COVID-19 changes dining hall experience

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The Daily Illini File Photo

Students wait in line to enter the Ikenberry Dining Center on May 5, 2019.

By Carolina Garibay

COVID-19 will force students to find ways to adapt to changes that keep everyone safe in the campus community. Some of the most significant changes will be made within the dining halls. Dining halls are a great way to socialize with friends and break away from the craziness that college can bring. However, due to changes needed to be made to dining halls to follow social distancing guidelines, socializing with others while eating might be a little harder to do. The anxiety that can come with navigating dining halls, especially if you’re a new student, can often be difficult. With the added physical barriers of plexiglass screens and social distancing rules, students might worry even more about how dining will go. Luckily, I have some tips on easing the anxiety students might feel about dining, especially during COVID-19:

Familiarize yourself with your dining hall’s COVID-19 guidelines

These are unprecedented times, and the University has never dealt with something like COVID-19 before. No one has an exact idea of what student life will be like with the COVID-19 rules in place, so many students might not have a clear picture of how dining is going to work, either. One of the best ways to get an idea of how dining will work is by researching campus dining halls’ COVID-19 procedures. This will keep you from being caught off-guard by the changes dining halls have had to make. Most dining halls at the University have a website that you can look at to see what your dining options are, but you can also call if you have more specific questions. 

Take advantage of carry-out options and explore the campus 

A lot of dining halls will offer carry-out options, which is great because this means you have an excuse to eat outside. You can eat on the Main Quad on nice days, but you can also find other areas on campus to eat that you may not have explored before. Though simply taking food to your dorm room may be tempting, consider eating outside at least once a week. Spending some time out in the fresh air will help ease the anxiety some students might have due to the upcoming semester and encourage students to find new campus spots that they might not have seen before. 

Schedule socially distanced lunch dates with friends

One of the biggest struggles students might face is the lack of social interaction during mealtimes, which would usually be an excellent time to catch up with friends and hang out. Some dorms are only doing carry-out, while other dorms are requiring students to spread out while eating. One way you can eat while still socializing is by using FaceTime while eating, even if you are all in the same dining hall but don’t want to have to yell at each other from across the room. Another way is to have socially distanced lunch dates outside where you can safely hang out with your friends. Humans are naturally social beings, so don’t think the physical and mental barriers brought upon by COVID-19 mean that we have to give up social interaction. 

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