University of Cape Town: Students settle in at residences, quarantine period begins

Residences at the University of Cape Town (UCT), including Baxter Hall, were hives of activity as first-year students arrived at their campus homes. Their arrival marks an important step into their entry into university and towards their higher education journeys at UCT.

UCT’s First-Year Campus Reception (FYCR) programme kicked off with registration on Sunday, 28 February, and was set up in the Sports Centre on upper campus under strict COVID-19 guidelines. The FYCR concluded at 19:00 on Tuesday, 2 March. Students are currently participating in an online orientation programme.

“We are very excited to welcome our first-year students.”

“We are very excited to welcome our first-year students. [Baxter Hall] is going to be their home away from home, and we look forward to making it a memorable experience for them,” said Bangiwe Mtombeni, a subwarden at Baxter Hall.

Settling in

Mtombeni said that because of the COVID-19 pandemic, arriving at residence this year was “completely different” for students when compared with other years. Traditionally, she said, residence volunteers would plan a list of activities in the lead-up to students’ arrival to help them settle in, familiarise themselves with their new environment, make new friends and ensure that they feel welcome and at home.

Instead, a team of wardens, subwardens, facilities officers and administration staff were stationed at the front of the residence to formally welcome students and to make sure that they were exactly where they needed to be.

“We are super excited to have [the students]. Our res halls have been quiet for too long … finally there will be life again.”

After completing the formal introduction process and the necessary paperwork, students were ushered to their rooms to start their quarantine period. Mtombeni said that Baxter Hall will host 130 first-year students this year.

“We are super excited to have [the students]. Our res halls have been quiet for too long … finally there will be life again. I just wish that we could welcome the students with activities like we normally do, but that is not to be this year,” she said.

Tips for quarantine

When Mtombeni returned to campus on 19 February 2021 after almost one year of emergency remote teaching and learning, she said that “it felt weird”.

“I was so happy to be back at res, but it felt very weird.”

“I was so happy to be back at res, but it felt very weird. It was so quiet, and the quarantine period was quite lonely for me,” she said.

But slowly, as more students completed their quarantine, their voices and laughter began to echo through the halls and outside. And even though Mtombeni couldn’t physically participate in those discussions, she said that it felt good to know that “there was life nearby”.

She offered some advice to those students who need to start their quarantine period: “Remember, nothing lasts forever. Read a lot, and if you can do a few online training courses like me, that helps.

“Day five might get rough because you’re so close to the end, but just keep going.”

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