Drinking in Pods, ‘Social Snitching,’ and More Covid Freshman Experiences

How do you make friends in your first weeks at college when you don’t know who you can trust?

Rainesford Stauffer
GEN
Published in
8 min readSep 14, 2020

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Photo: Sean Rayford/Stringer/Getty Images

Since Emily Thompson arrived for her freshman year at Tufts University, she’s been in mandatory quarantine, only leaving her dorm room, which she shares with a roommate, to go to the bathroom or throw out garbage. Their dorm room is next to the hall’s trash can, Emily says, and though they aren’t allowed to leave their door open, “If we’re leaving to go to the bathroom or throw out the trash at the same time, we’ll stop someone in the hall and say, ‘Hey, what’s your Instagram,’ and start DMing if we have common interests.” They put sticky notes on their window saying hi, and the sophomores who lived in the dorm across the way put up stickies with their Instagram handles.

After quarantine is up — as soon as students get three negative Covid tests — they can join their hall’s “cohort” of about a dozen neighbors who may socialize with more relaxed rules. In the cohort, they’re allowed to hang out “slightly closer than six feet,” with masks on. All other social interaction has to happen six feet apart. “In our group chats, I’ve seen a lot of people say it’s as if Tufts were picking out our friends for us,” Emily says.

As colleges reopen (and for some, promptly reverse reopening plans), first-year students aren’t just greeted with Covid-19 tests and Zoom events. They also must confront this sobering thought: How do students begin a new life phase, in a new community, when the possibility of mass infection and campus shutdowns looms?

What appears to be an ever-expanding “trust gap” between students and their institutions has been well-documented: Students have been brought to campuses only to have schools pivot and send them home or cancel in-person classes, as if no one could’ve seen a surge coming (so far, the New York Times has tracked 51,000 cases at colleges and universities). Schools have wildly different

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Rainesford Stauffer
GEN
Writer for

Author of An Ordinary Age, out 5/4/2021. Freelance writer. Kentuckian.