Jessie Cheung, Contributing Photographer
With most first years required to spend the rest of the school year off campus, members of the class of 2024 are considering various living plans as the spring semester approaches.
When first years left Yale at the start of November break, they bid farewell to their campus knowing that they would most likely not be allowed to return until next fall. Without the opportunities of on-campus housing and in-person social life, many first years are now weighing different options for how to spend their spring semesters.
“I’m still not sure what I’m going to do this next semester,” said Astri Doub ’24, who is currently at home in Maryland. “I want to take a leave of absence. But if I take a leave of absence, I want to have some sort of internship or job that I’m excited about … I’m applying to stuff now, and if I get an opportunity like that, I probably won’t take classes. But if I don’t find anything, I’ll probably just take online classes.”
Doub is not the only one with ambiguous second semester plans. Although many first years are returning home to continue their studies, some — like Doub — are contemplating the possibility of a leave of absence, while others hope to find a place to stay off campus in New Haven. Some first years who were granted spring term housing exemptions will return to campus next semester.
For Doub, the concern is that — by spending a semester remotely — she will be missing out on what makes college special.
“I understand safety-wise why we can’t go back, but it’s also very frustrating because I feel like … no matter what, we’re not going to have the traditional college experience,” she said. “Deciding to … get one step further to getting your degree is also, I feel, taking away from a semester … Taking online classes in no way compares to being in the classroom. And so, to me, that’s been a little hard, because either we’re not going to have a complete kind of four-year cycle, which will be strange, or I’m going to give up having a semester on campus and getting a college experience.”
Justice Brown ’24, who is currently torn between getting an apartment in New Haven and staying home in Alabama, highlighted a desire to get some form of the “college experience” — the reason Brown wants to find an apartment in New Haven. Her other reasons included the proximity to campus and the access to a reliable internet source.
For Brown, living in an apartment also comes with its own complications.
“An apartment entails investing in utilities, internet, furniture and groceries in addition to rent,” Brown said. “That being said, I’ve been searching for a roommate to help alleviate some of these pressures. Unfortunately, though, because of COVID restrictions and the fact that I started looking for an apartment later than most, I have struggled to find a roommate that I know and trust.”
Despite these challenges, Brown said, she is still determined to find the best option to continue her education in the unconventional spring semester.
Like Brown, Vamsi Gorrepati ’24 was looking to stay in New Haven. Unlike Brown, Gorrepati and his friends decided that they wanted a house rather than an apartment.
“So that we can create our own bubble,” Gorrepati said. “So that we can stay safe.”
One of his roommates is a part of the Air Force Reserve Officers Training Corps at Yale, which requires that they stay close to campus. The rest of the group, Gorrepati explained, felt it would be a waste of a semester to work from home. Living in a bubble with friends would mean making the most of being off-campus while still staying relatively protected from virus risks.
Although it was difficult to get a house that was simultaneously safe, not too expensive, fully furnished and large enough for seven people, Gorrepati and his roommates ultimately found a place that met their qualifications.
“I’m just looking for a positive experience,” Gorrepati said. “Already, like my first semester at Yale, even though it was different, I had a really good experience with how they handled things. And I’m hoping, even though the spring semester will be different, it’ll still be good.”
Ritik Chamola ’24, like Gorrepati, plans to move back to New Haven in the coming months. Chamola, however, has been granted an exemption to remain on campus for the spring semester. Taking classes remotely from his home in Singapore would put him 13 hours ahead of Eastern time. This time difference was one of the major factors he considered when he applied for and was granted an exemption to remain on campus.
Chamola noted that, had he not been granted a housing exemption, he would likely have taken a leave of absence.
“I don’t want to risk throwing off my entire sleep schedule for three months, and not having time to spend with my family during the day, because I’d be living nocturnally,” Chamola said.
While students like Doub, Brown, Gorrepati and Chamola are considering or even pursuing alternatives to off-campus remote learning, many of their peers — such as Leo Sun ’24 — are getting settled into their homes for the long haul.
After moving back to the West Coast from New Haven, Sun has had to adapt to the three-hour time difference. Sun wakes up at 5:30 in order to attend MATH 120.
But Sun remains optimistic about the coming semester.
“I think I’m just going to focus on keeping my grades up and focusing on school during this time,” said Sun. “Hopefully I won’t have too many distractions because I’ll be at home, but we’ll see.”
Some first years will not have to adjust as much though — Will Gonzalez ’24 and Krishna Dasari ’24, among many of their classmates, spent their fall semester remotely. They offered advice to first years who are studying remotely for the first time.
Gonzalez, who lives in Florida, said that the beginning of the school year was rough. But his friends — particularly fellow remote students — held nightly study halls over Zoom for everyone to work together which, “got him through the semester.”
“Keep up with [your] friend group,” Gonzalez said. “You really have to work at it, but meeting … frequently really helps a lot, especially when so much is on screen [and there’s] not as much connection as being on campus.”
Meanwhile, Dasari offered guidance on how to study well at home.
Dasari recommended making a general plan or to-do list for the day so students can spend time productively. But he added that taking plenty
“It’s not easy to spend most of your days working at home, but it’ll grow on you … hopefully,” Dasari said. “You’ll probably have a good deal of extra time, so find new activities to occupy that time. It doesn’t matter if they are productive or not; as long as you can convince yourself that you are getting something positive from it, you can feel productive, which is essential to studying remotely.”
Yale closed the majority of its residences for the fall term on Nov. 21. The spring semester will begin on Feb. 1.
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