story by NICOLE WHITE photos by EMMA BAYENS illustration by HAILEE LUNTE

Think of your favorite thing about campus. Do you imagine cherry blossom trees, the top of the Hill or your favorite professor’s office? Maybe you think about an organization that you joined or the wide variety of dining options. You might even think of something more abstract, like the community or how at home you feel.

Everyone’s relationship with campus is different. Some students feel more at home on campus than their actual hometowns, and others count down the date until they reach graduation. Very rarely does a student feel the same way about their college campus throughout all four years. As our minds grow, so do our opinions, perspectives and relationships.

Indya Bradley & Olivia Yurcisin, Freshmen

Freshmen Indya Bradley (left) and Olivia Yurcisin from Elizabethtown work on homework in the courtyard between Pearce-Ford Tower and Hugh Poland Hall. Bradley, a criminology major, and Yurcisin, an exercise science major, used the courtyard as a meeting place for studying, hanging out with friends and playing volleyball.

Indya Bradley and Olivia Yurcisin are cousins from Elizabethtown and just started their time at WKU this semester. Bradley is majoring in criminology while Yurcisin is majoring in exercise science.

Bradley lived with her parents before starting college and was used to being told what to do by them. Her parents helped her with schoolwork and organization, which helped her time management skills. It’s harder for her to stay on top of things while living on campus, and trying to manage her time by herself was a big adjustment.

“I don’t really have that direction,” she said. “Everything is just on my own.”

Yurcisin, on the other hand, moved out of her house when she turned 18 to live with another family member. She had more freedom than Bradley but was still provided food and money.

She said that the freedom on campus is a different kind of freedom, but both girls have willingly embraced it.

“I like that you can make friends anywhere you go, and people are open to being your friend,” Yurcisin said. “You can learn from other people and where they come from and what they know about life.”

She wanted to study abroad but found out it was too expensive for her. Despite not being able to travel abroad, she feels that she is getting a similar experience on campus.

Bradley enjoys being able to hang out with friends whenever she wants. She and Yurcisin frequent the courtyard in front of Pearce-Ford Tower, a popular spot at the bottom of the Hill. Since it’s such a popular area, there are always new people to meet.

The COVID-19 pandemic drastically changed the expectations that both Bradly and Yurcisin had for their college experiences.

Bradley said she feels robbed of being able to meet her teachers face-to-face and is dealing with the pressure of keeping track of Zoom calls. She is also upset about not being able to experience MASTER Plan the same way as previous classes.

However, she is still excited about her career and diving deep into her schoolwork. She’s not all work and no play, however. She likes sports and is looking forward to attending games on campus.

The pandemic made Yurcisin completely rethink her college plans. While she was excited at the beginning of the semester, she realized that she was not getting the true college experience that she expected.

“It was basically like living back at home but in a different town,” she said.

Her disappointment prompted her to make the decision to leave WKU, and in spring 2021 she will be transferring to her hometown’s community college. She wants to save money, get a steady job and continue her education in her hometown.

Although Bradley and Yurcisin started their college journeys together, COVID-19 forced them down separate paths.

Brayden Conrad, Sophomore

Brayden Conrad, a sophomore music major from Corydon, Ind., practices guitar on the third floor of the Fine Arts Center. “There’s always music playing around here," Conrad said. "It’s really cool to hear 50 different people playing 50 different things at the same time."

Brayden Conrad is a sophomore music major from Corydon, Indiana, who lives off campus with his wife. The 19-year-olds tied the knot last summer, so this is their first time living completely on their own.

Conrad spent his freshman year living in McCormack Hall, an all-boys, community style dorm that he describes as a zoo. Conrad and his roommate had a broken air conditioner two weeks into the semester that never got fixed, and one time he said he saw the bathroom covered in spoiled milk from spilled cereal.

“When I’m in my apartment, I don’t walk into the bathroom and just watch a person throw a Christmas tree out the window,” he said. “That stuff only happens on campus.”

Since moving off campus, Conrad has felt somewhat disconnected from the campus community, especially since the pandemic has started.

“It’s really cut the time I spend on campus in half,” he said.

He attributes this to the decreased amount of in-person classes as well as the decreased amount of in-person campus events. When he lived on campus, he felt much more involved with the campus community.

“If they were showing a movie on South Lawn, me and my roommate would go just because there was nothing else to do,” he said. “But now, I don’t do events like that.”

Mya Peoples, Senior

Senior Mya Peoples works on homework under a tree on South Lawn. Peoples said a friend introduced her to this study spot freshman year, and she has spent lots of time there since.

Mya Peoples is a social media marketing and certified data analytics major from Nashville who moved off campus her junior year. Peoples is a TOP Guide and a member of the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority.

Even though Peoples moved off campus before the start of her junior year, she spent more time on campus that year than any other year. She was on campus for her classes as well as clubs and organizations, like her sorority, which took up a lot of her time.

After living on and off campus, Peoples has learned to appreciate the positive and negative aspects of each.

“I learned more about other people while living on campus,” Peoples said.

Being an only child, she grew up with just her own family and her own mindset. She described college as a big paradigm shift. She said that having a roommate and sharing spaces with multiple people helped her realize that everyone has a different worldview.

“I was like ‘Oh my gosh, I’m on a college campus,’” Peoples said. “Everybody’s not from the same background and everybody’s not experiencing the same things that I am, which is so crazy.”

Peoples feels like she’s not getting the same learning experience that she was getting when she lived on campus, especially now that most of her classes are online due to COVID-19. When she had mostly in person classes, she was able to form personal and professional relationships with professors. She said that she feels like online learning has stolen that opportunity.

“I have noticed that the majority of my professors really don’t know who I am when I email them,” she said.

Currently, she only goes to campus once a week for classes. She appreciates that it’s a way for her to get out of her house and interact with people. Still, she’s saddened that the number of people and events on campus are limited due to COVID-19, even though she recognizes that it’s a positive in terms of public health and safety.

“I feel sad that my senior year is being lost to the rules of COVID,” she said.

Peoples is graduating in spring 2021, and she already misses campus despite still being a student. She loves having all of her friends close together and having the sense of community that comes with it.

“I feel like that has prepared me for going into the real world because it has given me a sense of what I want in my life,” she said, “I’m gonna miss it.”