In-state DSU students return to campus to pack up belongings

Jared Gillis, a Delaware State University senior, was among the seniors who moved out of campus Wednesday, under different circumstances from years’ past. The campus has been closed to students, with classes continuing remotely, since spring break in March. (Delaware State News/Brooke Schultz)

DOVER — As students packed up their rooms — for some, their first time on campus since Delaware State University moved to remote learning in March following spring break — the process was exhausting, noted senior Tahliah Ling.

“I’m from Delaware, so before everything shut down, I kind of came and grabbed some stuff, but clearly it wasn’t enough,” she noted as she packed up her room, “because I still have got all this stuff left.”

This year’s move out was significantly different than last year’s — or even what move in looked like for students this year. For some students, it represented the end of an unusual second semester that had been largely interrupted by COVID-19. The virus had closed campuses and K-12 school buildings across the state and country.

The students were given two-hour windows of staggered time to collect their belongings. Their roommates were scheduled for different times. Boxes for key and form drop offs were stationed in the lobby of the buildings. The halls were largely empty as cars filled up outside of University Village.

Tahliah Ling, a senior, gathers her belongings as she moves out of her dorm, concluding a year of school that different drastically from year’s past. She noted that she had grabbed some stuff before campus shut down, “but clearly it wasn’t enough, because I still have got all this stuff left,” she added. (Delaware State News/Brooke Schultz)

Recent graduates returned at the end of May to clean out their rooms, as the university has already celebrated its Class of 2020 with a virtual commencement. Wednesday represented the next wave of students to move out, those from in-state. The university received permission from the state to do so.

“It can sometimes be a little tedious, but we were very conscious of safety,” noted Phillip Holmes, director of housing and residential education. “We had to take into account roommates, suitemates not being able to move out at the same time. Although it took us more time, it was needed in order to accomplish this.”

Intentionality was key as the university prepared to allow students back on campus to collect their items.

“We have to take into consideration proximity of the buildings, so, at no time would we want two buildings next to each other moving out at the same time,” Mr. Holmes explained. “We kind of considered that to help with traffic flow.”

As Jared Gillis, a senior from Smyrna, cleaned up his room, he noted that he had felt uneasy when the campus first shut down.

“I have some expensive things in my dorm and I definitely don’t want to leave it there unintended,” he noted. “And then the relationship with my dorm-mate — I didn’t really get to say bye.”

It was difficult to leave his friends when campus shut down, he added.

“At college, everybody’s from different states — from all over,” he said. “It’s not like you can go down the street and say hi to your friend. I’ve got to call them and check up on them.”

As Sosa Wilkinson, a junior from Bear, packed up his room, he noted that before campus completely shut down, he saw the writing on the wall and came back to grab some of his belongings.

“It was a little disappointing for me,” he said of leaving campus abruptly. “I’m a transfer student, so I was really looking forward to finishing out my first year here.”

Like Mr. Gillis, going from life living with roommates and friends to going home was an adjustment.

“It was hard because after a while you get acclimated to being around a lot of people and then going to be around nobody but your family. It was a big change. Not seeing my friends very often — being isolated for a while — takes a toll on your mood,” he said.

Switching gears to remote learning for the remainder of the year was an easy transition for Ms. Ling, but a little tougher for Mr. Wilkinson.

“Transferring from a strict schedule every day, ‘I’ll be in class from this time to this time,’ to doing work whenever I wanted, you had to be self-motivated and had to get yourself and do your work,” Mr. Wilkinson said.

Move out will continue to trickle through the university through June. The university is waiting for other states to begin opening up to a first or second phase to bring in out-of-state students, which will be later this month, Mr. Holmes said.

To prepare for what lies ahead, rooms will be disinfected once students are moved out.

“That’s going to be very important, with students coming back,” he said. “I know that’s a concern of ours, as far as safety, and definitely for the parents and students as well.”

Looking back at the abrupt change to their school year, it was a reminder not to take anything for granted, said Mr. Gillis.

“We only had about three months here with my friends, with my teammates, and I definitely took that for granted, thinking I was going to have a couple more months,” he said.

“Things can be snatched away from you,” Ms. Ling said. “Don’t take that freedom for granted.”

Helpful Coronavirus links

Delaware Division of Health Coronavirus Page
CDC: About the Coronavirus Disease 2019
CDC: What to do if You Are Sick
Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center
AP News Coronavirus Coverage
Reopening Delaware: Resources for Businesses
Delaware Phase 2 guidance

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