Incoming students voice challenges, anxieties surrounding COVID-19 and WU reopening policies
Updated: Sep 14
Student arrives during Opening Days. Photo by Benjamin Burton.
On Tuesday, August 18, campus was abuzz with incoming students ushering in the new year, smiling through masks and an uncertain transition to campus life.
A majority of the incoming first-years graduated highschool last June, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. “This pandemic has affected a lot of things for me, I missed out on my prom and my graduation, but I'm honestly just glad I can be starting college and getting to live on campus,” said Max Kass, an incoming first-year.
Kass was confident that Willamette University (WU) was the right college for him, even though the pandemic prevented him from visiting in-person. “Because of the virus, I had to get an idea of what Willamette was like through zoom meetings and online, and so it was tough to make my college choice without getting to be here,” said Kass. “I haven’t been too impacted by the pandemic. Yes, my prom and my graduation were canceled, but I was fortunate enough not to deal with too many other problems.”
This year’s Opening Days calendar was strikingly different from previous years, in accordance with WU’s Coronavirus policies. A new “drop and go” system was implemented for all students in on-campus residence halls, giving each resident a fifteen minute period to unload their belongings and move into their residence halls. Any parents or guardians who tagged along were asked to leave campus immediately afterwards. “It was definitely hard to say goodbye to my parents so quickly, the move-in process was weird, but it was definitely a safe way to do it,” said Kass.
Another first-year, Taden Bowden, added: “My mother is a little bit upset, the drop off was understandably hard because it was so short, and so she feels like she missed out on this moment with me. But Willamette is being careful, keeping distance, keeping masks on, and so I think it's overall a good thing.”
Throughout the week, through the flood of nerves and excitement, one thing was clear— the new students were anticipating an unconventional first year of college. “Everything with the pandemic has been chaotic and stressful, but I’ve made the best out of it and that’s what I’m going to keep on doing,” said Bowden.