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Expanded options for in-person gatherings bring life back to Stanford campus

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When Ecy King ’23 moved to campus in the middle of winter quarter, she found social life to be drastically different than when she left last spring.

During the winter, “there would be large periods where you would be by yourself in the dorm,” King said. Since the University expanded opportunities for in-person gatherings on campus, however, she said “social life has blossomed.”

These expanded opportunities include indoor dining options at The Axe and Palm (TAP), Coffee House (CoHo) and some of the dining halls, including Wilbur, Stern and Lakeside, with reservations. Students can also organize outdoor gatherings with up to 24 students and participate in other recreational activities such as volleyball, basketball and swimming.

King recently attended a live performance at the Arbor outdoor pub and gathering space, also known as Barrillaga. She said that it was “refreshing” to enjoy the performance and see people from different parts of campus. 

“It’s very nice to be able to interact with people in meaningful ways again and go to events outside of the dorm,” she said.

And she’s not alone. Monica Peña-Aguilar ’23, who has been on campus since the beginning of winter quarter, said her social life has seen a “big improvement” since she first arrived. She added that eating with friends inside and outside of TAP has brought back fond memories from frosh year. “TAP would be the place I would go to Friday and Saturday nights,” she said. “It’s been great to be able to do that again.”

Some students who came to campus more recently said they have also noticed the change. Young Lee ’21, who returned to campus at the beginning of spring quarter and writes for The Daily’s Arts and Life section, said they have also enjoyed being able to eat indoors at TAP with friends.

With time still left in the quarter, students said they are excited to make the most of these expanded opportunities. Pena-Aguilar said she has plans to go fountain hopping with friends, and King said she hopes to attend more events at Arbor.

Yet for some, this excitement is immense. After over a year of social distancing, King said it was “a little bit overwhelming to feel that rush that comes from in-person events again.”

Even so, that these activities are back has been “endearing,” Lee said. They reflected on the beginning of the quarter, when they would look outside of their window and barely see anyone. Now, they enjoy seeing people spending time on the fields and at picnic tables.

Peña-Aguilar shared similar sentiments. Since the University turned the fountains back on, she said she sees students fountain hopping again.

“It’s brought life back to campus,” she said.

While students said these activities have brought back a sense of community, they added that they still notice differences between now and life before the pandemic. Although King plans to dine indoors at one of the dining halls this quarter, she said she knows the experience will not be the same because there is limited space indoors. Nonetheless, she said she is ready to make the most of the experience.

“It’s what we make of it,” King said. “This is a new type of normal that we’re going to have to adjust to.” 

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Claudia Nmai ’23 is a News Writer for the Daily. Contact her at canmai ‘at’ stanford.edu.