New campus realities lead to creative social gatherings

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COURTESY PHOTO / CREATIVE COMMONS

Everywhere around us at the College of William and Mary, people seem to be finally adjusting to our new reality. Classes over Zoom, reduced-capacity dining halls and omnipresent masks are all signs that we’re adapting to our new circumstances. That leaves one main question to be answered: what are students doing socially? Most people say that the best way to make friends in college is to join as many activities as possible and find people in your classes. Well, what are we supposed to do now that neither clubs nor classes will be meeting in person?

The answer lies outside — literally. Most events that require larger gatherings are now being held outside, whether on the Sunken Garden or a nearby grassy field. Adirondack chairs have been set up at various locations around campus and plenty of outdoor tables have been placed near the dining halls for students to eat. There is no shortage of beautiful outdoor spaces to gather on campus.

For many, the real problem lies in finding people to meet up with. Freshmen who are new to campus don’t have the advantage of knowing people beforehand. Sure, some people know friends from high school, but other than that, our options for socializing can be pretty limited. The best place to turn, usually, is hallmates. Since classes and clubs are going virtual, the only people that most of us interact with on a daily basis are the people living right down the hall. However, if you’re dead-set on finding a friend outside your hall, there’s always Instagram and GroupMe to reach out to people. Most people are in the same boat, so don’t be afraid to ask if they want to meet up.

“Freshmen who are new to campus don’t have the advantage of knowing people beforehand. Sure, some people know friends from high school, but other than that, our options for socializing can be pretty limited.”

Students have been getting extra creative with their gatherings since the new COVID-19 rules were put in place. They’ve been gathering in wide circles, heading to the dining halls at odd times and searching far and wide for hidden spots on campus that are empty. Anything to avoid the crowds. For anyone who’s interested: the amphitheater at Lake Matoaka is usually a great spot to take your grab and go meal. There are plenty of great places tucked away behind the academic buildings as well. Try the alcove by Tucker Hall for a nice outdoor place for Zoom classes, if you so desire.

The best recommendation for socially distanced hangouts is to go with a small group — meaning 2-5 people — especially if they’re not your hallmates. That way you’re guaranteed to be following the COVID-19 procedures, as long as you keep your masks on. If you do choose to go in a larger group, make sure you’re wearing masks and be sure to socially distance.

For the most part, students at the College have done a great job adhering to these guidelines. Rarely do you see large groups of students wandering around, and you never see students without masks. Although most everyone has been suffering while following the COVID-19 guidelines, we all still follow the rules. It’s simply a matter of being creative enough to find places while being considerate of others at the school, faculty, staff and students alike.

As for the College’s future? There’s a possibility that outdoor gatherings will become a staple of the culture here. Many people enjoy being outside on the Sunken Garden, or at the tables at Sadler. As long as the weather is nice, there’s nothing stopping us from enjoying gatherings outdoors. Unfortunately, we have to remember that Williamsburg is notorious for being a swamp and when it rains, it pours. Too many times, students have been caught sprinting from building to building in the downpour, hoping their laptops don’t get soaked. For now, that’s simply a hurdle we have to deal with when it comes to planning gatherings. Someday in the future, maybe the school will be willing to turn to a hybrid of outdoor and indoor gathering spaces for clubs and classes.

Email Abby Paras at eaparas@email.wm.edu.