Defeating loneliness

Students share struggles of COVID dorm life, sparking hope for the coming year

Mason Brooks, Staff Writer

Second-year student Jenna Gillam in Weter Hall with a copy of The Falcon. (Courtesy of Jenna Gillam)

As bright-eyed high schoolers make their transition into college, most bring a host of hopes and ideas of what college life will be like.

Some look forward to sporting or music events, venues packed with supportive students and staff; others imagine exploring a new city. Many incoming freshmen come hungry to learn, branch out, and adventure. Unfortunately, the realities of last year entailed some unexpected challenges.

Even with these obstacles, some of last year’s freshmen pushed through and found ways to come together.

Business administration student Jenna Gillam was one of these freshmen. She made her transition into the Ashton dorms at the height of COVID-19’s 2020 chokehold. Like the rest of the on-campus students, Gillam faced a list of restrictions aimed at keeping SPU’s COVID cases down.

“Last year’s rules promoted isolation, which was a good way to keep COVID-19 cases down on campus, but also had a negative impact on students’ social life, mental health, and caused a lack of community on campus,” shared Gillam. “I knew many students who moved home from campus last year because of the loneliness the dorm situation created.”

Unfortunately, the regular rules would only be the beginning for Gillam as her entire floor would be put under quarantine for two weeks right around finals week. If the usual regulations were a mountain, quarantine rules would be Everest. During this lockdown, they were only permitted to leave their rooms to use the restroom.

This new world of solitude served to worsen students’ already existing feelings of loneliness.

“It was really hard for me and my friends to be quarantined for two weeks. We didn’t get to hang out with each other. It was during Finals week which added a level of extra stress that none of us needed. I was just grateful that all of my friends and I stayed healthy,” said Gillam.

5th Emerson goes on campus tour after all online classes while finally getting to see each other in person, together. (Courtesy of Hailey Echan)

In spite of these challenges, Gillam and her floor found inventive ways to connect, even if it wasn’t in the ways they had hoped.

“My friends and I found safe ways to hang out and build community. We played video games virtually and sat outside together (outside of the quarantine),” said Gillam. “While it definitely wasn’t the traditional way of making friends, we were still able to build a community which helped get us through the difficult times.”

Now sophomore computer science major Elijah Sather faced a very similar experience in Hill Hall. His first year was packed to the brim with days spent alone in his room.

“For me, dorm life was difficult, pretty restrictive. We kinda had to just stay in our rooms the majority of the time. Building relationships with people became an exceptional challenge. I wanted to establish a community, but at first, it felt nearly impossible. This wasn’t the experience that I wanted; this wasn’t the experience any of us wanted,” said Sather.

In order to connect even with COVID restrictions 4th North Hill put on a Tri-Wizard tournament, which included events such as an art contest and a maze. (Courtesy of Aubrey Rhoadarmer)

The loneliness hit Sather pretty hard. Sometimes simple things like family relationships and getting to know people were no longer easy tasks.

“I felt very alone, even though I knew other people were going through the same thing. My family couldn’t even come and visit me,” said Sather.

Sather went on to explain that his floor also pushed through the isolation by getting creative with community events.

“We attempted movie nights with a TV in the middle of the hallway, each of us set up in our doorways. This was a little hit or miss, but it still made a difference,” said Sather. “Sometime later we stacked up red solo cups at one end of the hallway and used half-empty water bottles to go ‘bowling.’ We made our own fun.”

In spite of last year’s difficulties and challenges, students have their eyes turned toward the future hoping that this year will be different.

“I am excited for hopefully more of a normal dorm experience. I’m hoping to get to meet and know everyone on my floor this year and be able to have in-person floor events. I’m looking forward to hopefully having bigger events and gatherings,” said Gillam.

Sather is excited to expand his community beyond his own floor.

“I am looking forward to going on other floors. Last year I made friends with people on other floors but rarely got to see them. Being able to hopefully go on other floors will bring the social life on campus to life.”


As we begin a brand new year, all we can do is hope for something better than the circumstances that were presented last year.