Back to School

Students on River Campus // photo by J. Adam Fenster / University of Rochester


On August 21st I stepped foot on campus for the first time in over eight months. It was good to be back, but felt very different. Maybe it was because now I’m a senior and this is my last year in Rochester. It was likely more because of COVID-19, which has transformed student life.


Move-in this year was unlike any other. I had to sign up for a timeslot to move in and I could only have one helper. As soon as I arrived on campus, I had to get COVID tested. I was impressed by how seamlessly the system UR developed was. Nothing was crowded, so I didn’t have to wait in lines of cars to park or to get tested. About six hours later, I received my negative test result.

Dorm Life

Even though I’m a senior, I’m living in a dorm on the quad, communal bathrooms and all. It’s strange to have to walk to and from the shower in a mask. Wearing a mask in order for my door to be open makes it much less appealing. I’m not allowed to have anybody in my room, which disrupted my favorite socializing medium. People who do not live in my building are not allowed in. Although all these precautions are uncomfortable, I think they are worthwhile and I am glad they are in place. I’m pleased to report that very nearly all of the people on my floor seem to be adhering to them.


I thought that all of my classes were going to be in-person. However, on the first day of classes, I discovered that one was fully online and another was almost all online. Later, I found out that some students came back to campus anticipating in-person classes only to find all their classes were online. Even if all my classes were online, I would still want to be in Rochester. Here I can have my own living space, be around friends, and overall just feel more like a student.

My classes are going well so far, though professors are still getting used to lecturing in masks and using Zoom. I think that my fully online class is just as effective as if it were in person, but I have some reservations about the group assignment we have later on. One thing distinctly missing from Zoom class meetings is an exchange of energy. Represented by just a small rectangle on a screen, we miss out on the vibe of a classroom of passionate students.


The clubs that I am a part of are trying to work within social distancing and crowd limits to do some in-person things, as well as some virtual. For example, quidditch practices will still be happening, but with several key changes. At the same time, we’re also doing online events, like our GIMs and our first social event of the semester. GreenSpace had its first meeting outside, spaced out, and masked, but we are also planning virtual events since it will not be nice outside for much longer and our lounge only has a max capacity of eleven.

We’re All Learning

Some of the growing pains of our new reality were evident in UR’s efforts to move traditions online. For example, all of the students I’ve talked to about the activities fair thought it went very poorly. Fall Leadership Training had its hiccups. We’re all still learning how to adapt to these new circumstances and I have hope that we will improve our ability to cope with them. Meliora, right?

The DL

I would say that as a whole, UR students are doing a surprisingly good job of following social distancing and mask rules. As of right now, there have been no COVID-19 cases among UR students or staff in the past 3 weeks (check here for an update). I really hope we can keep this up, which may become more challenging as the weather gets cold and we aren’t inclined to hang out outside.

Uncertain Times

When I moved in on August 21st, I was happy to be back in my dorm, looking forward to classes starting to give me some normalcy, and excited to be near my friends, but I was also very anxious. I felt like any day I could receive an email informing me that classes are all going online and I need to go home because there’s been an outbreak on campus. After a while with no spikes in COVID-19 cases in the UR community, that dis-ease has been mitigated. However, I still feel like I shouldn’t get too comfortable here in case I have to up and leave earlier than anticipated. There is a lot of cynicism by my fellow students, most of whom don’t believe we will be able to stay on campus until Thanksgiving Break, as planned. I’m a little surprised there isn’t a school-wide pool taking bets for when we’ll be sent home. Still, we’re doing our best, and it seems to be working.


About the author

Kayla Zilke

I'm a member of the Class of 2021 from Seattle, WA majoring in psychology with minors in business and environmental humanities. I'm involved with Quidditch, GreenSpace, EcoReps, intramural sports, the Student Association of Vegan and Vegetarian Youth, and Hatha Yoga.

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