Editor’s note: This is a first-person account of a K-State freshman’s life on campus during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Last year around this time, I was beginning to picture myself in college after being accepted into Kansas State University. All of my life, I dreamed of attending KSU after graduating from high school, and for most of my high school career, I had my mind made up on majoring in interior architecture.

When I started to imagine life on campus a year ago, I thought I would be hanging with multiple friends by now, experiencing a great roommate, enjoying every class I was taking and certainly not wearing a mask or worrying about a pandemic. Never did I think, my freshman year at college would be this way.

So far, my college experiences have been fairly positive. I’ve met new people that I would have never been able to meet in my small town of Alma. I’ve gone on multiple, random Hobby Lobby and Target trips, and I’ve finally been able to Wabash at a KSU football game in the student section. My college experience has included a few not so fun things, too, including spending late nights in studio building models and drafting, figuring out what classes are online and which are in person, and of course trying to maintain physical distancing while making new friends.

There also are a few college experiences I wasn’t prepared for. For example, never did I think that one day I would have a roommate, then the next day come back to her side being empty and then that night be redecorating my entire room. I also wasn’t prepared for how lonely college can be sometimes. No one told me that sometimes my friend’s schedules just wouldn’t match up with mine, leaving me to do some things alone.

Living in the dorms is intended to help new college students transition into adult life while also having opportunities to get involved and meet new people who are also experiencing the same things for the first time. When deciding to come to campus, I had to choose whether to live on campus or commute 30 minutes for class every day. The idea of being a part of a community with the residence hall and starting to transition into living on my own sounded very enticing, but in a pandemic, it’s a little harder than expected.

First, the housing assignment was different than normal. I chose my residence hall and room for the first time in April, but near the end of June, K-State rearranged housing assignments to space students out because of the virus. Fortunately, I was able to stay in the residence hall I selected, but some students weren’t as lucky and had to go through the selection process all over again. Another difference in living in the dorms this year was the move-in process. Rather than all of the students moving in on the same weekend, we instead had one week to choose a day to move in.

The process of selecting a hall and moving in isn’t the only thing that has changed. I now have to wear a mask anytime I leave my dorm room, even to walk to the community bathroom to brush my teeth. Wearing a mask isn’t awful, but it did have to become a part of my routine when I left each time.

There also are capacity limits in all rooms, including the floor lobbies, study rooms and the dorm rooms themselves. For the floor lobbies, only nine are allowed at a time. To push the capacity limit with group activities in the lobby, like a movie night, nine will be allowed on the carpeted area and then others will be placed slightly in the hallway. In the study rooms, three students is the capacity and for dorm rooms only double of what the space would house is allowed.

Students also are not allowed to visit other residence halls and outside visitors are not allowed at this time. These capacity limits and rules are enforced by RA’s, but most times it’s not enforced until a very large group in an area is created.

Along with the dorms being different, so is the dining hall. I remember older students always giving incoming students the tip of bringing plastic containers to take food out of the dining hall. Typically, the dining hall doesn’t allow food to leave the dining hall, but during a global pandemic, it’s completely to-go. Students now have to use a kiosk when swiping their card to check their temperature, then receive plastic utensils and choose one entrée line for their meal.

My roommate chose to move out for financial reasons, rather than of COVID reasons, but I have heard of multiple students not having a roommate this semester because others chose to stay off of campus during the pandemic. If a student in the residence hall happens to test positive or has to quarantine, they are given the decision to return home for two weeks or live in isolation at the Jardine Apartments.

For the most part from what I have seen, students are doing a very good job respecting the mask mandate and physical distancing rules on campus. The only time I have seen someone without a mask is when they are outside maintaining social distance. So far, the pandemic hasn’t scared me being at KSU. In fact, sometimes I feel safer here than the times I go home to high school football games, and people pretend that life is completely normal.

I think it is important for each student to do their part to keep the university and campus open. Maybe right now isn’t the best time to be going to house parties or the bars in Aggieville, but if you do, be considerate of everyone else and do the right thing if you start to show symptoms.

Even though the pandemic has caused extra steps for living in the dorms, I am very happy with my decision to not only attend KSU but also live on campus. By choosing not to commute, I have been able to appreciate my time more when I do choose to go home. It has been hard making friends through masks, even in the places that friends should have come naturally, but I am thankful for the incredible people I have met so far.

Kaytlyn Meseke, a graduate of Wabaunsee High School, is majoring in interior architecture and is a part of K-State’s Class of 2025.