Courtesy of Quan Pham
When Northwestern announced just over a week before his anticipated move-in that he could not come to campus, Medill sophomore Elbert Xie scrambled to find an apartment in Evanston.
NU students typically arrange leases for living off-campus months in advance, but Xie only had a couple of weeks.
“In one or two days, the apartments that I was looking at all got taken,” Xie said. “The closest time that they’re going to be available again is the end of November, and by that time it’s honestly not worth it.”
Xie, like many underclassmen, is attending Fall Quarter remotely from home. Some students, like McCormick sophomore Saahir Ganti-Agrawal, made the decision to stay home before they knew coming back to campus would not be an option.
Ganti-Agrawal said he was “skeptical” that NU’s dorm accommodations would be safe and comfortable. Additionally, he already had plans to take his classes, all of which were lectures, online.
“I’m lucky enough that I get along with my parents,” Ganti-Agrawal said. “Also, my brother. I want to not be gone, because then he really has nothing to do. If he’s got remote school, he doesn’t get to see any of his friends, so at least he can see me.”
However, students living in different time zones said synchronous classes — classes that meet at a scheduled time — pose a challenge.
Quan Pham, a Medill sophomore, is taking classes from his home in Hanoi, Vietnam. Pham said when building his schedule, he reached out to multiple professors who said they would not offer him an asynchronous option.
“On the one hand, Northwestern is saying that we are committing to providing the same opportunities to everyone even if they’re online,” Pham said. “And on the other hand, there’s not really any sort of guarantee. The initial classes I was looking at I had to move around a lot, because I’m not going to be up at 2 a.m. to take a class, no matter how much I love it.”
For Weinberg freshman Steven Zheng he understands why the administration made the call, but is disappointed he won’t get “a somewhat authentic college experience” freshman year.
Without in-person classes or dorms, Zheng said developing new friendships is less natural and requires more effort.
“There isn’t really a way to authentically make friends anymore. You can’t just bump into someone in class,” Zheng said. “You have to actually make a conscious effort to message someone or talk to someone privately during a Zoom meeting to schedule study sessions.”
While staying home for Fall Quarter poses academic and social challenges, Pham said it’s a “trade off” and has some benefits — albeit unrelated to academics.
After attending a boarding high school and NU, he has only spent time home in Vietnam during his summers. Staying home for the quarter, Pham said, will allow him to spend time with family.
“I haven’t been home for this season for the past few years, I’ve only been home for the summer,” Pham said. “Now that I’m home for fall, I’m going to get to experience fall in my city which is something I haven’t done in a while.”
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— Northwestern goes remote for first- and second-year students, reduces Fall Quarter undergraduate tuition by 10 percent
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