To Dorm or not to Dorm?

A look at two students’ housing decisions in light of the pandemic

With+the+pandemic+still+going+on+and+altering+the+on-campus+experience%2C+students+have+a+decision+to+make%3A+dorm+and+take+what+they+can+get+despite+the+restrictions+and+changes%2C+or+stay+home%2C+save+money%2C+and+minimize+potential+exposure+to+COVID-19.

Katie Walsh

With the pandemic still going on and altering the on-campus experience, students have a decision to make: dorm and take what they can get despite the restrictions and changes, or stay home, save money, and minimize potential exposure to COVID-19.

Emily Teixeira

To dorm or not to dorm? That is the question for college students during the pandemic. Do they want to stay home, save money, and minimize potential exposure to COVID-19, or do they want to live on campus and make the most of the college experiences still available to them?

Last semester, junior Criminal Justice major Christa Vasile chose to live on campus, while junior DCF major Lizette Zayas chose to stay home. This semester, they have each changed their minds; Vasile is now at home, while Zayas has come to campus.

Vasile chose to dorm last semester because she wanted to have more normalcy in her life. She wanted to see her friends, and she did not want to miss out on any more time on campus. She attended her chemistry labs and Italian classes in-person, and she says she felt more focused being at school. However, while she did get to see her friends, she did not get to do so as often as she used to. She felt confined to her room, hence her decision to stay home this spring.

“Personally, I’m glad I did it, but I wouldn’t do it again under the circumstances,” Vasile says. “It just wasn’t worth it to be there. If everything is online and I’m just confined to my room all day doing work and barely seeing my friends, why stay and use a communal bathroom and eat dining hall food when I could be home?”

Vasile admits that it can be hard to focus while working from home, however, she’s getting used to it, since she has not had a “normal” school experience in almost a year. She misses her friends, but none of them are dorming this semester either, so she would not get to see them anyway. She is glad that she can save money, enjoy the comforts of her own home, and spend time with her family.

Meanwhile, Zayas chose to stay home last semester in order to limit potential exposure to COVID-19.

“It was a very difficult decision for me to make and I was depressed about it for a while,” Zayas says. “I almost took the entire semester off, but I thought it was important to keep busy. The experience was not as bad as I thought it would be. My brother and dad were also working from home, so I was not too lonely. My dogs were also very happy to have me around.”

Zayas spent the fall semester knocking out her core classes so that she would have more time for major-related classes when she eventually returned to Pace. As a DCF major, a lot of Zayas’s work is hands-on and requires access to resources that she does not have at home. She decided to dorm again this semester so that she would no longer have limitations on the classes she could take or the extent to which she could truly benefit from them.

Zayas is still concerned about COVID risks, and she acknowledges that students have a responsibility to be as careful as possible. However, she is glad that she will be able to access the resources she needs for her major-related courses, focus more on her schoolwork, and see her friends again. While she did keep in touch with them via Discord last semester, she still felt a greater sense of social isolation from them.

Both girls say that the pandemic has taught them to value what they have while they have it. Vasile misses having more freedom as to how she can spend her time with her friends, getting to sit in Perk, and in person classes. She feels that there are aspects of online learning in need of improvement. Zayas misses traveling and going to restaurants. She says that her time at home last semester made her value her friendships and independence more.