ANN ARBOR, Mich. – When coronavirus hit colleges, students were forced to make a choice; move back in with mom and dad or stick it out on potentially dangerous campuses. For a growing number of others, however, it was a chance for a change of scenery.
“With the trajectory of how COVID was looking in New York I thought that I was just going to do it!” University of Michigan neuroscience major and Junior Annie Rauwerda said from her new apartment in Brooklyn, NY. “Basically, my motivation was just for an adventure.”
The Grand Rapids native moved out east after finding roommates on Facebook marketplace. So far, she said they all get along. She’s also taking a full course load while doing what she called a sort-of study abroad. An actual semester abroad was never in the cards she said.
Rauwerda also moved out with her friend Maggie Shea, a U-M theater directing major, also a junior.
“For a theater major [online class] just doesn’t really work. You can try as hard as you want but it doesn’t really work,” she said. Shea is working as an au pair for a family in Brooklyn who let her move in. She said this year would likely be a gap year although she is taking a few courses. She admitted those were a little awkward to take online, in someone else’s house.
The pair are part of a growing trend of students nationwide who chose to move to a dream city or a city that puts them in a good place for a dream job if they weren’t going to be able to be at school for the fall. Although there are some things they miss.
“The energy gamedays, having your friends all over,” Rauwerda said. “That part I miss, but I know that’s not really happening right now” The U of M has warned students against gatherings and partying and the Big 10 college football conference has not announced a fall season thus far. According to the U of M’s COVID case tracker shows 50 cases on the Ann Arbor campus in the last two weeks.
Not every students has the means to make a move to a new city instead of moving home but for those who do it’s an opportunity to experience life away from home and go to the school they want. It also opens the door to a conversation about how necessary campus life could be in the next year and possibly after COVID.
“If classes are still online, I would probably like to stay here. I’m having fun,” Rauwerda said.
“I think I’m kind of just going to ride this wave out here,” said Shea. “I was even talking with friends the other day and if theater does come back and I can get my foot in the door, I don’t know if I’ll ever go back. Like is the degree necessary?”