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Dorm life in a pandemic

Dorm life is quieter than years past, classes are smaller, face masks are ubiquitous in indoor spaces across campus, but Pearl River Community College student Jaleah Davis was still ready to be back in a classroom.

“Five months out of school is very different from just two months. It’s just like, I’m tired of seeing the same faces in the house,” she said.

Davis graduated from Pascagoula High School, with two graduation ceremonies—one virtual and one in person. The pandemic never made her question whether to start her first semester of college or to move into the dorms.

Davis was ready to live on her own after growing up surrounded by sisters.

“There’s five of us. I was just happy to have somewhere of my own,” she said.

COVID-19 also didn’t make first year student Lauren Lee hesitant to live on campus.

“It’s a little different due to the new protocols,” said Lee. “I thought I’d be in my friends’ dorms a lot, but now there’s no going between dorms, but the living on my own part, I’d say that’s what I expected.”

Lee lives with her best friend from high school and goes home to visit her family on the weekends. Home is not far away, as she is a Pearl River Central High School graduate.

“I feel like PRCC has tried to make it as normal as possible,” said second year student Jaden Hall.

All three women live in Forrest Hall, the largest women’s dorm on campus and all three are student navigators. A machine is stationed in the lobby of the dorm so students can check their temperature when they enter. Signs are posted to socially distance.

The dorms are a lot different from the previous school year, said Hall, but they still have the same feel.

“I love dorming here. I don’t live that far, I’m like 20 minutes away from Picayune. It’s enough distance to where I feel independent. I’m kind of on my own, but enough distance to you know, ‘Hi mom can you fix me something to eat?’” said Hall.

Move in day was a challenge, as students were only allowed to have one person help them move in. Lee and her mom struggled to carry heavy boxes and shelves upstairs, and the elevator was limited to two people at a time, which made for a long line.

“It was less hectic for me than last year because I didn’t bring as much stuff as I did last year,” said Hall.

Class sizes are smaller, with only half a class coming in at a time and the option to attend virtually always available. Lee said she watches her lectures online, then does homework and asks teachers questions in class. Davis delivered a speech virtually from her dorm room for her public speaking class. Even band rehearsals are divided, said Davis, with woodwinds in one room and brass in the other.

Students are still able to use on campus amenities like the gym and the cafeteria, although face mask use is enforced in both places and temperature checks are required upon entering.

“Me personally, keeping the mask on while I work out, it helps me breathe. It helps me control my breath,” said Davis.

It’d be hard not to follow the COVID prevention rules while on campus, said Lee.

“You have to wear a mask to go to class,” she said. “There’s not really room to have the option to not wear it. To go to the cafeteria they don’t swipe your student ID to get in, unless you take your temperature first.”

Hall said the people in her circle are taking the prevention measures seriously.

“I wouldn’t want to be associated with someone who wasn’t taking it seriously,” she said.

Life on campus is not as social as it used to be, said Lee.

“You’re not being in big groups, you’re not hanging out with your friends anymore. It’s really just focused on school work,” she said.

Still those obstacles can teach students commitment, said Lee.

“It’s not what you would expect, especially with the pandemic and everything like that. It does teach you about responsibility,” said Davis.