Opinion: Living on campus during COVID-19 is the right choice

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College life in Boston looks quite different this year, with single dorm rooms and quieter streets replacing busy city life for the many students who chose to live at home due to COVID-19.

The pandemic has raised student concerns about the safety of living on campus. Many gather in close quarters and have shared spaces like bathrooms, laundry facilities and dining halls. For some, staying at home this semester was an easy choice to make. Others decided to overcome their fears and move in Suffolk housing. 

I personally decided to test my luck and live on campus this year. As I write this from a typical wooden dorm room desk, looking out my window at the spectacular view of Boston, I know I have made the right choice.

As outlined in its fall reopening guidelines, Suffolk University has a zero-tolerance policy for those who violate COVID-19 safety guidelines. Students will be banned from the residence halls and campus without receiving a refund if they decide to ignore the regulations set in place. 

I believe this policy is one of the main things that will keep us safe on-campus. I feel that students will be less likely to break the rules knowing there will be huge consequences.

As an incoming freshman, I really wanted the true college experience in my first year, even though I knew it would look different. I wanted to live in a dorm, experience the city and make friends – even if that meant wearing masks and staying six feet apart.

Suffolk has made me feel safe while living in a dorm by implementing several safety measures for the semester. Firstly, many students don’t have roommates, so they aren’t sharing a space. Also, all residents are tested twice a week, and results are sent within 24 hours. 

All students living on campus have an app that requires users to log any symptoms that could be a result of COVID-19 every day. Only after showing that they have recently tested negative through this app, are students allowed to leave the dorm buildings and enter any campus buildings. 

Dorm rooms have been set aside for students who test positive. They’ve also limited the number of students who can be in elevators or lounge spaces at one time. With these measures in place, I feel assured that I can leave my dorm and return without risk.

Living in a dorm is one of the most talked-about perks of college, as it is your first chance to live on your own and be independent. You’re responsible for keeping things clean, doing your own laundry and getting homework done, without anybody there to remind you. Living at home, you are still with your family every day, and you don’t have the ability to be as independent.

One of the main reasons I decided to live on campus this year was so I could make friends — if you live at home, you do not have the same frequent social interaction. Suffolk allows students to socialize through both virtual and socially-distanced, in-person group activities. They require everyone to wear a mask when meeting in groups. Gathering in numbers larger than those set forth in the state guidelines is prohibited.

These restrictions have not hindered my ability to make friends and it makes me feel more safe and secure while doing so. 

A big reason why I fell in love with this school was because of its location in the heart of Boston. I really wanted to experience college life in the city because it’s so different than my suburban hometown. I think it’s important to get out of wherever you grew up and go see the world around you. Even with the pandemic, we’re free to go out and explore the city — safely, of course.

According to CNN, some health experts stated going back to campus can be more safe than not if the right precautions are taken, such as limiting class sizes, requiring masks and testing students regularly. I believe that Suffolk has checked every single one of these boxes and more.

While I know I made the right decision of living on campus, I understand the concern that stopped others from doing so. There’s no doubt that choosing to live on campus during the pandemic puts you at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19. 

However, I’m happy with all of the safety measures that have been implemented by Suffolk, and I believe that students are complying with them diligently. I feel completely safe living on campus. I’m also really glad that I’ve gotten the opportunity to meet new people and truly make Boston my home.

Follow Grace on Twitter @graceamacdonald.