Wide-eyed college freshmen wheeled carts full of their belongings into dormitories on the University of Minnesota’s Twin Cities campus Tuesday, determined to not let a delayed move-in or even a global pandemic ruin this milestone moment.
It was the first day students could move into the U’s campus residence halls, following a two-week delay that administrators enacted to further evaluate public health conditions. Freshmen and their parents eagerly flowed in and out of the Pioneer Hall dormitory Tuesday morning, expressing the same sense of excitement and wonder seen in normal years.
“I’m really just excited that we’re here and not at home,” said U freshman Jacob Thiegs. “I think that people are kind of socially starved at this point and they’re just looking for people to meet.”
“It’s bittersweet,” added his father, Joe Thiegs. “It’s exciting, but you’re launching a new adult into the world and hope you did your job as parents.”
The fall semester at the Twin Cities campus started on Sept. 8, but all classes will be taught online for the first two weeks of the semester. About 70% of fall classes are being taught online and all courses will shift to distance learning after Thanksgiving.
Students living in residence halls are asked to abide by curfews and restrictions resembling a stay-at-home order for their first month on campus. Those who violate the rules could face disciplinary action, such as the termination of their campus housing contract. However, a U spokeswoman recently said there is no designated authority tasked with enforcement — housing staff and students may report violations they witness to the school.
U freshman Ellie Suppes moved into Comstock Hall on Saturday, after receiving approval to come to campus a few days early. Inside the dormitory, she said, students must wear masks anytime they leave their rooms. They also are asked to wash and reuse one set of plates, silverware and drinking cups to mitigate spread of the virus in dining halls.
Suppes said she is eager, and nervous, about meeting people on campus. She is not yet sure how much interaction students will have in the dorms. She pledged a sorority, Chi Omega, in hopes of quickly building a social network.
Still, Suppes wonders whether it will be difficult to connect with her peers on a more personal level under current restrictions.
“I feel like it’s especially tough right now because … I don’t know other people’s comfort level about the coronavirus, like whether I can take my mask off in front of them or how close you can get,” she said.
Thiegs said he believes students will find ways to socialize regardless of the restrictions. He is considering joining a fraternity and other student groups. He has already formed a couple of Snapchat groups with fellow freshmen to connect from afar.
“I think we’re going to have to make the best of it. Hopefully, by second semester, things will be somewhat back to normal,” he said.
Students generally said they are not concerned about contracting the virus but are conscious they could possibly spread it to the greater community. Some also said they doubt the university will make it to Thanksgiving break without having to close the campus and shift all classes online.
“I think it’s only a matter of time until everyone’s online,” said U freshman Kati Shea.
Shea said she has long waited for the day she would move to college and live on her own. On Tuesday in front of Pioneer Hall, she looked at her mom and admitted she is anxious about it. Her family lives in West Fargo, N.D.
Chrissy and Dan Anderson of St. Michael, Minn., helped their freshman son, Dylan, move into his Pioneer Hall dorm. They said the 19-year-old is ready to begin the next chapter of his life, even in a pandemic.
He already missed out on the milestone moment of high school graduation — his school held a car parade ceremony — and his parents said the move-in delay had him considering sitting out the fall semester.
“I want them to stay open,” Chrissy Anderson said of the U’s campus. “I think this generation, [it] is really tough, because they’ve missed out on so much.”