Heading to Hanover: Students Hope for a Safe Spring on Campus
After the recent COVID-19 outbreak, some students worry that spring term on campus might not be so sunny.
With several indoor spaces closed and social interactions limited amid the College’s recent COVID-19 outbreak, many students have faced a particularly stressful end of term. Now that spring is approaching, some worry that another outbreak could make next term just as challenging.
In the words of Dylan Wang ’24, who is on campus this term, “Campus life is kind of terrible right now.”
Returning to quarantine caused many to feel isolated and stressed in their dorm rooms, with around 200 students heading home early.
For Olivia Audsley ’21, the recent outbreak was the deciding factor in her plans for next term. Audsley initially intended to live on campus, but since COVID-19 cases spiked last month, she decided to lease an off-campus apartment instead.
“The outbreaks were the last push for me. I didn’t sign a lease until the outbreaks. I didn’t want to be trapped on campus,” Audsley said, explaining that she wasn’t hoping to evade the College’s restrictions, but she felt that living off campus would be better for her mental health.
Henry Eberhart ’24 agreed that COVID-19 can make life on campus challenging. This winter, restrictions tightened right before finals, leaving students without adequate study spaces.
“The outbreak has been very difficult, especially since it is at the end of the term,” Eberhart said.
“I am not someone who does well working in my room.”
Many students are also struggling with paranoia regarding the virus itself, especially after months of low case numbers in the Hanover area.
“My fear of myself getting COVID-19 is really bad right now,” Eberhart said. “Any time you experience any small symptom — like coughing — you get terrified that you have COVID-19. That kind of anxiety makes doing work difficult. I was very scared in the beginning [of the outbreak]. One day, I was so scared that I didn’t grab lunch at Foco.”
With heightened restrictions and fears about contracting COVID-19, students mainly stayed home during the outbreak, leaving campus quieter than usual. Aaní Perkins ’23 said that she felt like campus was “dead,” and that dealing with the restrictions took a toll on her mental health.
“It made everything so much more exhausting,” Perkins said. “This has been the hardest term, mentally, for me. I have a lot of papers due, and doing those in isolation is really miserable. I need a lot of people around me to stay productive.”
Additionally, Perkins said that even in the middle of the outbreak, she perceived a “superhuman expectation” that Dartmouth students carry on as if everything was normal, which made it hard to ask for help.
Despite these challenges, however, many students still plan to return to Hanover this spring. Some are desperate to reconnect with peers, while others find that Dartmouth’s campus offers a better environment to perform well academically.
“Even if there is a possibility that we get sent home in the middle of the spring term, I would still choose to go on campus,” Briana Maldonado ’24 said, discussing the potential for another outbreak.
For Maldonado, “staying at home is not a choice for the spring.” Other freshmen seem equally determined to spend spring term on campus, especially after spending winter term at home.
Eberhart, who also plans to be on campus this spring, is more optimistic that COVID-19 cases won’t spike again next term.
“I think the fall term was evidence that we can go a whole term without an outbreak like that,” Eberhart said.
While being on campus might be less appealing after this term’s outbreak, Audsley still sees value in living in the Hanover area. She said that many seniors crave one last chance to spend time with their communities at Dartmouth.
In returning for the spring, however, students realize they are accepting the danger of living through another outbreak.
“It is a risk you have to play here,” Wang said. “I would still come even in the chance that this would happen again. To me, I would much rather be on campus for study reasons and social reasons.”