On Monday Feb. 8, I woke up really excited to be moving back to campus from the Hampton Inn. I had signed up for the 9:30 a.m. shuttle, because I couldn’t wait. It was just going to be a five minute ride, but it was the same excitement that I had boarding the 16-hour Delta airlines direct flight from Johannesburg, South Africa to Atlanta. My move from the winter Hampton Inn residence to my room on campus felt like the time I moved to the U.S., and Bates, for the first time in 2017.
As I arrived on campus, the first thing I noticed was that there was so much more snow than in downtown Lewistonー the things I notice with my earth sciences knowledge. Nonetheless, I headed straight to Commons, the only place on campus I was guaranteed to see tons of people, as I was so excited to experience that again.
“Welcome back, welcome back, welcome back,” everyone at the stations yelled out from behind the glass. “We missed you,” they said. It took me close to an hour to get my food, and I was so okay with that. I went around greeting everyone working that brunch shift. I was so happy to just chat about anything. I waved and nodded, with a big smile hidden behind my mask.
Exiting Commons, Eliana and I ran into each other, and I could see how happy she was too. We ran into each other so many other times at the hotel, but she looked different that day. We talked about how happy we were with the moments we had just shared with Commons staff. Like myself, she had also been in Commons for some time, also greeting everyone. This got us thinking back to our almost three month long stay at the Lewiston Hampton Inn.
While we were very excited to be back on campus, it is true that our stay wasn’t all that bad. We loved having a smaller community that was easier to see and get close to during Covid. We enjoyed our ability to really be engaged with each other with less fear of exposure.
That wasn’t the only thing, however. For Eliana, one of the best parts about staying in the hotel was making friends with the Hampton Inn staff, which consistently greeted her as she walked in and out of the hotel with enthusiasm and care. She’d also check in with them and talk about how their days were going. They were a friendly bunch that also took interest in how Bates students were filling their time during this stay.
Other students at the hotel also enjoyed some parts of their stay, which they wanted to share with us. One student wrote that they loved, “Going to the gym which was literally downstairs… [and] the local environment.” They enjoyed “[Exploring] the area…, hanging out while socially distanced with people, [and] especially going on walks.” Enjoying the privacy of the rooms, the personal bathrooms and showers, and being able to see familiar faces so often, were also highly mentioned positives of people’s experiences.
But nonetheless, the isolation of the hotel was definitely a hard experience. “It takes a toll on you to spend so many weeks in a hotel,” a student shared. We can definitely relate. After a few weeks, the joy of privacy and the excitement for a break from campus and school work does wear off soon after you realize how quiet it can be all day.
Your mental health can really be affected by how unpersonal your space seems and how long days can feel when you’re not forced to do anything. We had to come up with our own solutions and our own ways to keep us grounded throughout this time, and while we may have enjoyed this unique experience of truly feeling like you are on your own for a long period of time, we were ready to get back to campus.
We were ready to start off another semester surrounded by our favorite people, even if it is through plexiglass or with six feet between us. We wish everyone a good semester, and we hope this serves as a reminder to appreciate the valuable experience that is being on campus.