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Student Life

A Pandemic Sophomore Send-Off

Shari Bender

Campus was like a ghost town. New student move-in hadn't started yet, so the usual hustle and bustle of college activity was reduced to a trickle of masked visitors. Social distancing signs peppered the sidewalk, but no need this day — it would have required a great deal of effort even to get near someone.

The grand bell tower chimed on the quarter hour to an audience of three. All buildings were locked. Even the famed campus bookstore was closed.

This past weekend I helped my son, a rising sophomore, move into off-campus housing near his university in upstate New York. His freshman year housing draw dashed his dreams of living in coveted on-campus housing. The apartment selection was made in haste in March, days before Joe headed home after a frantic COVID college closure.

Move-in this year went pretty smoothly. The town was quiet and, after five years of college parenting, Joe’s dad and I have the move-in routine down to a science. First one during a global pandemic, though, and it was a little weird.

Here are 5 pandemic move-in tips.

1. Think about mask placement.

As in easy to grab on the way out of the dorm or apartment. Small Command hooks make for a quick and easy mask wall.

Consider sending your student with different types of masks. Joe’s stash consists of cloth and disposable masks. We know how kids can be with doing laundry, or lack thereof, so it’s important to have backup in case all the reusable masks are in the hamper.

Speaking of hampers, I would suggest a special place for dirty masks — we called it, aptly, the mask hamper. The mask hamper that I made consists of a simple plastic container with lingerie bag where dirty masks go immediately upon entry into the room/apartment. This way there is no mix up of ready-to-wear masks and a special spot so the cloth masks don’t get tossed haphazardly into the regular load and suffer a mask malfunction (twisting tearing breaking snapping).

2. Place hand sanitizer in every corner.

Well, maybe not every corner, but definitely every high traffic area. Kitchen counter sanitizer, check. Kitchen table sanitizer, check. Bathroom sanitizer, check. By the door sanitizer, check. By the nightstand, check. Okay, maybe that’s a little overkill, but you get the idea. The more accessible it is, the more likely your student will be to use it on a consistent basis.

3. Bring extra cleaning supplies.

Even the most mundane of move-ins requires a hearty supply of cleaning supplies. Any high-touch areas now require extra care and cleaning — especially door knobs/handles.

Upon move-in, we discovered that the microwave in Joe's unit was broken. We called maintenance and they were immediately dispatched. The thought of another person coming into the apartment brought me next level anxiety. The maintenance man entered the room masked of course, but gloveless hands touched the doorknob and a number of spots in the kitchen.

I frantically sprayed the touched items and wiped down every surface after his departure. And gently, in my best “this is important” voice, reminded Joe that after anyone touches the handles it needs to be cleaned. Surreal, but alas, the famed “new normal.”

4. Soap, soap and more soap.

Hand washing, as I’m sure you're aware, is key to good hygiene, pandemic or otherwise. Don’t let your student run out of soap. I got Joe one of those large liquid soap refill containers. I even splurged on a fancy soap dispenser for the bathroom.

5. Pandemic first aid kit makeover.

First aid kit complete with the usual painkillers, Band-Aids and OTC meds. Then make sure there is a thermometer and toss in a pulse oximeter for good measure. If your student is like mine, they may need a brief how-to on the oximeter since it’s not a typical item used by young people, but a handy one in the age of COVID.

Still waiting to hear how many, if any, of my son’s classes are in person in his school’s hybrid model. But for now, he’s settling into his new apartment and spreading his wings. I even started getting texts like these:

i wanna make ground beef tonight, how long can that last in the fridge

Ahhh, at least something feels normal. And I feel honored that he asked Mom instead of Google.

3 days buddy. Also check expiration date. And remember to wash hands after handling raw meat

Good thing I bought the industrial-size bottle of liquid soap.

Photos courtesy of the author
Shari earned her BA in Communication from Stanford University and freelances all things Communication and Marketing. She is a cat-loving spiritual vegan and former admissions interviewer. With two grown children, Shari is happily and sentimentally embracing her Empty Nest along with her husband of more than 30 years. Her musings delight parents in numerous publications and online platforms, including CollegiateParent and Grown & Flown.
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