With the second year of COVID-19 approaching, USC Housing announced on Feb. 22 that the university’s plan for a “full return” in the fall will include residential life. The announcement noted that the 2021-2022 USC Housing application will open to continuing undergraduate students on March 8 at 9 a.m..

“We are well into implementing plans that will embrace multiple protective measures,” USC President Carol Folt said in her Feb. 19 letter disclosing the university’s plan to make a full return to campus in the fall.

Measures include vaccinating 1,200 individuals per week when the vaccine is more readily available, as well as twice-weekly testing for undergraduates and physical distancing measures for classroom and outdoor facilities. Despite the safety initiatives, the university said it has not yet received guidance from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health on capacity and configurations for housing.

When USC closed its doors in March 2020, many students assumed they would return to campus after spring break, never imagining that campus would be closed for more than a year. For some students, the upcoming fall semester will mark their first time on campus

“I’m just really excited to officially be a Trojan. It doesn’t feel like I am a trojan just yet, even though I have been taking classes,” freshman Chamine Tran said. “It feels like we aren’t in college especially because we are at home and still surrounded by high school friends. It feels like we are super seniors.”

Current freshmen were unable to enjoy the welcome traditions and festivities hosted by USC and never met their peers in person. Many began their college experience on their computers in their childhood bedrooms, creating a sense of disengagement from the university.

“The upperclassmen that are in L.A. right now, they already have connections with other people. We [freshman] are just lost,” freshman Lizzie Lee said. “We’re in our separate spheres or worlds and there’s a divide between us and everyone else. I think it’s going to be like that for the rest of our time [at USC].”

For international students, the disconnect between the Trojan experience and their own experience was even greater.

“As an international student from Lebanon, it was definitely more challenging to live off campus for my first semester just because it is hard to meet people and not many internationals actually came to L.A. this semester,” freshman Kaia Haddad said. “I think dorms help a lot with regards to making new friends and getting more involved with the university.”

Haddad said she hoped that being in person would change this dynamic and make it easier to engage in the USC community.

Anticipating a high demand for assignments and a limited supply of spaces, USC Housing partnered with Off Campus Housing 101 to provide a site for students to find local housing near campus and within the DPS patrol zone and will give priority to rising sophomores.

After being forced to take an untraditional path by living off campus first year, many freshmen look forward to the convenience of USC Housing next fall.

“I think being in the Village is a really nice experience, because now living at The Lorenzo, I realized how annoying the distance is, even if it’s super close by car,” Haddad said. “It would just be nice to be a walk away from everything. And at the Village, I feel like it’s so safe, just being inside it and that you have everything under you.”

Regardless of the university’s plans, students continue to have concerns about COVID-19 restrictions around housing.

“Whenever I talk to freshmen about next semester, no one is really hopeful. I feel like USC has let us down so many times that we just don’t really have any expectations whatsoever,” Lee said. “Are USC students going to comply to all of these rules, not go into each other’s rooms? Are they going to go to parties off campus like frats? It’s just a lot of factors.”