Samantha Dibbell, a chemistry senior and first-year residential assistant at Kalpana Chawla Hall, has lived away from home her entire college career — and every year she would feel extremely lonely.
Dibbell, who’s from Kilgore, Texas, decided to become a residential assistant this fall despite the pandemic to help other students who might become lonely too.
“If I understand how they feel, then I can make them feel a bit more welcomed when they live away from home and away from their parents,” she said.
In the last four days, UTA students began moving back to campus as the university prepares for the fall semester amid the coronavirus pandemic.
In an effort to better maintain social distancing guidelines, students moving to campus were required to select a move-in reservation time over a four-day moving period. They were given one-hour time slots.
Nursing sophomore Gabrielle Fields, who moved into West Hall on Saturday from Ennis, Texas, said it was her second year living on campus, and the move-in process was smoother compared to the previous year. Thirty minutes into her reservation and she was nearly done.
“It's a lot more organized, and it's calmer and nobody's in the way,” Fields said. “Nobody's rushing and fighting to get to the elevator. Everything's just organized.”
When moving in Fields was given free cleaning supplies for her room, and each floor was equipped with cleaning stations stocked with paper towels and spray.
The university should have done this last year, she said, pandemic or not.
“Everything is just so much better,” Fields said.
Dibbell said it was a great idea for the university to spread move-in over four days. There was never a line for students to check in. However, she’s still disappointed she can’t spend a lot of time with her residents.
“My spirits were kind of dampened when COVID started and nothing seemed to be getting any better,” she said. “And now we're social distancing.”
As part of new COVID-19 safety precautions, residential assistants will have to maintain a 6-foot distance from residents at all times, step back when knocking on doors and wear specific personal protective equipment when going into rooms.
Dibbell is still excited for the semester, and residential assistants have developed new ways to continue communicating and reaching out to residents every day, she said.
“We're going to make them feel just as at home as if it were a normal semester,” Dibbell said.
Aerospace engineering freshman Ethan Greenwood grew up in a small town in Nebraska and said being at UTA is something different for him.
Greenwood, who moved into West Hall on Saturday, chose to come to the university for the engineering program. His brother lives in the area as well, he said.
Although he has his brother nearby, Greenwood has mixed feelings about moving away from home.
“[I] feel happy and sad at the same time,” he said. “I won’t be back there for a while [but] kind of happy to move on.”
However, as of right now his main concern is his classes. He’s worried about how difficult or different they will be since his courses are being taught in a hybrid format.
Dibbell said that although students living on campus can’t get physically close to each other, she wants freshmen and residents to know that college is a time to make friends and experience new things. It doesn’t have to be all about grades.
Grades are still very important, but one should enjoy college — especially now, she said.
“It's a time to have fun, and a time to have experiences, and a time to make memories,” Dibbell said. “And I think that's something that every single new student or returning student should hear.”
Fields is looking forward to being back on campus this semester, and she hopes she can stay here the full term, unlike last spring, she said.
In mid-March, all eight UT System academic institutions transitioned to online-only classes. Students living in residence halls on campus were required to move back to their permanent residence for the remainder of the spring semester.
Fields’ mom, Megan Nosegbe, is glad to have her daughter back on campus because social interaction is important despite the pandemic, she said.
“I'm gonna miss her from being at home, but I'm glad she's back here,” Nosegbe said.