Students Reflect on Winter Semester Move-in

As the majority of Batesies packed their bags in early February, travelling from their homes around the world to Lewiston, students had to ask themselves a question: were they willing to risk coming to campus despite the growing prevalence of the more contagious variant of the coronavirus from Great Britain? The decision confronted everyone and disregarded no one, instigating a flurry of emotions among students.

Of the 1,705 students enrolled in the fall, 161 decided not to return to campus in the winter, according to Carl Steidel, senior associate dean of students. This included 87 students who will study remotely for the semester, down from 171 students who studied remotely in the fall. Another 74 students didn’t return to campus for a variety of reasons, such as studying abroad, graduating early, or withdrawing entirely.

Courtesy of Diana Rodriguez ’24

These figures demonstrate a theme: many Batesies were unsure about whether to come back to campus for the winter semester as a result of the global pandemic. In some cases, students made the bold move to come to campus, whether for the first time ever or for the first time since last spring. In other cases, they simply weren’t able to come.

Diana Rodriguez ‘24, who chose to return to campus, said she was worried about the pandemic and being safe.

“I promised myself,” Rodriguez said. “To be more safe, I’d wear two masks. I’d wash my hands frequently, before I eat and after I eat. I have my own hand sanitizer, which I carry around to every new building that I enter.”

She felt comfortable returning to Stillman House, since she and her housemates had socially distanced well in the fall semester. Although she had her concerns, she trusted Bates protocol. 

Jeremy Bennett ‘21, who was remote in the fall semester, also trusted that Bates would make move-in a safe experience. He was a little worried that there would be more cases in the spring semester, especially after the surge in Maine cases in January. Still, he really wanted to come back for his final semester as a Bobcat. 

Simply put, I hope next fall’s move-in is better than this one.

— David Akinyemi

“I felt super nervous about moving in for the first time since pre-Covid times,” Bennett said. “After being on campus for a couple days, I was a little sad that I was not able to see all of my friends in other dorms, but I was just happy that I could see a few in passing, rather than seeing none at home.”

The pleasure of seeing friends again was amplified by the extended winter break. David Akinyemi ’21, Residence Coordinator of 10 Frye, talked about how he missed his friends during the long break. He said he wanted to make the most of the time that he had left at Bates, even if the current worldwide situation isn’t ideal. He found it tough not being able to see his friends initially, but appreciated catching up with a few of them by going on walks. 

Courtesy of David Akinyemi ’21

“One highlight was when my roommate returned back to our suite,” Akinyemi said. “I haven’t seen him in a long time and he’s not the best texter, so it was great getting to catch up in person.”

Seeing a roommate from last semester can feel like a big comfort nowadays, a tiny beacon of light amongst uncertainty. Many missed being in person and connecting with others, rather than over a screen. 

Riley Young ‘24 looked forward to the end of the arrival quarantine so that he could finally see his friends again. While in quarantine, Young spent most of his time getting ahead on work and listening to music. He wondered how others were managing during this time.

“If I had to guess, I would expect that most students felt pretty bored,” Young said. “We weren’t able to do much or interact, aside from eating with friends.”

It’s just a fact: Batesies do love food, but they also love their friends. With little opportunity to see friends, the Bates experience isn’t the same. Junior Mary Corcoran said she misses hugging friends during move-in and seeing people indoors more easily especially for meals. 

“Commons is so central to the Bates experience, but I know that dining and other groups of administrators have been working tirelessly to keep us safe and happy, and right now that means eating indoors with friends is close to impossible,” Corcoran said. “I think we all want changes, as students, but we’ll have to stay patient and trust that the school has our best interest in mind.”

Courtesy of Mary Corcoran ’22

Corcoran is glad to be back and is trying to set realistic expectations about her hopes for this winter, understanding that the school needs to follow CDC guidelines. In her role on the Cats v. Covid team, she hopes to help spread the word about the reality of the semester. She also hopes that next year’s move-in will be more celebratory and upbeat. Akinyemi echoed this sentiment. 

“Simply put, I hope next fall’s move-in is better than this one,” Akinyemi said. “Filled with Residential Life staff helping people move in. More hugs. Less social distancing.”

Rodriguez said she hopes next year will be filled with the events that didn’t happen this year, like the 80’s Dance, the 90’s Dance, the Halloween Dance, and the Puddle Jump, among others.

“I hope to experience many firsts,” Rodriguez said. “Starting with today. Today, I want to make my first snowman.”