Seattle Pacific University's Student Newspaper

The Falcon

Seattle Pacific University's Student Newspaper

The Falcon

Seattle Pacific University's Student Newspaper

The Falcon

Moving on from COVID culture

Seeing social interaction return to campus
Fans stand for The Star Spangled Banner before a volleyball match between the Central Washington Wildcats and the Seattle Pacific Falcons on Saturday, Sept. 23, 2023, in Seattle. (Rio Giancarlo)

I arrived at Seattle Pacific University in 2020, at the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic. For my first year here, it was nearly impossible to meaningfully interact with people or even go to common areas without violating some sort of rule or norm.

It often felt like society itself was collapsing around me as the casualties from the pandemic kept rising, which wasn’t helped by the constant new variants of the virus. Because of this, my first year was incredibly lonely despite having an amazing roommate and an excellent RA who made sure to hold weekly online events.

The next two years of attendance weren’t all that much better, even as regulations faded and eventually disappeared. Though I developed a solid social group in that time, much of the school still felt closed off and aggressively antisocial, almost as if we’d become so used to lockdown that we’d forgotten how to make friends or meet new people. Even in supposedly social places like the common area in the Student Union Building, nobody would hold a conversation, greet anyone else or do anything other than study.

No matter what effort I made, there seemed to be no route to meeting new people. When a ping-pong table was set up in the common area of my floor during my second year, nobody used it. When I bought a chess set and started going around the SUB and Weter to try and meet new people, almost everyone was too busy studying to try. 

Even joining the Falcon did little to alleviate this loneliness, as meetings were rather focused on articles and conversations rarely came out of interviews. There were points where it felt like social interaction was all but impossible to find.

That’s all starting to change this year.

When SPU opened up again after summer break, there was a palpable shift in the atmosphere on campus. People seemed happier and more relaxed. Campus events had more people showing up, and were more frequent. People I’d had classes with in the past even began to initiate random conversations with me. Put simply, SPU felt like it was alive for the very first time since I’d started coming.

I’ve made sure to take advantage of this opportunity, and my social life has exploded in size since the school began opening up, but I’ve always come back to the same question: Why now? Pandemic restrictions had largely faded by the start of the 2022-2023 school year, and even a city as famously cold as Seattle must have suffered from the isolation. So why then did it take so long for the university to open up again?

The answer, I think, lies in how ingrained COVID culture had become in the three years since the pandemic first hit. 

Even after the threat had mostly passed, so many of the precautions we had to make, such as social distancing, avoiding large crowds and not risking contact with others had become second nature to a lot of people. These little habits, though perhaps necessary when COVID was a real risk for people, had become barriers to socialization and would take time to fade. 

Though many (myself included) had optimistically predicted that we’d snap back to normal after enough vaccines were distributed, it seems as if we’d instead experienced a slower, more gradual shift to a healthier and more open society.

Cultural shifts often come gradually over time, and the post-COVID world seems to be no exception. The collective trauma that the virus left on the world was unbelievable, and its gradual fall as a serious threat left many unsure of how to truly move on or properly socialize after nearly three years of isolation. Everyone’s social skills had gotten rusty, and there was little opportunity to schedule new events or spend time in community areas when lingering fears of infection still lasted.

The important thing, however, is that the shift away from isolation is working. Everyone I’ve talked to about this can sense the same change in attitude that I’m sensing  — that campus is much more open and social. Even though campus still trends towards introversion, there are now plenty of events and clubs to attend, common areas to meet people at and extracurricular activities to participate in. 

In just this last week, no less than three multi-floor events have been held in my dorm, a number that I’d have been lucky to see in a month last year. The SUB is full of people who aren’t just studying, but genuinely interacting with one another in the time between their classes. 

And that’s the beauty of being on campus right now. Although we have yet to fully move on from the pandemic, there’s finally visible signs of recovery around SPU. People are socializing again, and there’s a fresh sense of hope all throughout the university. Though many of us may never fully recover from the pain of the pandemic, we can finally take our first true steps forward in the recovering world and turn that pain into a distant memory.

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About the Contributors
David Armour, Perspectives Editor
David is a fourth-year business major at Seattle Pacific University who is currently enjoying his second year on the Falcon. His hobbies include baseball, writing, watching movies and drinking way too much coffee.
Rio Giancarlo, Chief Photographer
Rio is a sophomore visual communication major with a minor in photography. Rio manages a team of photographers and illustrators to supply content for the greater SPU media groups. Before he took his current position he worked as a staff photographer, mostly covering sports. When not working for The Falcon he works for the SPU athletic department and as a freelance photographer. In his free time you can find him skiing, or wishing he was skiing. 
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