Students move onto Northeastern’s Boston campus this spring, citing COVID-19 testing, vaccines as paramount

Students move in for spring semester. Photo by Ruby Wallau/Northeastern University

Northeastern’s Boston campus was alive with the busy hum of move-in this week, as students and their families shuffled belongings from cars to dorm rooms. The familiar sound of industrial hampers—filled to the brim with clothes, bedding, posters, and floor lamps—clattering along the campus sidewalks could be heard from West Village to Davenport.

“It’s good to be back,” said Chris Chefalas, a first-year student who participated in the university’s Boston program in the fall. “Going from a king-size bed to a twin will be rough, but it’s nice to be close to classes—and the dining halls.”

Roughly 1,700 students moved onto campus for the first time this spring, including 775 students who participated in Boston, and 175 who participated either in Dublin or NUstart—a virtual first semester experience.

Students in the program spend their first semester abroad or in a unique experience in Boston. This year, with national travel restrictions in place to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, the university’s Boston students lived in the Westin Hotel in the city’s vibrant Back Bay neighborhood.

Students move in for spring semester. Photos Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University

Like Chefalas, many of those students moved onto campus for the first time at the start of the spring semester.

“It’s a bit of a relief to be here,” Chefalas said, while he and his family unloaded his belongings from their car. The university’s robust testing protocol was among the reasons he—and his parents—felt comfortable returning.

“I feel really confident because of the protocols that Northeastern has in place,” said his mother, Kelly Chefalas, who added that the university’s acquisition of several hundred doses of a COVID-19 vaccine also gave her peace of mind.

Hundreds of volunteers scattered across the Boston campus helped to provide a smooth move-in process for new students and families, said Robyn Golden, director of housing services at Northeastern. 

The university also set up a pop-up location to register and distribute Husky Cards in the Curry Student Center, so students new to campus could receive their IDs before heading to the Cabot Testing Center on their first day. 

“We had masks and lanyards available everywhere you looked,” Golden said.

Alex Gritsinin, a third-year student of environmental studies, decided to return to campus for reasons that echoed the Chefalases’.

“COVID was my least concern about coming back,” he said. “I knew about the rigorous testing, and the email about Northeastern getting vaccines and already vaccinating people was just an extra boost for my overall trust.”

Gritsinin was on co-op in the fall at the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center—an experience that was fully remote. That was another reason he wanted to move back, he said.

“I’ve literally been sitting at home for the last nine months; I didn’t want to lose my social skills, plus being on campus is a good way to motivate me to sit down and do my work instead of procrastinating at home,” he said.

Students move in for spring semester. Photos by Ruby Wallau/Northeastern University

That sense of purpose, and of connection, is what spurred Ainsley Thompson to move onto campus as well.

Thompson, who was also part of the Boston program in the fall, said that while being at the Westin had its perks, “it was close enough to go to classes on campus, but far enough not to feel like I was part of this community.”

She’s in an apartment-style dormitory at 10 Coventry St. now, a space she shares with two roommates.

“It’s really nice to have a couple people I can hang out with,” Thompson said, after being in a room by herself in the fall. “Feeling safe at Northeastern is a really good feeling.”

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