Residence life staff attempts to foster connection even with social distancing

Many students anxiously awaited the arrival on campus for their move-in day, which started on Aug. 22. However, the work for Residence Life staff started well before move-in and is a continuous effort, since dorm life looks a little different this year thanks to COVID-19.

Abbie Thill, the hall director for Erickson Hall, has been one of the many Residence Life staff who has continuously been working out what dorm life looks like in the time of COVID-19. Residence Life is working with Concordia’s Emergency Response Team to continually assess the situation and take into consideration all factors when forming policies regarding on-campus housing. One of those aspects is keeping students safe while COVID-19 cases are emerging on Concordia’s campus. 

“We’ve definitely been on our toes a lot this year,” said Thill. 

One of the new policies that came out Sep. 8 was that no guests were allowed in the on-campus housing anymore. These changes were in response to the drastic rise in COVID-19 cases and an effort to try to help mitigate the virus.

Luke Lindhorst, a junior studying public accounting and finance, has been living in the dorms this year and experiencing dorm life with the new COVID-19 policies. He described dorm life this year as “restricted” and found it frustrating at times.

“All the study rooms are locked. We can’t have guests in our dorm. I feel a little trapped at some times. You have nowhere to go,” said Lindhorst. “It kind of feels like ‘Oh sorry, my mom said you can’t come over… we can go to your house though.’”

Lindhorst is struggling with the reduced freedom, just like many other students living in the dorms. Going away to college is taking a big step towards independence, yet that freedom is dampened with these new policies. Even if this freedom is restricted, Lindhorst is still looking at this situation with a positive side.

“I thought this would in some ways be a better college experience, because I think in times of hardship, like I would say a lot of people would say this year is, people are actually drawn closer together, and I didn’t want to miss that,” said Lindhorst.

Thill admitted that it is definitely not a typical year for gatherings, and events will have to look different than before.

“We came into the year with a curriculum that we were hoping to teach students in the halls and a lot of activities that we were hoping to do, and have had to kind of shift how we envision those, because a lot of that stuff just isn’t possible right now,” said Thill.

A sign encouraging social distancing in Livdalen Hall, Jessica Miller

Kaylee Gross, a sophomore studying vocal music education, is an RA in Livedalen Hall. She, along with Thill and the rest of the Residence Life staff, have been trying to come up with innovative ways to engage students in the dorms. 

“It’s definitely a different approach this year,” said Gross. “It’s a lot easier to be isolated.”

Gross has engaged her floor with facilitating outdoor and socially distant study dates outside, walks to Dairy Queen and virtual game nights. Thill mentioned that ResLife has also been working on having “Cobber Connects” with each resident and their RA to act as a one on one check-in for how the school year is going. This modification of going from large group activities to one on one allows for this to be in person if the student wishes. 

For all the first-year students that are hoping to meet people in the dorms while staying safe, both Thill and Gross recommended going to your RA. They can help give you opportunities to meet people. Gross also recommended leaving a note on someone’s door or making small talk in the hallways. This year, first year students may have to be more intentional with reaching out to find those connections.

“Stay positive about it,” Gross said. “Make the most of the time we have here, even though it is a very different year for all of us.”

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