Brionna Belcher | Northern Star
At the height of the pandemic, people longed for a sense of normalcy. The concept of a “new normal” drastically changed how we lived our lives.
Campus life was no exception to such change.
Perhaps the biggest adjustment was dorm life — and I’m not sure it was worth it.
Dorm life during COVID-19 was nothing like it should have been. Where you might have seen dorm parties and study sessions in years before was now turned into long hours of Zoom classes and playing video games instead.
“We tried our best to provide students with some semblance of a normal collegiate experience (during the pandemic),” said Dan Pederson, director of Housing and Residential Services.
NIU fared better than many other schools across the country, yet “normal” may not be the best word to describe dorm life during the last two semesters.
While NIU is slowly recovering from strict COVID-19 regulations, living on campus during the past 18 months has required both financial and social adjustments.
At the height of the pandemic, students were able to live alone in a double room for hundreds of dollars less than usual.
That alone makes living in the dorms during COVID-19 seem like a more viable option — the cost of living was cheaper, students had more room to themselves and fewer people were using the provided facilities.
This was due to the fact that, according to Pederson, NIU was forced to reduce student housing capacity by 50% once the pandemic hit. Students were also not allowed to have roommates.
Kaylin Lee, a sophomore music education major and a self-proclaimed social butterfly, said that living in the dorms felt, at times, isolating and lonely.
While it might have felt isolating, the decision not to allow students to have roommates also allowed students to have much more room and a quiet space to themselves. Using dorm facilities also became easier.
“What was nice about last year was you didn’t have to worry about waiting to take a shower or use the bathroom or do laundry,” Lee said. “But there are the challenges of a lot messier bathrooms and a lot more people trying to do laundry, so learning how to deal with there being more people (in the residence halls) is hard.”
Since COVID-19 restrictions have started to ease, dorm life is going back to normal. That’s obviously a good thing. Not only does that mean we’re slowly getting through the pandemic, but students can also return to a somewhat normal campus experience.
“The CAs are a lot better at trying to get students together and involved,” Lee said.
Despite the cheaper rooms, I don’t think living in the dorms was worth it during COVID-19. For many students, living in the dorms is integral to the college experience. It’s about the experience of getting to meet new people, participating in activities on your floor and getting used to living on your own.
During COVID-19, it couldn’t be that. Instead, it was a lonely, isolating experience for many, and while it had its perks, completely foregoing the social aspect of living in the dorms deprived students of an important part of the college experience.