Equipped with masks and hand sanitizer, Augustana first-year students move into dorms

About 300 first-year students wearing face masks hauled boxes from their vehicles, gave one last goodbye to their parents and moved into Augustana residence halls last Friday and Saturday.

Due to the ever-present threat of the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s move-in weekend had a focus on safety. Students had to sign up for specific times before moving in, could only bring two additional people to help them move their items and were required to wear masks when they entered the building. Lines taped to the floor of the stairs encouraged people to keep their distance from others by staying to one side while climbing.

“I’d say that it’s way more organized this year than it usually is,” said Greta Mecklenburg, a sophomore that was helping people move into Solberg. “It’s kind of nice because people don’t have to wait in line. They can just pull up.”

In typical years, a large group of students would rush from car to car, gathering all of a student’s belongings and hauling them inside. But this year there were only pods of four mask-wearing students that hauled belongings and between trips they had to sanitize their hands.

“It hasn’t been super busy,” Mecklenburg said. “I’d say probably like three or four students are moving in at a time.”

The heat posed a problem for the original move-in plans, however. Junior Jose Cruz Medina said that the move-in helpers were also supposed to be wearing face shields, but it was too hot to bear them. However, he said that they were always masked and were constantly cleaning their hands with sanitizer.

Some local students were able to move their furniture ahead of time. Margaret Samp, a freshman from Sioux Falls, said that she and her family had sanitized her room in Bergsaker prior to move-in.Samp says that despite the looming threat of COVID-19, she is excited to be able to have her classes in person. She has dyslexia, a learning disability that makes it difficult for her to do her classes online.

“The threat of school suddenly being shut down and moving to all online is absolutely petrifying to me because I know that’s not a condition where I could be a successful learner,” she said.

For first-year students, the prospect of moving in can be worrisome due to their lack of familiarity with the school and other students. That, coupled with the unpredictability and uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic creates a nerve-wracking experience. But Mecklenburg said that the students and campus life employees helping with move-in tried to make the experience as fun and engaging as possible.  

“We tried to put on an event outside so that their first day of college wasn’t spent sitting in their dorm alone,” she said. “Everyone was super eager to meet each other, which was good. I’m sure they’re going to have to adapt, especially with all the social distancing, to try to make friends.”

Samp said that Bergsaker gets especially hot, and her mom had made her bring a whole box of popsicles. To make new friends, she walked through all four floors and offered popsicles to everyone she saw.

“We met everyone who’s here and that wanted a popsicle,” she said.

All photos taken by Camryn Hay.

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