Think Out Loud

Oregon college students navigate living on campus during pandemic

By Samantha Matsumoto (OPB)
Sept. 30, 2020 3:19 p.m. Updated: Oct. 4, 2020 4:59 p.m.

Broadcast: Wednesday, Sept. 30

Students walk across the University of Oregon campus on a rainy March day in this 2015 file photo.

Students walk across the University of Oregon campus on a rainy March day in this 2015 file photo.

Alan Sylvestre / OPB


Many college freshmen in Oregon moved into residence halls on campuses last week, despite most classes being taught online.

In recent weeks, there have been increases in COVID-19 cases in Lane County, which is home to the University of Oregon. Corvallis, which is home to Oregon State University, has also reported an increase in cases on campus as students move back.

OPB’s Think Out Loud spoke with two college freshmen, Megan Herrington at Oregon State University and Wyatt Holland at the University of Oregon, about what life is like on campus during the pandemic.

On why they chose to live on campus:

Herrington: I really wanted to be able to be in a different environment, especially when it came to learning, because I knew I wouldn’t really get to focus and study if I stayed at home. … Part of it’s the social aspect. I am an only child, and I live with my two parents. And it’s very different experience interacting with parents versus interacting with people your own age. … I wanted to be able to interact, even if it was very limited, with people around me.

Holland: It was mainly because I was pretty bummed out that my senior year [of high school] got cut short. And so some form of a school experience, and I thought that coming to campus would be better than just staying at home and online learning. I have a lot of friends down here, and we wanted to come down here together.

On whether students are following rules to prevent transmission:


Herrington: It’s a good mix. The people who are following it are following it very well. But there are a lot of people that are breaking the rules, usually outside at night, where it’s harder to catch people. … I guess the best example of it is, right outside of my dorm, around 10-ish, there’s usually a group of 20 people and only about half of them are wearing masks.

Holland: I think mostly everybody’s wearing masks here, at least in the hallways and stuff. Definitely at night, also here, too, people are congregating a lot outside, especially in the fields, but even then, I would say, at least half the people are wearing masks. I think people are following the rules pretty well here. But obviously, you know, it’s a bunch of young people, so people aren’t always going to be following the rules very well.

On meeting new people on campus during the pandemic:

Holland: It’s definitely really weird meeting new people, especially when you’re all wearing masks and it’s hard to see someone’s face. I feel like I’ve I met so many new people, and I can’t remember their names because I can’t remember their faces.

On how safe they feel on campus:

Herrington: I feel relatively safe. I am surrounding myself, personally, with people that I know that are following the rules and are taking as many precautions as possible. And I try to keep as much distance as I can from people who don’t.

On their fears:

Herrington: We haven’t heard anything really from OSU. But my friend group is worried - I have a bunch of friends going into OSU. We are all kind of worried deep down that they’re going to cancel [living on campus and in-person classes] because that’s what other colleges have been doing, or that they’re just going impose super super strict restrictions that make our lives hell.

On colder weather and what’s coming:

Holland: It’s going to be pretty weird being inside a lot during the winter, and not be able to see as many people. I know that we’ll still be able to eat inside with friends or go to the Rec [student recreation center] and work out with people. Obviously, people do have each other in their dorms occasionally. You’re not really supposed to, but I have a feeling that that’ll probably being happening a decent amount down here, just because people need to socialize still. And it’s just really hard to right now.

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