Freshman year at any college can be a daunting task. For many, it is the first time they will leave the comfort of their homes to immerse themselves in a new culture of education while navigating a new social environment.
While the fall semester in Auburn is often characterized by football games, socials and large gatherings, for the more than 4,000 freshmen who embarked on the Plains for their first semester of college, heading down South College and Magnolia was a bit different than in years past— especially for those living on campus.
Safety measures were put in place for move-in day to promote social distancing.
Masks were required to enter on-campus facilities and has since become required on campus at all times.
Yet, eager freshmen continued to arrive in record numbers — all with the eagerness of gaining all that Auburn could give.
According to Auburn University’s housing website, there are currently 4,800 students living in 32 residence halls on campus. As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, University Housing has required all residents to wear a mask upon entry of the residence hall. Masks may only be taken off once in personal space and off-campus residents are no longer allowed visitation to on-campus housing facilities.
University Housing, in partnership with the Auburn University Medical Clinic, has also allowed the utilization of three dorms for isolation and quarantine purposes for any on-campus residents who test positive.
In a statement released last week, Dr. Fred Kam, Auburn University Medical Center director, stated that “As of this morning, our quarantine or isolation dorms have not reached more than half capacity,” Kam said. “We have an additional reserve dorm that we can use for either isolation or quarantine, or both.
“That also exists and we have not had the need to activate that third dorm at all.”
However, according to two on-campus residents, both of whom have requested anonymity for personal reasons, the experience they are receiving while living in Auburn University’s Village housing community is definitely different from what they ever thought it would be.
A freshman majoring in exercise science stated that she was exposed to Covid-19 through a roommate in the apartment-style housing unit. She was forewarned that she soon may be receiving a call or email from University Housing.
“My roommate tested positive,” she said. “I went and got tested yesterday and the result came back negative. I went and got another test today and this time it was rapid. It came back positive.
“I’m showing absolutely no symptoms and have not been running a fever. I was offered a stay in the Hill quarantine dorm but I didn’t feel comfortable with that so I made the decision to go home.”
The exercise science major, who is from Madison, Alabama, had to travel more than four hours and currently has no date to when she will be able to return to campus.
“Housing only told me that I could return in two weeks,” she said. “Right now, that would put me returning on Sept. 9. They also haven’t mentioned anything about what happens when I return and if I need to get retested — I’m sure I will have to.”
The Madison native also stated that she was enrolled in two face-to-face classes before she received her positive test result.
“My classes will remain the same — they will now just move online for me," she said. "My professors told us in the beginning of the semester that we could email them and simply say we can’t make it to class without disclosing why.
“However, in my opinion, with numbers rising and so many people testing positive each day, I think we will all probably go online before getting sent home in November or December.”
When asked why she did not utilize on-campus quarantine housing, the freshman stated that she does not trust the accuracy of testing after receiving both a negative and positive result.
“I don’t think these tests are accurate at all,” she said. “I know several people who received false positives.
“To me, it made no sense for me to stay in a dorm full of people with Covid — that would mean I would have to wait to start showing symptoms and then quarantine for another two weeks.”
Another resident, who also tested positive, had a different outlook on the current on-campus Covid situation.
The freshman majoring in business from Trussville, Alabama stated that when she tested positive, she was asymptomatic. However, by her fifth day of quarantine, the tell-tale signs of Covid had begun to show.
“It hasn’t been fun at all,” she said. “I haven’t been able to taste or smell anything. It started with not being able to taste food. I could taste my drink but, by the next day, I couldn’t taste or smell at all.”
When the Trussville native realized she had been exposed to the virus, suspecting she was exposed while out at lunch with her parents last Saturday, she immediately returned to the dorm and began to pack her things to return home with her parents.
Unable to test until the following Monday, she said when she reached out to Auburn housing officials, their response was not immediate.
“We tried to get in contact with Auburn but no one answered,” she said last week. "They finally reached out to me on Wednesday to begin contact tracing.
“I explained my symptoms and that was it. That’s when I received an email stating I will be able to come back to campus Sept. 4.”
The business major also had two face-to-face classes but had not attended prior to receiving a positive test result.
Both freshmen also mentioned that their roommates were required to quarantine as a result of themselves or others testing positive. All roommates were offered stays in the isolation dorms or given the option to return home until they were allowed back on campus.
However, despite the unexpected move home, both believe that Auburn is handling the unprecedented pandemic the best they can.
“I think Auburn is trying its best,” the Trussville native said. “After all, there is no blueprint on how to handle something like this. I’m ready to get back when I can.”