We as a community have been through a lot. For most of the last year and a half, we have undergone lockdowns, quarantines, restrictions, and more to counter the pandemic. Just like our restaurants, we have been operating at half-capacity in our classes, our clubs, and our social lives. While Furman has made remarkable progress within the last two semesters to get campus operations as close to normal as possible, it has not been until this fall that many social traditions have started to return. With the lifting of limitations and the full reopening of buildings on campus, Furman has seen a marked renewal in its social scene.

For many freshmen and sophomores, Convocation was one of the first large-scale indoor school events we had seen in quite some time. There was a sense of togetherness as we walked behind our class banners, sat close to one another, dined together, and listened to the warm words and prayers of Furman’s faculty. It felt like a fitting beginning to the academic year. 

In addition to academic events, groups like FUSAB are now able to utilize their budget for larger activities, with the fall orientation carnival being the foremost example. Students gathered in droves on Blackwell Field to dance, eat carnival food, and ride carnival rides. Other clubs have benefited from the social renewal as well, holding in-person meetings and retreats and putting on performances, and hosting events for their peers without the hassle of social distancing. The Student Activities Fair, for example, was a huge step forward, giving freshmen a chance to observe the many clubs and groups they could join.

The fully-opened dining options provide renewed social opportunities as well. Now, with the larger tables, we are no longer out of luck if we happen to bring more than three friends to the DH. Friends can catch up over impromptu meals and say quick hellos unencumbered by face masks. More choices for dining are available, too. The sophomores in particular had never grabbed a meal at the Paddock, used the fountain drink machines, or had the delight of making themselves a waffle with chocolate chips or honey butter.

Though we still have to wear masks in academic buildings, our classes feel revitalized as well. With less distance between students in the classroom, we are more likely to converse with one another, sharing names, numbers and notes. Both class discussions and student-professor interactions seem to have taken on new life this semester has become clear that education is enhanced when social connections are fostered.

Now that masks are not required in residence halls, there is more of an incentive to get to know those living around us. We can have people in our rooms without worrying about an RA catching us having one more person than is allowed. We can visit friends in South Housing, Clark Murphy, North Village, and the Eco-Cabins without such a strong fear of spreading the virus. Studying in our hall lounges is now far more attractive. We can go on walks together without carrying our masks. Overall, the Furman experience has been enhanced through this social reopening.

For sophomores, this transition has felt particularly distinct. Unlike the upperclassmen and current freshmen, we never got to enjoy a normal first year. Our introduction to college life involved strict social distancing, campus-wide mask mandates, reduced dining options, and limits on the number of people allowed in rooms. Of course, these measures were mandatory for remaining open during a pandemic. The freedom we experience this year was brought about by the COVID vaccine and the diligence of Furman’s COVID-19 response. Now, let’s enjoy it.