A year of COVID

Anastasia Chernous - 12 March 2021

The beginning

I remember the day I received an email from Residence Services requesting residents to move out within the next 4 days. That is when it all started to seem very real to me regarding the seriousness of COVID-19. I remember thinking that it’s only going to last a month or two, and then everything would go back to normal. Continuing classes online in the Winter 2020 semester seemed like the best thing ever to me! I get to sleep in, stay at home and live according to my own schedule—or so I thought.

Starting my second year

Since I am a Resident Assistant, my move in day was earlier than most other residents’: August 10th. Usually this early move in day helps student staff settle in and take part in training that happens during the month before students move in. 2020 was the first year where Student Staff Training was done completely virtually through a series of Zoom meetings and gatherings. I will be honest: I did not expect it to be as fun as it was and I was pleasantly surprised about how engaging virtual programs can be if you put some thought into it.

As students started to move in, I noticed a significant difference in the amount of social interactions I had with people between my first year living at Peter Lougheed Hall and 2020 in Tamarack House. I wondered if that was because it was an upper year residence, due to the impact of COVID-19 or a bit of both. And the fun of online school started to die down quickly as I noticed my daily routine was being negatively impacted, and the loss of motivation and concentration was affecting my academic performance.

But as a Resident Assistant and a Storyteller working for Residence Services, I have learned about so many resources on campus that can help you with academics, finances and more.

Living and working in residence through COVID-19

Being a Resident Assistant definitely gave me an advantage to being a resident on campus this year, as it provided me with many opportunities to connect with new people during the pandemic. I was able to meet many of my residents in my building through 1-on-1 check-ins and virtual programs that I had a lot of fun planning and organizing. I also got to meet many new RAs and interact virtually through weekly team meetings, as well as in person during Community Support Shifts.

This year with the pandemic, working as a Resident Assistant is very different than what it was last year. All team meetings, 1-on-1s and resident check-ins are now done through Google Meets, all of the programs that I organize have to be safe and contactless, and most of my Community Support Shift work is giving out Safety Bucks to residents following COVID-19 guidelines—and having Community Resolution conversations with those who don’t.

As a resident living on campus, I understand how isolating it can be with the COVID-19 rules in place to keep everyone safe. This in turn helped me plan my programs, so that they encourage residents to meet each other and interact. I always made sure to let my residents know of current events that are happening in residence while still ensuring that they are safe for everyone.

Near the beginning of the school year, we still had in-person events happening in residence such as a Halloween Scavenger Hunt, a petting zoo, and a few Eastern Ascent activities such as a water balloon fight. But as the COVID-19 numbers started rising, and people started to feel more anxious, Residence Services took all precautions to keep everyone safe.

Residence now

Now in residence there are certain rules in place to keep all residents feeling safe. Masks are mandatory inside all buildings, except if you’re alone in your unit. There are maximum capacity limits in all study lounges that ensure physical distancing at all times. Residents are not allowed to visit other buildings on campus to limit the spread of COVID-19. Residence also provides an isolation program for students who are arriving to campus from other places by plane, have been tested positive, have symptoms or have been in close contact with someone symptomatic or who tested positive.

Resident Assistants are also helping out by supporting all students in residence with whatever help they may need. During shifts, we ensure that all rules are being followed, and that everyone feels safe living here at the University of Alberta. We still create programs for our residents once a month that are all virtual but are extremely fun, and involve a lot of amazing prizes! We have the East Campus Bingo League, the Expedition: Connect Clubs, and we just had our first ever virtual Alternative Reading Week in February!

Most university resources are also still open through virtual delivery. We have the Career Success Centre, Centre for Writers, Counselling and Clinical Services, and more.

If you ever need help or more information, please do not hesitate to reach out to your Resident Assistant. We’re always happy to help! There may be a pandemic going on right now, but here we try our best to listen to the residents’ suggestions and make sure that everyone is feeling as engaged and connected as possible while staying safe!