There has been a sighting in Evanston this week of a species deemed nearly extinct just one year ago … the purple-shirted, eager-eyed, first-year dormitory resident.

Last fall, in an effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19, Northwestern University closed residence halls to most students, including first and second years who previously had to live in dorms.

But this week, the full-fledged, 4,000 person return to “where’s that building again?” is back, along with the rule requiring first and second year students to stay in university residence halls.

For Yasmin Giebitz, freshman year at Northwestern is also her first time in the United States. She’s from Germany.

Yasmin was walking down Chicago Avenue this afternoon with her Jones Hall roommate, Amanda Kangsadjaja. Amanda is from Indonesia, and has been the the U.S. before. In fact, her older sister goes to NU.

Yasmin and Amanda chose to room together because they were friends before setting foot in Evanston. They both went to high school in Indonesia.

Amanda said her sister had told her that “Northwestern is an amazing school.”
Yasmin said the strong economics department was a big reason she chose to attend.

Neither was overly worried about COVID-19. Because student vaccination is required, and arriving students were also tested, Amanda said “it makes me feel safer.”

Wendy Klunk and Julia Richardson.

Second-year student Wendy Klunk and junior Julia Richardson have a different past to think about than do the freshmen. Both are Wildcat Welcome orientation leaders, showing newbies the ropes. But both also missed a normal, on-campus experience last year, as COVID-19 forced nearly all courses to be held remotely.

“I was still able to build connections,” Julia said. “But I didn’t like online classes.”

Wendy said not only did she miss out on a complete, in-person first year in college, but her senior year in high school was also impacted.

She was able to move into a dorm in the second quarter (January, 2020) and “made some new friends there,” and will be in a residence hall again this year.

Both of the orientation leaders said they are concerned about the possible spread of COVID-19.

Wendy is from Michigan, and has friends at the U of M in Ann Arbor who have contracted breakthrough cases of the illness.

Julia, from California, added that “breakthrough cases have been in my mind a little.” She said she and her friends will be careful, wearing masks when necessary. But she said “there is always a concern” about those who ignore the science and the rules.

Still, compared to last year, she may have summed up Wildcat Welcome week by saying “everybody is excited to be here.”

Jeff Hirsh joined the Evanston Now reporting team in 2020 after a 40-year award-winning career as a broadcast journalist in Cincinnati, Ohio.