When Georgetown announced freshmen would no longer be invited to campus due to increased numbers of cases of COVID-19 in the country, the incoming class of 2024 was faced with a unique challenge: How do you start college when you can’t go to, and have never lived on, campus?
While upperclassmen had some time to find housing in D.C. for the fall semester if they desired, incoming freshmen had to rush to make their plans for the fall. The roughly 1,500 incoming freshmen heard they wouldn’t be invited to campus on July 29, and classes started on Aug. 26. Despite never having experienced Georgetown before and their lack of a group of friends from college to live with, some freshmen chose to follow the upperclassmen’s example and find off-campus housing in D.C. After being stuck in their homes for months on end and missing out on the final moments of their senior years of high school, many in the class of 2024 felt desperate to move into a new chapter of their lives.
Jacob Wolin (COL ’24), a freshman from San Mateo, California, said his main reason for seeking out housing in D.C. was a worry his home time zone, three hours behind D.C., would be unconducive to virtual learning. He heard other freshmen were moving to the neighborhoods around campus via GroupMe chats and Facebook groups and decided to search for a place to live with his friend from high school, Hannah Adler (COL ’24).
“Even though we’re obviously not on campus and obviously it’s a lot harder to see and meet people, just being around other Georgetown students or being walking distance from M Street or seeing if that could give me some sort of ‘D.C. experience’ were parts of the reason why I wanted to move,” Wolin said.
Thinking the two of them living alone would strain their friendship, Wolin and Adler decided to look for additional roommates before moving to D.C. In search of two others to join their two-bedroom apartment in Dupont Circle, they posted a message on the class of 2024 Facebook group and immediately received responses from other freshmen seeking a place to live.
“We chose the ones who seemed the coolest, but also just the ones who replied fastest,” Adler said.
According to Adler, the move to D.C. practically fell in her lap. “It all happened really fast,” she said. “One day I was staying home, the next day I was signing a lease for the apartment.”
Adler and Wolin decided to each share a room with one of the roommates they met on Facebook, and according to Adler, the group dynamic seemed serendipitous. “We’re all very different people with very different personalities but it works out and we all mesh.”
Billy Sewell (COL ’24), a freshman from London, England, initially didn’t want to move out, but his parents encouraged him to come to D.C. for a taste of the college experience. After struggling to find a roommate, he arrived in D.C. before classes still looking for a place to live. Eventually, Sewell found a one-bedroom Airbnb in Georgetown, where he is living without roommates.
“There was no risk about not liking anyone I’m living with,” Sewell said. “I think just having my own space is good, and I can still meet up with people.”
Prior to the move, Adler worried four freshmen living in close quarters would be distracting and make it difficult to study but said so far that hasn’t been an issue. “I was scared of all of us having to work in the same place but it’s actually been helpful to have friends around me doing work,” she said. “It makes me more productive to be around people who are doing the same thing as me.” Even with three roommates, Adler says her greatest challenge so far has been facing loneliness when her roommates have been away from home.
Wolin, Adler, and their new roommates instituted policies to keep the house safe from COVID-19. One member of their household is tested a week and the first time they meet up with new people they keep their face masks on and stay a safe distance from each other.
“If all else fails at least there are other Georgetown students around. We’ve been able to make friends with other people,” Wolin said. “If I see someone in one of my classes who looks fun then I’ll reach out.”.
Whether they’re living alone, with old friends, or with roommates they’ve just met, the members of the class of 2024 in D.C. are attempting to, safely, create their own freshmen experience, even if they aren’t sure what that looks like yet. However, not every student can undertake a move to D.C., a city with some of the highest rents in the country. For economic and health reasons, moving to D.C. during a pandemic was not a viable option for every freshman, and many began classes either from their bedroom at home or on-campus housing.
Although the freshmen living in D.C. are disappointed at being off-campus, Sewell is doing his best to accept the unusual situation. “I don’t know what the freshman experience is, so like, I doubt that I’m experiencing it because this situation is kinda weird. So you know, I’m not like 100 percent satisfied but it’s better than nothing and I’m glad I’m here,” Sewell said.
Even though there are a lot of unknowns for the freshmen and the beginning of their time at Georgetown, students like Sewell and Wolin are looking at the positives. “Honestly, I feel pretty happy about how my freshman year has gone so far, given the circumstances,” Wolin said.