Nora Devin / Director of Photography. Student Hunter Johnson walks through Woodbury Campus Center.

By: Zoe Bernardi, Community Editor

As students crawl out of their childhood homes for the first time in months, holding on to the fleeting moments of their strange and distanced summers, they enter into a realm of Zoom university. How have their personal spaces become all-purpose rooms?  

USM has opened up its campus. Costello Field House has been the designated cotton swab testing zone as nursing students bundle up in PPE. The campus feels hollow. The chatter that was once in the green spaces has turned into shuffling feet as students all walk around with heads down and masks on.  

Gorham is quiet and slow, most have all adapted to this slow-paced lifestyle that COVID-19 has dropped off at feet. Rather than say sorry for bumping into each other, students now look scared if they come in contact less than six feet. 

Even morning routines have been altered. Rather than waking up, getting ready, and joining the long line for the Husky Line outside of Bailey hall, getting half-dressed from the hips up and sitting in the dorm room desks. 

The dorms and apartments have now become the place for sleep, host, have class, and study. Encouraged to stay inside, the only places allowed to roam free in the shape of each apartment and dorm rooms. 

Roommates Lea Yenawine and Jules Bickel are both out of state students living in an apartment in Upperclass Hall. Yenawine (Hopkinton, Massachusetts) is a junior nursing student. She explained that she and her three roommates all have their own single bedrooms and a living room along with a kitchen in their apartment. Yenawine likes to take her zoom classes in her bedroom and use her living room as a way to escape school mode and relax with her roommates. 

She did mention how she feels the Zoom calls are weird to be exposing the place you live. What once was a calming area for herself and friends now becomes her background for each of her classes. 

Luckily for her, she is living with her friends and enjoys having more time to hang out with everyone. In this time of quarantine, they all have been able to enjoy having extra time with those they live with, being with others can be a nice way to not feel alone. This pandemic has released a lot of emotion for everyone and it is nice to be surrounded by those who are in the same situation. 

It’s okay to rely on others as well a good time to practice being empathetic and vulnerable. Being a good friend during this time should be a goal for everyone.

Jules Bickel is from New Jersey and is entering her junior year in the American Sign Language (ASL) program. Specifically for her major, Bickel is still trying to figure out which place in her apartment is the best for Zoom lectures. Unlike other majors, the background and how the shadows affect her face can change the words and meaning of her sign. Bickel has found it difficult to find the balance between the coziness and relaxation of her bedroom and the rigid school life she has to create in the same room. Bickel has found her spot at the kitchen room table.

When both girls were asked how they had created their spaces in the apartment, Bickel and Yenawine laughed as they knew they were on separate ends of the spectrum. Yenawine had designed her room to “not be distracting, but rather made a section of my room up so I could focus in class.” While Bickel was still finding her routine, her room and space were created and made to be a place to be herself, not think about school, her one way of separating work and play. She said, “I don’t want the two to merge.”

The question of how this new online learning had affected their routines, both girls answered that it was a lot less driving between the Portland and Gorham campuses. Bickel has all of her classes online and Yenawine has one lab class twice a week for the first four weeks of class. 

With this new time in the morning, Bickel has made it clear that it feels like the days are merging together, everything is blending in one space, “There is nowhere I have to go, and if I am too busy in class I feel like I am never leaving the apartment.”

Over the topic of how their friendships have been during all of this extra time together, both girls didn’t hesitate to say how much they are so grateful for this extra time together to grow and strengthen as friends. 

“A little suffocating, but we are still friends with everyone, nice to have your own space for alone time and to refresh,” Bickel said. 

Although campus might be dreary on the outside as students still skitter to their rooms and apartments, it’s nice to know that within the buildings, friendships are growing and laughter is still alive. 


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