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The 90U residence is the only on-campus residence that is currently hosting students. Photo: Charley Dutil/Fulcrum.

First-year students are showing up to residences to move in for the winter term

Like most other facilities on the University of Ottawa campus, residence buildings have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Since the start of the 2020 fall term, the campus residences have implemented a number of different safety measures to slow the spread of the virus.

Only a limited number of ‘apartment style’ residences are currently open to students. This includes: 90 University, 45 Mann, Henderson, Annex, and Hyman Soloway. All traditional style residence buildings, which require students to share bathrooms with the rest of their floor, remain closed.  

According to information posted on U of O’s website, safety measures have included closing most common areas in the residence buildings. Any space in which students may be in contact with one another, (such as the lobbies, halls, and elevators) require social distancing and masks.

The units in these buildings offer private bathrooms or one bathroom shared between two roommates. This allows first-year students to experience residence while obeying COVID-19 restrictions. 

Residence rental contracts have also changed as part of the university’s COVID-19 response. Students were able to choose between moving in for both semesters or just the winter semester. 

This year, moving in has been done with minimal contact between students and staff. Ella Van Horne, a first-year nutrition science student who moved in for the fall semester, commended the residence’s measures to reduce contact. 

Van Horne shared her experience, saying “[the residence] had boards outside with a number to text when you arrived and then you texted your name, move in time and room number, and someone would come out and leave your keys on a table for you to take and a cart for all of your stuff.”

Each student was allowed the help of one person to move them into residence.  

With the current restrictions on gatherings, Van Horne said that contact between students is limited even further. 

“We were allowed two people if they lived in the building until restrictions changed recently and now we can only see our roommate.” 

Veronica Gordyn, a first-year history student said her “original plan was to move into Friel [residence] at the start of September,” however due to the lockdown changes in the fall, she decided to live in off campus housing. 

“I’ve heard from friends in residence that explained there really wasn’t a ‘res[idence] experience’ to look forward to which was a discouragement,” she continued.

Olivia Onuah, a first-year computer engineering student who moved into residence earlier this month, noted that getting to know other students has been difficult. 

“I don’t have a roommate so it’s been extremely quiet for me.” said Onuah. “I also don’t know anyone on my floor so I only talk to people in the elevator which is often brief.”

This sentiment was echoed by Van Horne.

 “I wish the university had hosted more online frosh week events or continued holding events throughout the year.”  

Despite this challenging situation, Onuah remains positive.

“The pandemic has made it harder for me as an introvert to make friends but I’m hopeful for the future.”