Freshman Year Flipped Upside-Down


Eben Bracy, freshman, on the steps of the fountain of Big Blue, in front of the Webb University Center.

By Sydney Haulenbeek, Contributing Writer

Originally published September 5, 2020.


It’s September and students are returning to Old Dominion University. Students are sweating as they walk around campus, backpacks strung across their shoulders, and masks sticking to their faces. The campus, like many places following the COVID-19 pandemic, looks different this year.


Daniel Taft, a freshman majoring in business, has had a far different introduction to the college experience than he ever could have expected.


“I think, from what I’ve seen from other people who have moved in from other different colleges, and this college included, is that [move in] is pretty hectic. I mean, there’s a lot of people who move in at once – it would have been busy – but this time when we moved in it was pretty quiet,” said Taft.


Taft moved in on Aug. 28 with the help of his family, during the time slot allotted to him by the university. Before he was able to pick up his keys and unpack in his dorm, he had to go through ODU’s COVID-19 checks. He presented his daily COVID-19 check-in, accessible through the myODU homepage, at the door of the Chartway Arena. He had his temperature taken before being supplied with hand sanitizer and a navy blue ODU themed mask.


Some students were selected to take a COVID-19 test before they were allowed to pick up their keys. Eben Bracy, a freshman majoring in cinema and TV production, was one of those students. He made the mistake of going straight to his dorm to move in, instead of checking in at Chartway Arena.


“It was random,” Bracy said, “I was just standing in line, and they just kind of pulled me out like: “You’re getting tested!”


Both students noticed the distinctive changes made to keep students, teachers, and university employees safe on campus this semester.


“I think the biggest difference to what would have been my college experience is that there are not as many people on campus,” said Taft. “And especially because of COVID you don’t want to walk up to someone and be introducing yourself… instead it’s more about social distancing, and keeping everyone safe and stopping the spread.”


A lot of Taft’s classes were originally going to be in person, but towards the beginning of the school year became virtual. Now he only has one in-person class, and it’s socially distanced with masks mandated, just as all campus settings are.


“Going from a physical classroom setting to a virtual style classroom has been very difficult and it’s just not as easy as I thought it would be,” said Bracy, who also only has one in-person class. “The problem with doing virtual is that you have all these different technologies and different websites and apps you need to get. Some of my classes actually require Netflix or Amazon Prime, which not all students can really get. So, in lower-income circles, I imagine it would be a lot harder to do virtually than it is a physical classroom environment.”


“Even though it’s been pretty drastic of a change from what I thought my university experience would be, I think that ODU has done really well [with] social distancing, and following the guidelines, and watching out for students,” said Taft.


The university released the ODU Blueprint over the summer to outline all the precautions and expectations of those on campus this semester. All university updates are available at