The seasons are changing on the University of Michigan campus, but many fall staples aren’t on the calendar this year.

Events that usually characterize a fall at the University have been put on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic, leaving students feeling less social compared to previous fall semesters.

LSA senior Raquel Powers, who is on the cross country and track teams, said her team couldn’t continue the usual traditions that marked each fall, such as their annual camping trip in northern Michigan. These events usually allowed the new freshmen on the team to bond with the other teammates, she said. 

“(The freshmen) don’t know what the normal is yet, and they don’t know what the team traditions are and that we could be closer than how we actually are right now,” Powers said. “All the previous years, especially with the camp, we get to know our teammates very well. But this year we just have practice and then everyone just goes and does their own thing.”

Powers said other restrictions, such as maximum capacities in the training room and locker rooms, also affect social interactions with her team. 

“Like the pre- and post-work that you used to do in the training room and locker room, where you’d really chit-chat with your friends and chit-chat with the trainer as you get treatment, you just don’t get that time anymore with the people you used to,” Powers said. 

Rackham student Holden Greene said he enjoyed playing intramural sports in his previous years at the University, even refereeing for flag football. Without sports this fall, he said his days felt a lot less engaging. 

“Like every Monday or every Wednesday, you (would) have that sport to look forward to playing and it’s an otherwise nice break from classwork or especially if you were having a slow day,” Greene said. “In some ways, my days (now) feel more regimental, like, I do this one thing and then I go to sleep. It feels like every day is the same routine.”

LSA senior Lauren Croxton said not being able to draw her energy from pre-planned events such as football games or her business fraternity’s events makes being on campus for her last year feel very different. Though Big Ten has since announced the return of football, no fans will be allowed in the stadium.  

“I know the way I drive a lot of my own happiness is being able to look forward to events like that,” Croxton said. “I need to start making that happen for myself again. Like I need to set up events that I can look forward to on my own because there’s no one organizing that for me anymore.”

Social life at the University has also been shaped by Washtenaw County guidelines, which limit outdoor gatherings to a maximum of 25 people, including those in off-campus houses. Fraternities and sororities have agreed not to host social events this semester.

Engineering senior Josh Goldstein said he was excited about football season and to go to bars like Rick’s American Cafe and Scorekeepers Sports Grill and Pub. But even if the bars open, he said they won’t feel the same.

Goldstein is glad he can at least spend time with his friends in small groups, though it affects his relationship with other friends he’s not as close with. 

“I am upset about that, but I’m also happy to be here,” Goldstein said. “And it’s nice to not be stuck at home. It’s nice to be able to be on campus and still see people I know … you get really close with the people you live with, but a con is you probably get a little less closer with your best friends and the circle gets a little smaller, which for some people, could be a good thing.”

Music, Theatre & Dance sophomore Kliment Milanov said he and his friends usually supplemented their music education experience by performing in gigs and theatrical performances. However, with COVID-19, many of his usual gigs no longer take place.

“It sucks because I don’t feel like I’m getting a great performance education,” Milanov said. “There’s just no more ability for (gigs) in terms of employment and performance, and that’s just something we’re not getting trained in and not getting experienced in.”

Croxton, who still lives with some of the girls she met and joined a business fraternity with her freshman year, said she understands how difficult this year must be for freshmen, who are still new to the campus and trying to make friends and be a part of organizations. 

“I think that every part of my life (now), while it looks very different today than it did freshman year, in some way, goes back to some connection or some experience I had freshman year,” Croxton said.

LSA freshman Shruti Swaminathan said she expected more socially-distanced activities to be put on by the University when she first moved into Mary Markley Residence Hall. Making friends has been difficult given COVID-19’s impact on social life, she said.

“When I came onto campus, there weren’t many activities planned for us, and everyone was just on their own about how to spend their first week,” Swaminathan said. “I think making friends is going to be really different from past years … But everyone is on the same boat, so it makes it a little more easy and comforting.”

Students living off campus have had to start new conversations among roommates about their expectations for each other.

Croxton said she and her housemates held a meeting to come to an agreement on how they would keep each other and their community safe during COVID-19. She said this plays a role in missing out on time with other groups of friends.

“Obviously the future is very dynamic and changing so we didn’t put any long-term rules in place,” Croxton said. “I think a lot of other houses have had similar discussions so people are definitely sticking with the people inside their house … So you may miss out on friends and being involved in those activities you normally would have gone to.”

Goldstein said he and his housemates had a similar discussion. Some off-campus houses may have roommates with varying levels of reactions to the virus, he said. 

“I think it would be a lot different if you live with some people who take it very seriously and some people who don’t take it seriously at all,” Goldstein said. “It’s also hard to keep track of how other people are being precautionary so it’s hard to tell who would be down to see people and who wouldn’t.”

Daily Staff Reporter Saini Kethireddy can be reached at skethi@umich.edu.

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