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‘Excited’ and ‘Ecstatic,’ Students Return to Full Capacity Campus

Students walk past the welcome tent set up in the middle of Harvard Yard during freshman move-in.
Students walk past the welcome tent set up in the middle of Harvard Yard during freshman move-in. By Truong L. Nguyen
By Hannah J. Martinez, Crimson Staff Writer

When Grace Li ’25 first arrived on campus, she said the moment she stepped foot through Johnston Gate onto Harvard Yard felt “unreal.”

“The first highlight was just driving through Johnston Gate, kind of felt a little bit unreal and really loved the people welcoming there,” said Li, who lives in Grays Hall.

Li joined thousands of undergraduates who returned to a full capacity campus between Aug. 20 and Aug. 28 after spending nearly 18 months scattered across the globe. The College followed a staggered move-in format, inviting different class cohorts to settle in their housing accommodations across the week-long period.

Though only having been on campus for a short period, some undergraduates expressed how “ecstatic” they felt to be with their full class cohorts.

“The campus feels so much more alive and exciting,” said Nicholas J. Brennan ’23, who lives in Winthrop House. Brennan said living on campus during the spring semester felt “very isolating” due to the College’s social distancing protocols.

“It’s crazy to walk into a dining hall and see all the faces that, for so long, you almost have forgotten existed,” Brennan said. “So to be reintroduced to everyone has been fantastic, and it’s brought a lot of energy and hope back.”

Patrick A. Singleton ’22, who stayed on-campus during the spring semester, said he was looking forward to more social interactions following a spring semester that was heavily regulated by social distancing guidelines.

“Everyone was very distant in the spring, both physically but also sort of socially,” Singleton said. “Now I think people are a whole lot more eager to just hang out, talk to each other.”

“I just want that time to hang out, talk to people, maybe play games, walk around, go out to dinner,” he added. “Also intramural sports, I know we’re kicking those back up around here. I love IMs.”

Other undergraduates expressed anticipation to reconnect with classmates.

“Honestly it just makes my heart happy to see ... so many people I haven’t seen in so long,” Grace R. Hulslander ’23 said. “And I think that’s what college is all about in the end.”

“Going to the dining hall and not planning to see people but then walking into them and being able to sit with them is so special,” Hulslander added.

Students who arrived on Aug. 22 and Aug. 23 said they expected their move-in to be adversely affected by Hurricane Henri — the first hurricane to make landfall in New England in three decades — but did not experience as much trouble as anticipated.

“Even though I moved in on the day that Hurricane Henri was supposed to be in Boston, the process was very easy,” Ahmad Alsheikh ’24 said.

Many undergraduates said they were looking forward to returning to normal school activities, such as attending sporting events and in-person classes.

“I’m so excited for football games, Harvard-Brown, Harvard-Dartmouth, especially Harvard-Yale,” Huslander said.

Tejas S. S. Vadali ’25 said he had been reading through Harvard’s course catalog in preparation for classes and was particularly interested in “Government 20: Foundations of Comparative Politics.”

“I went on a Zoom call with Professor Levitsky on an information session for Gov 20,” Vadali said. “He is incredibly funny. He seems like a great personality, and that’s one of the classes I’m really excited to take this semester.”

Though the school year has just begun, Brennan said he believes the potential of greater social interaction among undergraduates will enhance the student experience this fall.

“Having the opportunity to sit down and come together and make those connections has really been amazing,” Brennan said. “I think it’s going to help define the semester as one of the best that we’ve had in a very long time.”

—Staff writer Hannah J. Martinez can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @martinezhannahj.

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