It has been almost four weeks since COVID-19 cleared out the Boston College campus. However, many international students and others with special permission remain on campus. Most of these residents have been relocated to live on Upper campus.
One such student explains that cafeterias feel very empty, with only a few scattered tables and a certain number of students (roughly five) allowed in the food area at a time in order to adhere to social distancing. While the Margot Connell Recreation Center and the Lower Live dining hall both remained open for about a week after students left, they shut down when Governor Baker called for the closing of nonessential businesses.
Since students living on Upper do not have their own kitchens, McElroy (Mac) has remained open as a dining option. Purple tape on the floor outlines where people should stand in order to make sure they are the recommended six feet apart. Self-serving is not allowed, even when getting fountain drinks or bottles from the refrigerator.
Upon entering Mac, students must immediately sanitize their hands. They cannot touch anything, including their phones. A glass shield has been put in front of each cash register with a hole to reach through in order to swipe cards when paying. BCPD officers patrol the dining hall in order to make sure that these social distancing practices are followed.
“Walking into [Mac] is a huge shock in itself, as there are only about 10 tables scattered across that entire room, with two seats on each table,” says Kris Chu, CSOM ’20. “And yes, you get shouted at if you try to seat three people at a table.”
The staff are taking social distancing measures very seriously in order to look out for the health of the students and themselves. Chu says, nevertheless, his visits to Mac still feel like a small social outing.
“It’s great running into the sporadic familiar face at Mac. It does still feel very empty regardless, though, when walking around campus,” He says.
Despite all of the new regulations, there is one policy that students might actually favor: “You don’t have to ask for a straw anymore,” Chu reports.
He went on to explain how Piece by Piece Movers helped to make his transition from the Mods to Upper a smooth one by setting an organized time and date to come and move his belongings.
“That was very convenient, and saved a lot of [the] hassle of trying to move everything,” Chu says.
However, some people reported missing items upon delivery. Caspar Mueller, MCAS ’20, had a rockier transition when moving in.
“The transition to Upper was quite hectic, as the movers weren’t able to deliver our stuff until after midnight on move-in day,” Mueller says.
Returning to Upper was an additional wakeup call for seniors, many of whom had begun there as freshmen.
“It was really hard to adjust at first, especially having to move into a freshman dorm on campus and use communal bathrooms.” Francis Barassi, CSOM ’20, describes his experience. “Over time, I got used to the isolation and the social distancing measures.”
Barassi adds that consistently Facetiming friends from BC and others has helped in his transition. Although the gym is closed, he still tries to remain active by taking walks outside and doing his own workouts.
O’Neill library is also closed, which has led to competition between the eaters and the studiers at Mac.
“People try to keep up with their school-work at Mac, which is kind of annoying because there are even less tables to eat at now, especially since I can still see they’re on Youtube,” Chu explains.
Many international students have chosen to stay on campus due to conditions in their home country and uncertainty about whether they will be able to return to the US afterward. Mueller, who is from Manila in the Philippines, says he is staying at BC due to the impact of coronavirus in Manila.
“The entire city is on lockdown, so we will not be able to return… in the foreseeable future,” he says.
Carl Berggren, MCAS ’23, expresses similar sentiments.
“I am staying on campus because I am scared that the travel ban won’t be lifted in time for me to return back to campus in the fall.” Berggren explains, “The housing is fine, just a little lonely. The campus feels void, so little happens that days just merge into one long and uninterrupted timeline.”
Chu also adds that since students have left, he has seen more families walking around Gasson and Stokes hall in the nice weather, which is bittersweet to see when there should be BC students frolicking on Stokes lawn.
“I miss walking around and seeing all the BC students, regardless of whether or not you know them, and having that energy in the air where you know there’s always something happening on campus,” Chu reflects.
Despite this bleak situation, students hold on to the memories and the important relationships that they have made at BC to get them through this hard time.
“Seeing [BC] almost barren makes me miss how it was just three weeks ago,” Chu says, “I realize more than ever now how strong the sense of community at BC was.”
After all, without the lively people who inhabit it, BC is just a place.
“Just because I’m still here, it doesn’t feel like I’m really at BC anymore because I don’t get to look around and see the crowd I consider to be ‘my people,’” Chu explains, “despite not actually knowing over 90% of them personally.”