Since move-in day in August, students and residential advisors in the dorm halls have been trying to find new ways to socialize.
Many changes were made to the way students and RAs alike can interact within the halls. What was once a social hotspot for making new friends with fellow students has now become much quieter.
Ward Hall RA AJ Arechiga noted that he has been struggling to build strong connections with his residents because of the unusual circumstances.
“For me it has been difficult getting to know my residents and connecting faces to names,” Arechiga said. “I think the most difficult part has been the helpless feeling I get when residents come to talk about the lack of socializing they experience on their floor.”
Arechiga understood that this is a difficult time for everyone to feel comfortable hanging out around the hall. He has still made it a priority to ensure that his residents have fun living in the dorms and make new friends.
As needed to modify how they connected with the residents on their assigned hall floors, and how to help them get out of their rooms. One way to encourage students out are the hall programs.
These programs are usually hosted in the main lobby areas of each hall. Some events offered are movie marathons, game nights, and physical group exercises like yoga.
So far, Arechiga has either hosted or helped with four different programs in Ward. Five students came to his first event, “Frisbee on the quad,” and that is the most participants he has had attend since then. One of the newest rules when having these social gatherings is a limit of ten people wearing masks and safely distancing.
“It’s difficult to get residents to come out and interact, mainly because some are cautious of the virus, and I would like to be respectful of their precautions,” Arechiga said. “For the most part, I try my best to send out emails to my residents and encourage them to come to programs. I have also introduced residents to one another in hopes of them becoming friends and breaking out of their shell. I also encourage residents to reach out to me if they are bored or need someone to talk to. I’ve tried to make it very clear that I am here to be their friend.”
Residents attending programs feel that during events they can be safe and have fun at the same time. Many emphasized that while they were still attending in person events they were being cautious of the number of people in attendance and how many were wearing masks.
They have also said they feel grateful that everyone in their hall community is doing their part to keep everyone healthy and safe.
Devin Bearer, a freshman living in Puterbaugh hall, says that there has been a real community forming since move-in day. She says that she’s been able to meet people through regular, nonscheduled everyday activities in addition to events put on by RAs.
“The RAs in my hall have been hosting a lot of events,” she says. “There was a huge event for pumpkin painting, a lot of people showed up for that, and I was able to meet more people. There’s also a ‘Just Dance’ event that’s recurring and that one is super fun.”
Some students have been hanging out and playing games in the halls even when events are not going on.
Zach Miller is a freshman in graphic media management who frequently finds activities to do with his friends around North Hall.
Miller and his friends have chilled in the lobby, cooked in the kitchens, played pool or ping pong, and watched movies together. They try to invite new people to join them whenever they hang out. The group takes necessary precautions when they get together, so that they can be an example to show that having a great time with friends can still happen.
“It is still a lot of fun, just because we have to social distance doesn’t mean you can’t yell at your friends from across the hall,” Miller said.
Miller expected that he would be in his room often, and that was not the case. To his surprise, Miller made new friends quickly and he finds himself out of his room most of the time.
Another student who has discovered different ways to connect with friends is weld engineering technology sophomore Nathan Hard.
Ward and his friend group meet up at the Quad on campus or go out into the town to grab a bite to eat.
Students knew when they moved in that it would be a different experience than they’re used to. Some students have adjusted well and are still having a good time, despite their odd circumstances.
Arechiga explained his reason for becoming an RA was to make certain that students, particularly freshmen, have an overall positive experience in the halls. He hoped to build a community for Ward Hall and be a role model for younger residents, helping them however he can.
“It is important because everyone deserves to have a good social experience their freshman year and meet new people,” Arechiga said. “I want to get students involved to adjust to student life here at Ferris and meet new people because that’s what college is all about.”
As and students have been able to find a fulfilling community on campus while still being safe and cautious of others.
Meghan Hartley contributed to the reporting of this story.