December 2021 was a chaotic time on Wellesley College’s campus, but perhaps worse than the chaos was the eerie silence of a sparse Wintersession. As omicron cases surged nationwide in late December, Wellesley students were encouraged to finish their final exams as soon as possible and leave campus within 24 hours of their last exam. To accommodate for the uptick in cases, some winter session internships were canceled, classes were moved online and several international students made the decision to stay on campus as their home countries’ quarantine times increased. Students who had planned to be on campus were dismissed, and students who planned to go home stayed on campus.
With only 274 students on campus (including athletes, who arrived later in the session), Wellesley closed all but one of its dining halls. Bates was the only dining option available to students during the period, which, according to some students, proved to be both an inconvenience and an accessibility issue to the 221 students who did not live in the New Dorms. The 159 students who lived on the west side of campus, in particular, like Takami Harano ’25, dreaded the long and cold walk to the dining hall.
“I wish that they could have opened maybe Lulu or Tower or something on the west side, because it’s such a pain in the ass to walk all the way to Bates, especially at night for dinner,” Harano said.
Additionally, some students were unable to eat the food altogether since Bates is the only dining hall that does not serve Kosher or Halal meat. Those who did eat the provided meals reported a decrease in the quality and variety of food served during Wintersession, which they attributed to the understaffed dining halls.
Because of the long walk to Bates and the dining hall’s lack of take-away options, some students resorted to DoorDash and takeout. Although DoorDash and UberEats were convenient, they were not cost-effective. Students were frustrated spending their own money on food that they were already paying Wellesley to provide. Some students, like Becky Chen ’25, could not eat in the dining halls because of their Wintersession internships. At the Child Studies Center, Chen was provided both lunch and dinner because the Center didn’t want her to risk a possible COVID-19 exposure in the dining hall.
“I probably ate at Bates twice,” Chen said.
Leaving campus was also difficult for Wintersession students. The LocalMotion bus to Cambridge and Boston stopped running on Dec. 22, effectively confining students to campus. Most of the students interviewed by The News remembered leaving campus only once or twice and spending their own money to do so. Some Ubered, while others took the commuter rail to reach their destinations.
“Ubering into Boston is like $40, but with the LocalMotion, if I want to go into Chinatown, I can just take the [Local] and then go on the orange line. It’s so much cheaper,” Chen remarked.
When asked what the administration could do to make Wintersession more accessible, most students mentioned transportation.
“I’m not sure if this is possible, but I wish that they could run LocalMotion at least once a week. I think it’s pretty hard to get groceries, or get necessities in general during winter break,” Harano said.“I think that’s something Wellesley should consider. It could make a big difference.”
Navigating what was already a difficult situation given the sudden surge in omicron cases on campus at the end of the semester, the opportunities for social interaction declined considerably. The social landscape on campus varied for different groups. While some students found comfort in the people that remained at Wellesley, others found it harder to interact with others, often spending the majority of their time in their own rooms.
“So it ended up that we had a lot of Chinese students staying on campus and basically we knew each other, so when we would go to Bates for lunch or dinner, we just met each other,” Anan Shen ’25, who worked at the Controller’s Office during break, said.
Harano, on the other hand, had a different experience. “I did stay in my dorm the entire break. Some of my friends were on campus, but they lived kind of far from me,” Harano said. “There were occasionally [social] events going on but most of them were in Bates or Pom, not Tower. So I don’t really think I went to any of the events.”
One of the options that was made available to students during wintersession to express any concerns or connect with one another was a Slack channel. This resource, however, was one where students would only text occasionally and the isolation during Wintersession was a larger issue to tackle.
“Social isolation was a huge thing. There were so few people on campus, and so few people per floor that especially if you were not an athlete that met and had practices, it would be really easy to go several hours without seeing anyone or go an entire day without seeing anyone which is unfortunate,” Melina Rowin ’23, one of the winter housing residential assistants, said.
Some students utilized the spare time during Wintersession to explore parts of the campus that they hadn’t previously had the chance to. With fewer students occupying the campus buildings, Wintersession was the perfect opportunity for students to discover and appreciate what makes this campus so special.
“Once I ended up on the first floor of Green Hall, and there’s a big conference room there. I found the architecture very fascinating. In a way it’s like the sun shining through the window, and the lights and shadows created on the wall,” Shen said.“That’s so beautiful. I took a picture of that, and that became my wallpaper.”