Sofia Pesantez ’24 remembers the moment she found out that in-person winter quarter was canceled. Expecting to live on campus, she had flown in early from New York and was walking around the Quad. She stopped to admire the facade of Memorial Church.
“And then I got the email,” she recalled. “I was like, ‘What do we do now?’”
When the University canceled plans to invite frosh and sophomores on campus for the winter quarter, “what do we do now?” was the question at the forefront of many student minds as they searched for alternate housing.
For Pesantez, there was no option but to apply for special circumstances housing on campus.
“I didn’t really have anywhere to go because I don’t have family here,” she said in an interview with The Daily.
Annika Mauro ’23, who had planned to move into EVGR-A, found herself scrambling for an apartment for herself and her partner.
“I didn’t have time to make plans, like finding an apartment and signing a lease, before I was in my classes,” she said. “It was really hard to focus on my classes that first week, because I was dealing with figuring out, where am I going to live, and how am I going to pay for it?”
The timing of the announcement, which came two days before the start of the quarter, frustrated some students.
“I understand why they made the decision,” Mauro said. “But if the University had announced that the plans were changing just a week or two before the quarter started, we could have found a place to live and moved in before classes began.”
Mario Nicolas ’24 also struggled with the sudden change in plans.
“I didn’t have much time to process everything,” he said. “I was actually buying posters for my dorm when the announcement came. But after the first few weeks just staying at home, instead of on campus, that’s when it really set in.”
Although both Nicolas and Pesantez lived with other frosh for fall quarter, neither felt they had the time to organize group housing for winter quarter.
“When the University canceled fall quarter, I had a bit more time to plan,” said Nicolas. “In winter, my brain was very much in gearing-up-for-classes mode.”
Pesantez, too, noted the difficulties of forming a last-minute pod.
“Looking for another Airbnb would’ve been really hard so close to this quarter,” she said.
According to Pesantez, who lives in Toyon, on-campus life without most of the student population is a mixed bag.
“At times, it can get lonely,” she admitted, “but it’s been really nice to have a full double room to myself.”
Instead of socially-distanced meet-ups on Wilbur Field, Nicolas has turned to Zoom to make friends from home.
“I’ve started attending a lot more virtual programming for freshmen this quarter,” he said. “I’ve also joined some clubs, and that’s been a good way to connect.”
Although Mauro, a sophomore, misses the on-campus social experience from her frosh year, she has taken this quarter as an opportunity to learn how to live independently.
“There are unexpected benefits of living in an apartment,” she said. “I’m learning more adult things, like shopping and cooking and washing dishes, much earlier than I was expecting to.”
While Pesantez and Nicolas’ frosh year is far from what they’d imagined, they remain optimistic.
“I know the University is doing the best they can with the information they have,” said Pesantez. “Even after this, I still trust the information they’re giving us.”
“Going through this pandemic freshman year has made me very grateful for what I have and very hopeful for what lies in the future,” Nicolas said. “So I’m going to try to make every moment of sophomore year count.”