Opinion: Living on Campus During COVID-19

Dining Services has continued to serve students living on campus during the pandemic.(Photo courtesy of Peter Zhang '21)

Dining Services has continued to provide meals for students living on campus during the pandemic (photo courtesy of Peter Zhang ’21)

By Peter Zhang, Staff Writer

It did not catch me by surprise when the college announced its decision to move to remote instruction on March 16th, 2020. At that point, conversations with my family back home in China had been centered around COVID-19 for over two months. From the first case in Seattle, to restricting all flights from China, to spotted outbreaks around the globe, I regret that we are living in a world that hides too much and listens too little. But that is a topic for another time–I am writing to share my experience as an international student from China at Gettysburg College during the COVID-19 crisis.

My hope is that this opinion piece will serve to inform Gettysburgians who are away from campus about life on campus right now, and to express my gratitude for the infrastructure that Gettysburg College quickly set up for those of us who needed a place to stay during this strange time.

On March 13th, Residential & First-Year Programs sent out its first email to all students about an application for housing during the extended spring break. The approval process took less than thirty-six hours. On March 18th, the second email, titled “Housing Relocation,” was sent to ensure that students who were affected by travel restrictions received housing for the remainder of the semester. All students on campus were relocated to the motel dorm rooms, which consist of single bedrooms with private bathrooms.

The turnaround time was less than twenty-four hours from signing the housing agreement to beginning relocation. ResLife assembled a team to help with moving, and the process paralleled what I experienced during the first-year move-in day. In addition to ResLife’s efforts, Gettysburgians with extra rooms in their homes also posted invitations on Facebook for students who needed temporary housing arrangements. It was a great relief for me–especially since peers from other institutions had warned me about their colleges shutting down the dormitories.

On this past Friday, May 8th, ResLife sent its latest email to assure us that we would have summer housing and dining services.

On March 21st, dining services sent out its first email to announce to-go meals were available from 11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. and from 5:00 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. for pick-up every day. Since then, I have been receiving a daily email listing the menu of the day. The menu accommodates all diet restrictions, just like during the regular semester, and the food is still delicious #GettysburgDining. A typical menu includes main dishes, vegetables, snacks, and drinks. Below is the menu from May 12th.


Tuesday Dinner 5.12.20
Slippery Chicken Pot Pie
Country Vegetable Pot Pie
Herb Dumplings (VG)
Sesame Encrusted Tuna Skewers (GF)
Ancient Grains & Kale (VE)
Jasmine Rice (VE, GF)
Vegetable of the Day (VE, GF)
Wednesday Lunch 5.13.20
Grilled Ham & Cheese (CP)
Grilled Cheese (VG)
Tomato Soup (VG)
Vegetable of the Day (VE, GF)
Jasmine Rice (VE, GF)
Clams with White Wine (GF)
Berry & Cream Cinnamon Roll Cake (VG)
Bacon (CP, GF)


Signs in the dining center remind students to practice social distancing (photo courtesy of Peter Zhang '21)

Signs in the dining center remind students to practice social distancing (photo courtesy of Peter Zhang ’21)

All students are required to wear masks and sanitize their hands before entering the main pickup area (the Grill on Lincoln) to minimize the possibility of spreading the virus. Members of the dining staff have become the few smiling faces I see on campus while everyone is away, and the short conversations and laughter we share has restored some normalcy in my life during this unprecedented time. They remind me of my senior friends who would have been on campus right now to celebrate their Gettysburg careers, my athlete friends who would have been riding the bus to their championship games, and my home that is seven thousand miles away.

Since the beginning of the shutdown, I, along with many international students, have received accommodations and care from the International Student Office, the Religious & Spiritual Office, and various professors. It has been a heartwarming experience. One of Gettysburg College’s many strengths, I believe, is that our “feels like home” spirit continues to flourish in today’s competitive higher education space, and I’m thankful for that. I can’t wait for the day when Gettysburgians come out of the COVID-19 crisis stronger and unified.


Julia Sharapi ‘22 and Sydney Kaplan ’22 contributed to this article.


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Author: Peter Zhang

Peter Zhang '21 is a staff writer for The Gettysburgian who writes primarily for the Features and Sports section. He is from Suzhou, China and lived in Los Angeles before coming to Gettysburg where he became a fan of the Dodgers and the Lakers. He is majoring in biochemistry and minoring in computer science.

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  1. Very well written piece, Peter. Thanks for perspective and good luck in your studies.

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    • Thank you, Mr. Chandon.

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