When freshman theater education major Erin Kelley was packing her belongings for the 16-hour drive from Alton, New Hampshire, to Muncie, she said, she was afraid residence halls may have to close earlier than expected for the 2020-21 school year.
“My fear is having to come home after all of the preparation, excitement and planning that has gone into the year already,” Kelley said. “I guess the fear and frustration really just comes from all the unknowns ... because things literally change day to day.”
In an effort to make the residence hall move-in process safer, Ball State Housing and Residence Life staff offered appointments to drop off items between Aug. 1 and 15 before fully moving in Aug. 19 or 20 to decrease the number of people using entrances and elevators. Kelley arrived on Ball State’s campus Aug. 20.
“I’ve had to wait it out and just move all in one trip … but I can’t wait,” Kelley said.
Jim Dickson, a parent moving his sophomore daughter into the Johnson complexes, said he liked the appointment system to drop off items early this semester, which has not been offered in previous years’ move-in days.
During the earlier appointment, Dickson said, his daughter was asked for her student ID and confirmation of signing up for a specific time slot.
“It was very orderly in the sense that making sure the right person was in,” Dickson said, “Knowing that if she was to get sick, they have a whole dormitory section ready to help house them, test them and take care of them is reassuring.”
Though many campus activities have moved online to reduce the risk of contracting COVID-19, Bri Coffing, a freshman in exploratory studies, said she made friends online and learned they are living in a hall close to hers. Coffing said she feels comfortable holding an in-person and socially-distant gathering with her new friends.
“I feel OK with doing a social gathering because I know that I will maintain the 6 feet rule and wear my mask everywhere,” Coffing said. “I do think my social life will be just fine because I know I will meet friends in my hall.”
Residence hall staff have implemented deep cleaning policies for the fall semester seen on the 2020 Residence Hall FAQ page and asked that students wear face masks in shared spaces. Even with pandemic policies and restrictions in place, freshman art education major Abby Rowlett said she hopes to have “the college experience” and still safely attend her in-person classes.
“I fear that I’ve worked so hard and I’m paying money for an education that may end up online,” Rowlett said. “It feels like even though we are virtually connected, there are so many aspects that still remain disconnected online.”
All classes will finish instruction online after Thanksgiving break, but Rowlett said she is worried the coronavirus could spread on and around campus, moving classes online earlier.
“Seeing classmates and instructors in person regularly helps keep me on task and makes it harder for me to slack off,” she said. “I'm afraid that we will be left with all online classes that I could have taken anywhere else and saved money on tuition and the cost of living on campus.”
Some classes transitioned to online instruction before the start of the fall semester, leaving many students, like Nathan Shaffer, freshman digital video production major, with a hybrid of in-person and online classes to manage.
Shaffer said three of his five classes are online, and one of his fears is falling behind in virtual learning.
“I'm pretty worried about my online classes, honestly,” Shaffer said. “College is already going to be a new experience for me, and I'm really concerned that I'm not going to do as well in my classes now that they're mostly online.”
Although Shaffer is worried about what’s to come, he hopes to make his college experience as normal as possible by joining a film club or an esports team to connect with other students.
When he finished his high school career virtually, Shaffer said, it was odd to be away from the school building.
“Finishing high school away from the actual school definitely made me feel really disconnected from what was going on during the rest of the school year,” Shaffer said.
Sharing Shaffer’s sentiment, freshman visual communications major Mikah Mevis said she wasn’t sure if she was ready for Ball State to be the next school campus she would see after not returning to her high school.
“I know college is going to be a big change, but I hope it'll be for the better,” Mevis said. “I've been so bored these last few months that I honestly don't think I'll mind receiving some assignments.”
Mevis said she hopes to make new friends, take interesting classes and have a semester that is “as normal as possible.”
“It was really hard losing the last few months of my senior year,” Mevis said. “I just want my college experience to make up for what was lost.”