Inside COVID-19 dorm experience

Residents describe living on campus during a pandemic

Kit Nowicki, Staff Reporter

The welcome desk in Ashton Hall, RAs on-call sit at the desk each night and do rounds to check on residents. RAs are also responsible for hosting online events to help build community within their halls. (Davery Bettger)

Getting a higher education during a global pandemic is new for everyone, but for those living in residence halls on campus, it also means making new friends and building community in a way that still respects Seattle Pacific University’s COVID-19 guidelines. For the resident advisors on campus, it means having to facilitate a sense of community.

“I’ve loved the way that RA’s have tried to connect with residents through the internet. We host weekly events, Campus Housing and Apartments, in which we invite everybody and we’ve done a crafting corner, a stretching session over zoom, like teaching a yoga class,” said Campus Housing Apartments RA, Kiana Kahusi. 

Kahusi said that even though the COVID-19 restrictions make it more difficult, the connection between students can still happen. It just looks different this quarter.

In Ashton Hall, third-year RA, Nick Godoy still believes that RA’s can cultivate a sense of community despite the difficult restrictions.

“Normalizing seeing people around or blasting music through the halls makes it feel like there’s more energy, and I’m trying to be creative in the ways I get people involved,” said third-year Ashton RA, Nick Godoy. “I try to switch things up, so it doesn’t feel like we’re in a pandemic, it feels like we’re just in a new, quirky, weird living situation.”

Godoy said this is the year of the introvert. He said that when residents branch out on their floors, the positive energy feels more prominent this term than usual. 

“Your whole life is basically through a screen at this point. So, being more intentional about establishing connections and learning about each other is something I think is great that we’ve been doing on the floor,” said Godoy

Third-year Emerson RA, Makaiya Russell, said to combat zoom-fatigue she takes her residents on lots of socially-distanced one-on-ones.

“This is definitely the year for one-on-ones,” said Russell. “Everyone gets tired of Zoom; we’re on it all the time. So, we go to Two Kick and grab coffee or we grab Gwinn together, which is nice because now you can sit with anyone in Gwinn- that’s kind of a bonus now. I’ve also done a lot of picnics.”

Russell also hosts weekly Zoom events for her residents and encourages them to interact with everyone on their floor and befriend each other to create a greater sense of community.

“Now that they’ve gotten to know some of the people on their floor, it’s been cool to see them start to interact more on the group chat. Now, they’re initiating their own events where they’ll be like, ‘hey, I’m going to Gwinn does anyone want to come?’ So, that’s been fun to see,” said Russell.

This year, with restrictions in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19, most residents don’t have roommates which has led some to begin to feel isolated.

“Living in the dorms has been pretty nice, apart from the fact I don’t have any roommates or suitemates, so I get kind of lonely during the day,” said first-year Arnett resident, Finn Johanneson.

Johanneson said that to build community on the floor his RA organizes Among Us and Jackbox games, but it still feels awkward doing everything over Zoom.

First-year Emerson resident, Courtney Case, said it’s been really hard to meet people especially living in the suite-style dormitories like Arnett and Emerson.

“I talked to someone who lives in Hill and he said he just leaves his door open and people walk from room to room, and that’s definitely not what it is here. Everyone has their doors closed all the time,” said Case. “I walk in the hall and the doors are shut. I’ve never seen anyone.”

First-year Hill resident, Josiah Yuen, confirmed that unlike on Case’s floor, his neighbors go from door to door to see who wants to get meals or hang out.

“There’s so much of a community-building aspect. I’m really glad I chose Hill because it’s really friendly, I’m able to meet so many people, especially on my floor. Everyone is really extroverted. It’s really great to be able to see people at basically any time of the day,” said Yuen.

Yuen said that he frequently hangs out with people from his hall outside the dormitories, and they often get meals together in socially distanced groups of two to five people. They also play music in the hallways, and they sit in their respective doorways to talk and connect.

“With Hill’s new rules, we’re allowed one guest in each room, we’ve been able to go in and out and that’s been really essential to the community-building aspect. A lot of the kids on my floor like to go down to the Hill lobby when my resident advisor is on call, and then we talk to him and the other people that are there,” said Yuen.

First-year Ashton resident, Cadence Moore, said that her floor has been a little quiet since everyone is being careful with COVID-19 and her RA is working to keep everyone safe. Moore lives on Ashton 6th East, which underwent a full two-week quarantine after a resident tested positive for COVID-19.

“It was hard because we all got quarantined in the first few weeks. So, that was hard because I think there was kind of a, ‘oh gosh this is real,’ kind of thing,” said Moore. “I think there’s more community to be built here, and that just takes time.” 

Not wanting to undergo another two-week quarantine, Moore is grateful that her floor is being cautious even if it means a lesser sense of community. 

“My RA is very careful with COVID-19, which I really appreciate because they’re doing their best to make sure everyone’s safe, and that’s awesome. I think that we have more time to grow together, and hopefully, we can do that next quarter as well,” said Moore.

Moore said that her RA organizes Netflix watch parties, communal events on Zoom, and they leave notes for their residents in their shared bathroom as well.

“I know that the love is there, even if it’s hard because there’s distance and it has to be this way, but there’s a lot of care in just following those guidelines. So, I’ve really grown to appreciate that even if it was frustrating at first and new and challenging,” said Moore.