Living Off Campus in College During COVID-19

As a college student, the coronavirus pandemic has had a huge impact on my classes, mental health and daily college routine as I knew it.

I am a junior at Lehigh University. In June, I lost my living plans in my sorority house due to social distancing regulations that were being implemented. My friends and I signed a lease for a house off campus, expecting to return to campus for classes in the fall.

It wasn’t until early August that Lehigh decided to switch to remote learning and limit on-campus living to freshmen only. I had already been living off campus since mid-July and was thankful to have a house secured. However, when the announcement was made, everyone rushed to rent housing off campus and many of my friends were unable to find leases.

I understand the safety concerns for the community, my friends and I by moving into the area, but as college students we want to hold on to any opportunities that keep our college experiences as close to normal as possible.

As soon as the semester started, all Lehigh students had to sign social contracts stating that we would not gather with more than 10 people in any setting, among other restrictions. Halfway through the semester, that restriction was further limited to five people, the maximum occupancy of one household.

For many obvious reasons, my college experience had completely changed.

As someone involved in Greek life and various clubs, I never had the need to leave campus. However, this semester I wasn’t even allowed on campus, so I had to resort to new, safe sources of entertainment. For those who don’t know, Lehigh is located in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. So unlike in a city, there isn’t much to do around my school.

Let me start by saying it’s not healthy, mentally or physically, to lay in bed all day. I found myself repeatedly waking up, picking up my laptop, attending Zoom classes in bed and then continuing to do online homework after classes… in bed. It’s important to get outside, get fresh air and move around.

Unfortunately, all of the coffee shops around campus— including Dunkin’, Starbucks and, of course, Saxbys— were all closed by 4 p.m. and didn’t offer any indoor seating. I’m not even a big fan of coffee, but it would have been a nice change of space for taking classes.

In the summer and early fall, while the weather was still warm, my roommates and I sat outside on the University Lawn in the center of campus. We would lay down on blankets with snacks and our laptops. We spent time doing work, drawing, reading or just relaxing in the shade.

Something I began doing very often, which I surprisingly didn’t do a lot of before everything shut down, was go out to eat at restaurants. I had my car, so I was able to drive to restaurants at the mall or simply across the bridge on the north side of Bethlehem.

My friends and I also began exploring areas outside of Bethlehem, such as the neighboring town Easton. If we were on campus, we probably never would have thought to explore this area, and we actually found a lot to do there.

Although I couldn’t see a lot my friends or participate in any of the normal activities I am used to doing in college, I found safe ways to stay entertained off campus and visited places that I probably wouldn’t have gone to if I wasn’t pushed to explore the towns around my school.

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