Online classes and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic are keeping students in their rooms and at home more often than in previous semesters.
Despite having much more free time, students can’t — or shouldn’t — have large gatherings. There is also the looming, potentially awkward, confrontation with roommates about the spread of COVID-19.
Sarah Duffy, an 18-year-old Santa Fe animal sciences freshman, signed a lease at Canopy Student Apartments and was placed with random roommates: one Santa Fe sophomore and two UF sophomores.
Santa Fe’s largely online fall semester started a week before UF’s. Duffy spent the week in online class while her roommates enjoyed their last week of summer, having friends over and playing loud music.
“When I hear noise I get very easily distracted by it,” Duffy said.
Since the start of UF’s Fall semester on Aug. 31, the group has taken steps to make sure everyone can do work without disruption. The students hung a whiteboard with their class schedules and got ‘Do Not Disturb’ signs to put on their doors, Duffy said.
She worries not knowing if her household guests have been taking COVID-19 seriously, she said. Because she doesn’t know her roommates very well, the idea of confrontation is nerve-wracking.
“I would like to know so I don’t walk out in my pajamas. It’s also frustrating because I don’t know these people or where they have been during corona,” Duffy said.
On UF’s campus, 21-year-old Manny Girona and his roommates in the Keys Residential Complex have benefited from the flexibility of online classes. He’s a member of the UF men’s golf team and lives with two of his teammates.
This semester, due to COVID-19, the guys can’t do homework in Otis Hawkins Center, a UF academic building, like in previous years. Instead, Girona does work in his room, the UF food and resource economics seniorsaid.
“If I can do the same thing at home that I can in the library, I might as well limit the risk,” Girona said.
Girona’s cautious and calm attitude toward his circumstance is similar to that of Jack Ten Hulzen, a 20-year-old UF aerospace engineering junior.
Ten Hulzen has a room to himself in the Sigma Alpha Epsilon Fraternity house, where he lives with about 40 other brothers. At any given time, 20 people are home, but he hasn’t dealt with a lot of noise because the house is big, he said.
Residents at the house must wear masks when they aren’t in their rooms, so he isn’t spending much time with others, Ten Hulzen said.
“We definitely haven’t been hanging out as much but hopefully when all this is over we can get back to normal,” he said.