Move-in begins with rainy skies, COVID-19 testing

8,000 students scheduled to move in daily until Sept. 7

Deanna Schwartz, managing editor

In a normal year, Northeastern University comes alive throughout the first few days of fall move-in. Music plays in Speare Place. Parents help their children decorate their dorms and have a teary goodbye. Students and parents run back and forth between their residence halls, ResMail, Wollaston’s and the Fenway Target to pick up forgotten items. 

This year, move-in is one of many aspects of college life drastically altered by the COVID-19 pandemic. All the students interviewed by The News on their move-in day expressed similar feelings — excitement to be back on campus, but nervousness for a fall semester full of uncertainty. 

Around 8,000 students are moving to campus for the fall semester, university spokesperson Shannon Nargi said. In an effort to decrease density during move-in, residence halls were assigned blocks of days for move-in between Aug. 29 and Sept. 7. 

Students must first must first go to Cabot Testing Center to get a COVID-19 test before they can check into their residence halls. They cannot have anyone, not even a parent, help them move into their new rooms. They are allotted one hour and one moving bin. Once a student has moved in, they must stay put until they get a negative test result.

On the first day of move-in Saturday, students began moving into seven residence halls, two leased properties and the Westin Copley Place hotel. 

The western part of campus was fairly quiet, with only two residence halls — Willis Hall and West Village F — scheduled for move-in. Stacks of colorful moving bins crowded the stairs under West Village E and next to Richardson Plaza.

Cesar Acosta, a second-year mechanical engineering major from Brooklyn, New York, moved into Willis Hall Saturday morning. He said the university helped him by allowing him to reschedule his COVID-19 test to an earlier time and that getting tested was a smooth process. 

Acosta said moving in without his parents’ help wasn’t a big deal to him. 

“It is a lot more useful to have someone there to help you carry and pack things, but honestly it’s not too difficult,” Acosta said. “There’s a lot of people to help you out and lead you through things.”

Acosta said he is slightly nervous about the semester, especially about the possibility of being sent back home.

“We don’t know if they’re going to send us back in three weeks or a month. I’m honestly just going to wait it out and hope to have as much fun as possible and do my studies,” Acosta said, standing outside Willis with a full moving bin as rain began to fall. 

Waiting next to her car outside West Village F, Maria Cavallo FaceTimed her daughter Abigail to get a virtual tour of her new dorm. “She’s right up there,” Cavallo said, gesturing up toward the building.

Cavallo said not being able to help her daughter, a second-year environmental studies and international affairs major, was “heartbreaking,” but something she just had to accept. “We gotta do what we can and make the best of it.” 

Cavallo said despite so much uncertainty about the fall, she’s not nervous at all.

“I’ve been watching the dashboard and I keep telling everybody, ‘Northeastern is so ahead of the curve. If any school is gonna pull this off, it’s gonna be Northeastern,’” Cavallo said. “I have so much confidence in this school. They’re just so upfront, and letting you know every step of the way what they’re doing. [My daughter] has friends that have gone back to school and are already back home because the school has no plans. It’s a disaster everywhere else, but I don’t expect that from here at all.”

Across campus, Columbus Avenue was bustling with students wheeling bins down the road and fighting through the rain. Signs with directions and parking instructions were posted in front of Columbus and Renaissance Garages. Outside International Village, or IV, a group of men working for a contract moving company called University and Student Services, or USS, stood waiting to wheel in bins full of students’ items. 

Upasna Parikh, a second-year business administration major moving into a single room in IV, had nothing but positive things to say about her moving experience. 

Her test was quick and the testing center reminded her of airport customs, she said. Upon her arrival at IV, the USS team sprung into action to bring her belongings to her room. “It was really effective and really efficient, and I’m really happy with how it was this year compared to last year.”

Parikh is excited to be back, but “a little nervous with everything going on.” 

Due to Northeastern’s rules and the state’s quarantine regulations, many students came to move in completely alone. Brie Fortmuller, a second-year political science major living in Davenport A, arrived in Boston Friday night after a six-hour flight from California alone.

Fortmuller said she “packed the bare minimum,” being wary of the possibility of being sent home midway through the semester.

Outside of Cabot Testing Center, sets of parents stood waiting for their children to emerge after getting their first COVID-19 test. 

Two parents of a first-year student from Connecticut who declined to give their names stood to the left of the testing line to wait for their daughter, who is participating in the Boston program and living in the Westin Copley Place Hotel, about a mile away from Cabot and the center of campus. 

“It’s been extremely smooth and everything has been really organized, down to the paw prints painted on the sidewalk. Very user-friendly,” the father said. 

Eva Vrijen, a second-year mechanical engineering student, said on her way out of Cabot that her testing experience was seamless. 

“I feel like they did a pretty good job considering how well they’re spacing it out,” Vrijen said, physically exhausted from her flight in from California and from lugging two suitcases and a large backpack around campus in the rain. 

Cameron Burns, a second-year business administration major moving into 10 Coventry, said her test was easy and fast. Burns also flew in from California and spent Friday night in New Hampshire with her dad to get around Massachusetts’s quarantine rules. 

“It sucks that my dad can’t help me move in,” Burns said. “I put a lot of boxes in storage [in the spring] so I also have to go get my storage stuff.”

Burns is excited to be back on campus and said she did not want to stay home for an entire semester. “It should be interesting. We’ll see.”

Move-in will continue until Sept. 7 with an average of 400 students moving in each day. During this time, the university expects Cabot Testing Center to more than double the number of daily tests performed and reach its full capacity of 5,000 tests per day. On Sept. 9, the first day of classes, this unprecedented semester will officially begin.