Student social life in the age of COVID-19

Faced with limitations on socializing, students came up with new and unexpected ways of getting together and enjoying campus life.

Ryan Aguilar ’22Photo by Mike Lovett

Ryan Aguilar

Despite the restrictions imposed on her extracurricular and social life by the pandemic, Amy Schroder ’23 saw an opportunity to pursue a new hobby. With a friend, she began to study photography. 

The pursuit took her to an unexpected place — a historic Waltham cemetery. It was not just a place where she could stay socially distant, she found it strangely beautiful. 

“We would go on walks through the cemetery in the evening and take pictures before it got too dark,” Schroder said. “It wasn’t scary at all. It was actually peaceful and serene.”

Amy Schroder
Courtesy Schroder

Amy Schroder

This year has presented unprecedented challenges to the roughly 1,800 on-campus students as they pursue non-classroom activities. The new normal requires students to wear masks, maintain physical distance and gather only in small numbers.

Clubs can only meet online. Many extracurricular sports are canceled. And, of course, partying isn’t possible. 

But this still hasn’t stopped students from finding ways to connect. Like Schroder, many have even found upsides to all the pandemic’s downsides. 

“We plan our outings more than we did last year,” Takara McLaughlin ’22 said. “This year we are more intentionally making time for each other."

 Schroder also said she’s spent more quality time with her friends this year in general. 

“Processing all of these huge events together, talking about it and healing through it really creates a bond that is unlike any other — a bond that would otherwise not be possible without the pandemic,” she said.

Takara McLaughlin
Courtesy McLaughlin

Takara McLaughlin

For Ryan Aguilar ’22, the pandemic meant his intramural soccer club could no longer compete in games.

Instead, he and his nine teammates met every other weekend for “kick-arounds,” where they would remain socially distant as they passed the ball back and forth. They would play for hours, performing tricks and elaborate footwork. 

“I was definitely glad I was able to stay active,” Aguilar said. “I think and feel better afterward, and I’m more productive.”

Some students spent their weekends off-campus trying out the many eateries on nearby Moody Street, many of which remained open for limited-capacity indoor dining.  

They could walk there or take the Brandeis van to Moody Street, which is well-known for its wide range of cuisines. It is one of the few places in the U.S. where you can eat food from four different continents, all on the same block.

McLaughlin, a junior, went out for dinner many Saturday nights with her friends. This wasn’t the weekend social scene they were accustomed to, but they still valued their time with one another. 

“We had normal conversations and, for a second, it wouldn’t feel like we were in a pandemic — until the waiter came back around in a mask,” McLaughlin said. 

Before Schroder discovered photography, she split her extracurricular time between Southeast Asian Club meetings and leading tours for the Office of Admissions

She says that taking pictures has filled the gap. She and her friend take trips to Mt. Feake Cemetery, behind the Gosman Sports and Convocation Center.

As they shot pictures, they talked about life and death. “We had a lot of great introspective conversations there,” Schroder said. 

Categories: Student Life

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