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Campus Life During COVID | Bismarck State College

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Campus Life During COVID


On a college campus, a constant state of transition is the norm. Most students are balancing their studies with a job, a social life, and a general sense of “figuring it out” before moving onto the next phase of adulthood. A campus provides an in-between zone for those who are living independent of their families for the first time. On March 13, BSC, like every college in the nation, made the decision to close in response to the pandemic. Abruptly, the campus emptied of students and classes transferred to online-only.

“No one really ever admits to being homesick,” says Ashlyn Thompson, a Resident Assistant (RA) for Bismarck State College, “I feel like when COVID started to become real, a lot of parents wanted their kids to come home. When I saw everybody moving out, this family we had built, it was like my children were leaving the nest.”

Ashlyn has lived on BSC’s campus for four years while earning her degree in Elementary Education through the program partnership with Dickinson State University. As an RA, she saw the impact of COVID’s uncertainties play out amongst students caught up in the unexpected changes on campus. “They didn’t really get to say goodbye to their roommates or people they connected with during the year. I think they’ll continue to stay in touch to keep those connections. They saw how easily it was ripped from them.”

Mercedez Fraction
Mercedez Fraction, RA
The sentiment of abrupt loss was echoed by another RA, Mercedez Fraction. “With the pandemic and everyone leaving and not being able to have a commencement ceremony, it makes you think that when you don’t have gratitude or notice the things you have to be thankful for, anything can come and take it.”

Mercedez graduated this year and will be continuing her Psychology studies in Moorhead. Those who remained on campus throughout the pandemic lived with dueling realities: the sudden halt of normalcy and the stretches of stillness. “Summertime tends to be quiet, but this is different,” said Mercedez, “having BSC closed off to the public was hard to see. BSC has always been an open place for people, for the community.”

“It was extremely busy at times. And at other times, it was the regular daily type of work,” notes Timothy Adams, Resident Hall Coordinator. For Timothy, the main concern was making sure those remaining on campus had the right tools to be safe, but also the opportunity to live as normally as possible. “We wanted everyone to have access to hand sanitizer, masks, and temperature checks.” Of course, this also meant heavy restrictions on common areas and banning the most hallowed of college leisure activities: pool.

“We had to take the pool cues and balls away.” While this was Timothy’s first year as a Resident Hall Coordinator, he’s confident about the resilience of BSC’s sense of community. “A lot of good things have come from this experience . . . we’ve implemented a lot of things that we can continue indefinitely that are just good practices. New students won’t feel like anything is abnormal. And returning students will take these changes in stride.”

Having weathered the spring shut down, BSC’s resident life assistants and coordinators are optimistic about the future of college campuses, agreeing that the connections made in college are stronger than a pandemic.