The COVID-19 Pandemic rattled the globe and effectively altered the course of education indefinitely. Colleges and Universities were faced with making the difficult decision of whether to offer an on campus experience or a remote one. Families placed great faith in these institutions to consider the safety and wellbeing of their children; still, the final decision was personal and private.
Bryn Mawr College offered a hybrid approach for all students. Learners deciding to live on campus would comply by strict COVID-19 safety precautions and protocol. As a first-year student, I knew that living on campus was my top priority to ensure I got the full BMC experience. I moved into Pembroke West on August 23, 2020.
One of the approaches for risk mitigation involved the rooming assignments. This year, all sleeping spaces were separated by either a door or a wall. This meant that many students lived in single rooms. I was one of the few who had a roommate; instead of living in a typical double, we lived in a typical quad. We each had our own bedroom and were connected by an adjoining common area with a window seat and fireplace. Needless to say, the living situation was spectacular this semester!
The Bi-College Consortium, Bryn Mawr and Haverford Colleges, followed a mitigation plan detailing four Levels of operation. Independently, Bryn Mawr College assessed varying risk to implement policies only applying to BMC Students. All COVID-19 precautions were abided by under the Honor Code: a founding principle of the college. There were a few consistencies from arrival until departure regarding the safety protocol: takeout only dining, social distancing and masks required, in-person gatherings limited, travel restricted to on-campus and as considered ‘essential’, regular COVID-19 screenings, and daily symptom checker reporting.
Towards the end of the semester, the colleges started operating the Blue Bus for travel between colleges. This was a great opportunity to get off of Bryn Mawr’s campus and venture to Haverford’s campus. OneCard access permitted students to eat between the Bi-College dining centers, so I took advantage of this often for some added variety in my schedule. It was takeout dining regardless, but it was still nice to be able to experience a different environment with friends.
All of my classes were taught through remote instruction, so I attended lectures and discussion groups via Zoom. Modes of instruction changed at the discretion of the professor; registering for a listed in-person class didn’t guarantee that it wouldn’t transition to remote or hybrid throughout the Semester. At first, I was disappointed that I wouldn’t get to experience live and in-person instruction; however, I quickly learned to enjoy the flexibility remote classes offered over the alternative. As the weather allowed, I would participate in class outside to enjoy the fresh air and beauty of campus.
The college experience under the circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic is bound to be atypical if it is to be safe. Bryn Mawr College did an amazing job handling both of these things to the best of the institution’s ability. I decided to live on-campus knowing that there were no guarantees or certainties in an unprecedented time like this. I arrived without expectations, but with an eagerness to experience the most out of my first semester in college, regardless of how that may differ from typical years.
As a Bryn Mawr student, I experienced intellectual challenge and academic rigor. The phenomenon of learning for the sake of knowledge rather than working toward a grade was new, but incredibly exciting for me. The expectations of each professor within the college are extremely high, but the internal reward gained from greater understanding and knowledge is insurmountable. Most importantly, the community formed amongst students surrounded the universal mentality that success is earned.
I met so many wonderful people in my first semester at BMC, and was fortunate enough to build some really strong friendships throughout my time on campus. I am so excited to create many more shared memories when I return in the Spring!