as you enter the halls, asking students to keep six feet of distance between each other. 

“The East cafeteria is opened on a limited schedule,” said Mary. She added that students can choose to eat their meals in the cafeteria, in their rooms, or “outside where there is more air ventilation.” 

Santos said that there are “dining employees that will hand you disposable containers and cups for your individual meal.” While this system is less social than the serve-yourself system the dining hall employed last year, it is certainly safer and more likely to prevent the spread of disease. 

Santos shared how the pandemic has affected her time as an RA.

“Before the pandemic, I was very excited to host many in person events during welcome week,” said Santos. “However, [the pandemic] is not stopping me from connecting further with my residents… Resident Assistants are continuing to provide several [virtual] events throughout the month that students can attend to connect with each other.” 

Santos added that it’s not all easy: “I think the amount of students that are overwhelmed is challenging [to me] as a first year RA. And personally, I do better in person with my classes and I am getting a sense that many of my residents do as well.”

However, it’s not all bad. If you walk through the campus on any given day you will see students spending time socially distanced, but together in the outside area between the two dorms. If you walk past the dining hall at mealtimes you will see through the windows that there are students eating and chatting, six feet apart. It is an isolating time, but we are all in it together.