From College Towns to Ghost Towns: Cambridge Alumni Return Amidst Campus Closures

A+dorm+hall+at+Brigham+Young+University%2C+left+empty+after+the+students+have+packed+up+and+left+campus.

Adyson LeeMaster

A dorm hall at Brigham Young University, left empty after the students have packed up and left campus.

By Isabella Riccardelli, Cambridge High School - GA

College campuses, usually associated with fun, parties and excitement are now eerily empty.

At most colleges and universities in the United States, students have been sent home due to the coronavirus. Lecture halls, libraries, dining halls and dorms are all empty at universities across the country as students have made the switch to online learning.

What were once bustling college towns are now more similar to ghost towns.

According to Cambridge alumna and freshman at Brigham Young University, Adyson LeeMaster, it was chaotic when the school announced that it would go online.

“Most people were so excited, everyone was asking everyone else if they were staying or going home,” said LeeMaster. BYU encouraged students to go home, although the dorms were still available if students wished to complete their online courses on campus.

For Cambridge alumna, Kelly Vestal, a freshman at Georgia State University, the news of going online was more than disappointing.

Georgia State had the week of closures off for spring break, so the news came while students were, for the most part, off-campus.

Since Vestal will possibly transfer schools next year, she said it was hard, “not having known that my campus experience was going to change,” and not getting to “cherish [her] last night in my dorm, or last time seeing [her] friends or the last time eating in the dining hall.”

Amongst all the sadness, there is a silver lining in getting to take classes remotely.

Vestal said some of her favorite perks of being home are, “having a kitchen and a home-cooked meal, seeing [her] family and pets, and a lot of other small things that add up,”

For others, however, home-cooked meals and a loving family may not be waiting for them.

Vestal said, “Some people are still figuring out where they are going because they aren’t welcome home or would be homeless without their dorm.”

For other students, the stress of going home comes from the changes in their class format and making the shift between learning in a physical classroom and learning from a screen.

Cambridge alumnus William Knapp, a sophomore at the University of Georgia, said there have not been any curriculum changes in his general education classes, as they have hundreds of students in them and have been standardized for years.

Knapp said that although the curriculum has not become more difficult while at home, completing coursework has proved to be a challenge “because there aren’t dedicated learning spaces like libraries and study rooms.”

LeeMaster says that her struggle with learning at home is that she no longer lives at home and now, “home is associated with vacation.”

Many students feel the worst for seniors who have had to end their college experience early. They never get to relish their last night out with friends or say goodbye to their teachers. Many colleges have decided to forgo a commencement ceremony, which for some feels like they’re having to end a chapter alone, and without celebration.

This story was originally published on The Bear Witness on April 23, 2020.