Campus move-in day looks different, with University of Calgary residences at 30% capacity

On move-in day, hundreds of volunteers would usually help thousands of new students settle in to residences at the University of Calgary.

Experience of students settling in to dorms has changed drastically during pandemic

Move-in day for the fall semester at the University of Calgary was a different experience for students due to the pandemic. (Helen Pike/CBC)

On move-in day, hundreds of volunteers would usually help thousands of new students settle in to residences at the University of Calgary.

But this year, things are different. 

Only 900 students are moving in — instead of the typical 2,600 or so.

Instead of a day, there's an entire week dedicated to moving in. Students have to register for a timeslot in advance and when they arrive on campus, instead of an all-hands-on-deck approach, they pull up to a parking lot and fill out an online form.

It's a drive-through setup. 

"Our student leaders will actually bring in their check-in package and their welcome package, go to their car and then they go to the buildings," asssociate director of residence services Lakshmi Sangaranarayanan said. "We've had to think a little bit differently, not just continue to run the way that we ran moving in the past."

Even the dorms look different — this year students will live in apartment-style residences, where they will sleep in their own rooms and share a bathroom with one roommate in their own suites.

Lakshmi Sangaranarayanan with the University of Calgary says the campus dorm move-in process has been an adjustment this year. (Helen Pike/CBC)

Marina Barker drove from Vancouver Island. She's an undergraduate student. 

"I'm very excited, but also a little nervous," she said. "I don't really know what to expect."

Barker added she's excited to meet her flatmate. They are both moving in on the same day.

While moving in during a pandemic is scary, Barker said it's also a unique experience she'll remember. 

It's kind of like a no man's land.- Nadia Mohammad Sharif, U of C graduate student

Nadia Mohammad Sharif is a graduate student, and it's her first time in a residence setting. She flew in with her family from Toronto for move-in day. 

"It's kind of like a no man's land," she said. "We're walking and we're driving around the university trying to scout out the [campus]. But it's really quiet."

Mohammad Sharif said so far, the U of C has sent out helpful online orientation documents and other programming.

She wishes meeting people was as simple as getting together with her neighbours in residence, but she's confident in time she can make friends and start exploring the city with them.

For international students, Sangaranarayanan said they have set up self-isolation housing — which will be used throughout the year for self-isolation needs. These are full-service apartments with all necessary amenities—- including food for those on the university meal plan. 

Much of the move-in process at the U of C was conducted via drive-thru. (Helen Pike/CBC)

"There's housekeeping, linen, bedding, furniture, a welcome package, some amenities, pots and pans, those services are already included," Sangaranarayanan said. "We actually have set aside 100 furnished units in townhomes in another community for students to self isolate." 

Still, Sangaranarayanan said some students have chosen the wait-and-see approach when it comes to moving in. 

350 per cent increase in deferred move-ins

Typically about 200 students defer the move into residences for the winter term — but this year so far 900 students have chosen to wait for winter, a 350 per cent increase.

"I think there are different reasons as to one as to why students might choose to defer to the winter term," Sangaranarayanan said. "But this year it's unusual."

Sangaranarayanan added some students may be waiting on study permits and changes in course delivery while others may just want to see how the pandemic progresses this fall before making commitments.