By Chandler Lilly ‘23 (she/her)

Inspired by the popular Humans of New York project, I interviewed twelve members of the Davidson Community — including students, faculty, and staff of all ages — to talk about their experiences during the semester and a half of school during COVID. While the experiences recorded contain many similarities, the differences are striking. Whether you had to scramble to get an apartment off campus because you were supposed to be abroad, or your job on campus completely changed, everyone’s experience has been unlike any other.

Dylan Essandoh ‘23

“I don’t hang out with friends as much. Obviously we cannot have people in our rooms and stuff, so that’s been a big change in terms of my social life. I used to play basketball and other sports every day after class, and now we just don’t have that opportunity. The biggest thing I miss is probably social interaction. In terms of academics, I feel like I’m more inclined and interested in learning when I’m in person. Sometimes when I’m on my computer, I just find myself disinterested. It’s easier to learn and care about learning when it’s in person. Despite these challenges, I’ve become a much more disciplined person. I’ve become better at time management, and these are skills I know I will use after COVID is over.”

Dr. Shelley Rigger 

“The reason I chose to teach in person this semester was because I felt confident that I could do that safely. I also felt like, for students, having some reason to get out of the dorm room and see people would be very valuable. Since not every teacher can teach in person this year, I thought that, since I can, I really should. The most drastic change I’ve noticed is that people are much less busy. As long as I’ve been at Davidson, the continuous complaint was that there wasn’t enough time to complete everything. There was always this push and pull with everyone wanting to do everything to the max. I really hope that when we resume all the other activities that have been taken out of the schedule this year we don’t go back to the ‘how busy I am is a measure of my value’ mentality and we can reset to a lower frequency.”

Sandro Chumashvili ‘24

“I have enjoyed my in-person classes because in some ways it makes me feel like things are back to normal, but with masks I am quickly reminded they are not. My biggest challenge has been losing the ability to hug people and get to know people. Especially as a freshman, COVID has made making friends exceptionally difficult. In addition, since COVID, I have had much more academic and extracurricular work. I filled up my social time with work, so I am much more heavily loaded. Before COVID I would usually have one or two meetings per week, but now I have four to five meetings per day. Communication and large meetings have been made so much simpler, especially meetings with less accessible people, but my mental health has been affected a lot by the minimal social interaction.”

Carolyn Xenelis ‘22

“We were supposed to be abroad for the fall of 2020, so we didn’t apply for housing. Going into the summer, my friends and I started looking around for housing in the Davidson area and found a townhouse that ended up being our best option. This year, the most noticeable change for me has been not running into people on campus. It can feel very isolating living off campus, because I cook my food here, I eat here, and I work here. I’m not walking to the dining hall every day, and I’m just not running into people and having those little interactions I normally would. One of the reasons I came to Davidson was for the community. Everyone is always so willing to say ‘hi’ and have a quick talk and catch up, and this was always really important to me. Not having that has definitely been a bummer and can get a little lonely at times. At the same time, this has made me really value the time I do get to spend with other people. I definitely make it a point to stop and have a conversation now.” 

Daniel Mulhern ‘24

“I chose to be off campus first semester because I wanted to be there for my family. Everyone was in town and I felt a little bit of a familial responsibility. I also wanted to see how things here went and how the college handled COVID. After my first semester at home, I was very encouraged to move in second semester, because it seemed like everyone was doing a great job. The biggest change for me has been the lack of mini-interactions with people. When I have a mask on, I’m constantly walking past people I know because I just can’t recognize them. I’m a very extroverted person and I think this past year has tested that dramatically. As a freshman in college, meeting new people is supposed to be a part of the deal, but it’s been hard this year. Although there have been challenges, the changes this year have really allowed me to explore what I’m interested in academically, which has been really beneficial for me.”

Emma Grace Ficara ‘24

“I’m always so bored now. I’m on campus this year because I wanted somewhat of a college experience, and I’m also on the field hockey team. I’m a very scheduled person, so I feel like I have less free time, but I’m also sitting in my room for the majority of the day. After completing a long day of classes, I feel like I haven’t even been productive because I haven’t really moved! I don’t really even miss big groups and gatherings, I just miss being able to hang out with close friends. I miss being able to go somewhere to do an activity and not have to worry about COVID and jeopardizing my team.”

Dylan Ameres ‘23

“It feels awkward now to be close to people. For track and field, we have been heavily split up into different groups so that’s been really different. Working out in smaller groups with masks has been a dramatic change since last year. Despite this, I’ve noticed that it’s more acceptable to have alone time and take mental health days. I feel like everyone is much more understanding, which has been a good change for me.”

Gracie McBride ‘23

“I don’t leave my room a lot at all, and that makes me sad. Some of my classes are in person now, but not many people can say the same. I just miss running into people randomly on the way to classes, because it’s nice to interact with people I don’t usually see. For my classes that are online, I will say I have enjoyed having the freedom to go where I want to do class. This has been nice this year.”

Hayden Cooke ‘22

“I’m living off campus because I was supposed to go abroad, so I already had an apartment set up. Since COVID began, my motivation for school has really changed. I’ve always been very conscious of my academics and never had issues getting distracted, but, coming up on a year of Zoom classes, I just notice my motivation falling. Socially, I really miss the spontaneous social events or dinners with people you accidentally run into. Once COVID is over, I’ll definitely try to be proactive and intentional about seeing friends.”

Dr. Jennifer Garcia Peacock

“It’s all just wonderfully awkward sometimes. This spring I chose to meet with my six- person class in person because we can socially distance properly and work collaboratively on our research project more effectively. This in person class has been quite delightful because it’s allowed us to enjoy being together in a community, supporting each other, and talking about difficult topics. I miss seeing people and I miss talking to people, but I have a new appreciation for the Davidson community and the things that we do well. To listen, to care, and to be conscientious, I’ve just been very pleased with what I’ve seen in the community. We can build on this resilience, and I hope we don’t forget that.”

Mr. Carl Di Masi

“My particular job has changed tremendously. Before COVID I was the assistant catering manager and then the powers-to-be decided to open Commons Market, and chose me to run it. My job has changed 100 percent and it’s kept me very busy. I’m doing things I’ve really never done before, but it’s keeping my job interesting! I’ve noticed that students are really trying their best. They’re not hanging out in big groups, and they’re trying to do the right thing. COVID made me realize how we took for granted our normal lives before. How easy we had it.”

Katie Woodruff ‘21

“All of my classes are online this semester. I just feel like I’m missing something knowing that I’m a senior and I’ll never have a class taught in Chambers again. I’m on the lacrosse team, so I wasn’t really sure what that was going to look like. We call it our own little bubble and we know that as soon as the bubble breaks it could break for the whole team. We just have to be very careful during these practices and know that our decisions really do affect our team. After COVID, I know I will make conscious efforts to see people more, and not wait for people to reach out to me. I’m going to do what makes me happy at the very moment.”